One on One with Gabrielle Union
Being a pretty brown-skinned girl didn’t give Gabrielle Union much notoriety while fresh in the industry. In fact, roles as the witty friend with the one-lined zingers seemed to be her M.O. However, Union didn’t let Hollywood’s lack of diversity or misconceptions of black woman stop her from controlling her own narrative. She’s since taken the horse by the reigns and insists on attaching producing credits to every contract she signs — something that’s reserved for industry heavy-hitters. For her latest role in Will Packer’s Almost Christmas, Union did just that, and finds herself listed as executive producer. She dishes all about the November release, taking ownership of her career and life lessons she’s learned along the way our recent Q&A below.
Q: You play one of Danny Glover’s daughters — the least accomplished sibling compared to your older sister in the film, Kimberly Elise. What did you like most about this role?
A: I love that she’s athletic. I love that she’s a little complicated. Playing perfect people is the most boring thing ever. Give me the mean girl who finds the light than the perfect chick who feeds the homeless and gives blood.
Q: How is it taking the “executive producer” seat on set opposed to being a cast member?
A: It makes me look at scenes completely differently. So what looks great on paper, it’s like, how are we going to shoot that? Who are we going to cast?
Q: And you’re doing the same for the hit show Being Mary Jane. Aside from being the star of the series, how else has your role on the show evolved?
A: I don’t just want to be a hired gun. I want to have a little bit more control over the narrative. The only way I can be empowered to do that is to be a producer. Now with as many projects that will have me, it’s part of the deal. For the first time in my whole career, I’ve actually been invited to the writer’s room.
Q: Which seems fitting seeing as Being Mary Jane is all about female empowerment and taking control of your destiny, especially sexually and in the workplace. How fulfilling is it playing Mary Jane?
A: She’s this very sexually free woman at that time in my life, being 40, it felt very free to feel wanted even if it was for pretend. To play a character that was so desirable, confident and in control of her sexuality and sexual experience was amazing.
Q: Has that same confidence always lived with you in your personal life?
A: When I was a senior at UCLA, I had just started modeling but no one was checking for me when it came to my body or my face. I stood in line with girls I knew from USC, UCLA, Long Beach State for our chance to dance in front of 2Pac and 25 of his closest friends, because there was something about being chosen that was so intoxicating that we objectified ourselves, and we were okay with it. I always come back to that experience because my self-esteem was so low that all I wanted was to be chosen. Once I chose myself and realized I was my best asset, not who chooses me, that freed me up to love myself in a way that allowed me to love other people better.