Annual Tisch Gala Honors Danai Gurira, Andre Holland

Polina Buchak and Julia Saliba

Hailey Nuthals, Arts Editor

On Monday night, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts held its annual Gala event — an event as glamorous and impressive as the actors it honored. This year’s honorees were alums Danai Gurira, known for her acting in “The Walking Dead,” and Andre Holland, notable for his role in “Moonlight.” The red carpet was also filled with other stars, ranging from the evening’s hosts Alec and Hilaria Baldwin to NYU President Andrew Hamilton. Randy Jackson and his managing client, pop musician and Tisch acting student Cartier Lee — who performs under the name DJ Pebbles — were also among the attendees.

Check out WSN’s interviews with Gurira, Holland, Tisch alum and “Luke Cage” actress Karen Pittman and DJ Pebbles below!

Danai Gurira — Gala honoree, Tisch alum and actress, “The Walking Dead”

Washington Square News: What does it feel like to have this event happen and to be honored for the Gala for the school that you went to?
Danai Gurira: It feels great! It does feel kind of full circle — I didn’t realize it would be full circle this soon, but I’m amazed to be a part of this, to be a part of this school at all. I was always proud to be a part of this school. But to have the school then honor me this way is kind of — it’s amazing.

WSN: What do you think has been the most unexpected opportunity that Tisch gave you?
DG: Really, the opportunity to express my voice. Of course, Tisch is where I created my first play. It’s a place that embraced my specificity. When your specificity is embraced, you’re willing to go celebrate it out to the world. Because you were nurtured to believe in it, and to find confidence in it. So something that I could never lose is the fact that I found my voice while I was in this institution.

WSN: What do you think would be a good piece of advice for students who are looking to find their voice, who are maybe struggling at the moment?
DG: Be scared but do it anyway.

Andre Holland — Gala honoree, Tisch alum and actor, “Moonlight”

WSN: What does it mean to you to be an honoree for this event?
Andre Holland: It’s pretty incredible, pretty flattering. I admire so many of the people in this room. To be honored by them really means a great deal. I guess it means that I’m on the right track!

WSN: If you were a student at Tisch now, what’s an opportunity that you’d love to take advantage of?
AH: I think just really reaching out to people in different disciplines. At the time, when I was at NYU, the graduate acting program was so demanding that we didn’t have time or as much opportunity to reach out to the film department or the design departments. We worked with them, but we didn’t get to know them on a personal level. I think some advice for students now would be to take advantage of that opportunity because these are the people who will be your tribe throughout your career.

Karen Pittman — Tisch alum and actress, “Luke Cage”

WSN: So what does it mean to you to be back at Tisch after having graduated and to be at an event like this to support the school?
Karen Pittman: Well, a lot of this is family for me. This feels like coming back, like a weird family holiday reunion — coming back to that crazy, dysfunctional family that you love and don’t love. But of course, this is to celebrate Danai Gurira and Andre Holland. I know both of them very well, and I’m just excited to be here and support them and lift up their great work in American cinema and American theater.

WSN: Is there anything that you didn’t learn in Tisch that you wish you would have — that you’ve learned since then?
KP: I would say I learned a lot! I didn’t learn how to walk a red carpet, but I figured it out. Step and repeat! No, I would say NYU is pretty great training, especially if you’re an actor. If you go into acting, you’re going to get what you need. If you want to be an actor when you leave [school], you will get what you need to make it.

Cartier “DJ Pebbles” Lee — Tisch student

WSN: So you’re a student in Tisch, right?
DJ Pebbles: Yes, I’m in the Tisch acting program!

WSN: How have you found that to work with your schedule as a musician and as a DJ?
DJP: It’s a very difficult task. You have to be very focused and have a lot of priorities. Like, I don’t have much free time. It’s kind of in my free time I do my music. And I’ve been performing recently, so performing on the weekends takes its toll. But Tisch has been really accommodating and really supportive of my schedule, so I’m super lucky. It’s such a fantastic program. I wouldn’t want to choose one. I’m lucky that by day I get to learn the acting, the craft, and by night I get to make music and I get to work with Randy [Jackson], which is just a dream come true.

WSN: I’m sure. What do you think that acting has helped bring to your career as a musician?
DJP: I think the acting is kind of a key ingredient to my career as a musician. I had my first sort of shows in New York on Friday and Saturday night, and just being able to read a room and be able to like — in the bits when I’m not singing — to be able to engage with the crowd by talking and making conversation. You’re almost becoming somebody else. You’re kind of Beyoncé when you’re performing — you’re acting. So I think acting really helped me as a performer. And even with writing experiences, I’m writing songs and stuff — you make so many great connections and so many great stories from acting school. I definitely have used them for music when I’m writing.

WSN: That makes sense. Do you have any advice for other students who would be trying to handle a schedule like this and trying to multitask and learn as many disciplines?
DJP: I think be passionate. Be dedicated. If it’s really something you want to do, you have to be willing to give it everything. Nothing comes without sacrifice. If you have to sacrifice a little bit of time — maybe not going out as much, or hanging out with friends, that’s okay if you’re doing what you love. If you don’t love it, and it’s not like “every day I get to do this thing every day, and it’s super fun and enjoyable,” you’re not doing the right thing. So try and find what you love and really put in everything to it. If you put in everything, things happen.

Email Hailey Nuthals at [email protected]