In the bustling streets of Paris, Jojo T. Gibbs found herself lost and without a working phone battery. It was during this moment of uncertainty that she discovered the true extent of director Luc Besson’s fanbase and what it meant to be a part of one of his films. As she stumbled upon two women who graciously guided her back to her hotel, their reaction to her association with Besson made Gibbs realize the magnitude of his influence and the significance of her role in his upcoming film, Dogman. This film, touted as Besson’s comeback movie, is generating considerable buzz as one of the highly anticipated premieres at the Venice Film Festival. Set in New Jersey but predominantly shot in a French studio, Dogman follows the story of a troubled young man who finds solace and redemption through his love for dogs. In this film, Gibbs plays the pivotal role of prison psychiatrist Evelyn, opposite Caleb Landry Jones’ character Douglas.
Gibbs was no stranger to Besson’s work even before landing her role in Dogman. Growing up in a small town in North Carolina, she recalls the tradition of visiting the local video store with her father and brother to choose the movie they would enjoy with their Chinese takeaway. One such movie was Besson’s 1997 space opera The Fifth Element. Despite not fully comprehending the plot as a child, Gibbs was captivated by the film’s resonating impact, particularly the portrayal of a black president. It was moments like these that made her realize the power and influence of film and television in shaping her beliefs and aspirations. Witnessing the portrayal of a black president, albeit in a science fiction setting, fostered in her a sense of possibility and the realization that seemingly distant realities could become a tangible future.
Although the idea of becoming an actress seemed unattainable, Gibbs pursued her passion for performance in her own unique way. Initially, she studied broadcast journalism, but her friends consistently reminded her of her true calling. Encouraged by their support, she took a leap of faith, moving to Los Angeles and immersing herself in stand-up comedy and improv. Balancing multiple jobs, including substitute teaching and working at the Cheesecake Factory, Gibbs sought inspiration from Issa Rae, who had created her own web series called Awkward Black Girl. Encouraged by Rae’s self-made success, Gibbs and her best friend Rashonda Joplin co-wrote the comedy series No More Comics in LA, a semi-autobiographical tale of a broke aspiring comedian from a small American town trying to make it in the city. While juggling two jobs, Gibbs managed to shoot two episodes of the series before turning to crowdfunding to finance the rest. Drawing on her skills acquired from selling solar panels door-to-door, she reached out to production companies and potential donors, ultimately catching the attention and support of Lena Waithe.
Waithe’s interest in No More Comics in LA led to a life-changing opportunity for Gibbs. After auditioning for Waithe’s semi-autobiographical comedy series Twenties, Gibbs landed the lead role. This breakthrough moment opened doors for her, and within a week, she secured an agent, manager, and lawyer, solidifying her future in the entertainment industry. Twenties, which ran from 2020-2021, garnered widespread acclaim, with Gibbs’ natural comedic talent impressing audiences and industry professionals alike.
Following her success in Twenties, Gibbs ventured into the world of film. She played Daisy Edgar-Jones’ best friend in Hulu’s cannibalistic horror Fresh, earning recognition for her performance as one of the few characters to survive. She was later cast in Celine Song’s critically acclaimed film Past Lives, although her role was significantly reduced in the final cut. Despite the change, Gibbs appreciated the opportunity and the chance to make a cameo appearance. She also landed a role in Alex Garland’s yet-to-be-released sci-fi action epic Civil War, alongside notable actors such as Kirsten Dunst and Wagner Moura. While details about the film remain shrouded in mystery, Gibbs teased her appearance in the film, scheduled for an early 2024 release.
Amidst her growing list of accomplishments, Gibbs gave an interview that caught the attention of Luc Besson himself. Besson, while auditioning another actress, stumbled upon Gibbs’ interview and was immediately captivated by her voice. The interview had made such an impact that Besson decided to cast Gibbs in a significant role in his highly anticipated film Dogman. This unexpected turn of events landed Gibbs in the spotlight of a legendary director and secured her a major part in a prestigious film competing at one of the world’s most renowned festivals, Venice.
Reflecting on her experience working on Dogman, Gibbs emphasized the strong sense of care she felt from Besson and the entire production team. Stepping onto the set, she could sense the importance of the moment and the dedication each individual brought to the project. While the film combines thrilling action reminiscent of The Fifth Element, Gibbs hinted at a deeper and more nuanced emotional depth in Besson’s storytelling. Dogman promises to not only entertain but also surprise audiences with its darker and weightier elements.
Jojo T. Gibbs’ journey from small-town North Carolina to starring in Luc Besson’s comeback movie is a testament to her determination and talent. Through her passion for performance, she has carved her own path in the entertainment industry, embracing opportunities and creating her own projects. With each new role, Gibbs continues to captivate audiences with her natural comedic presence and ability to bring depth and authenticity to her characters. As she awaits the release of Dogman and other forthcoming projects, Gibbs stands as a rising star and a testament to the power of following one’s dreams.