Gabrielle Union: National Treasure

posted January 04, 2008 12:00:00 AM CST | 2 comments

This is our Julia Roberts right here. Though Faizon Love has made a career out of making us laugh, the jolly ole fella didnt have an ounce of humor in his voice when he made that opening statement about his The Perfect Holiday co-star, Gabrielle Union. Truth be told, there is a bit of substance behind dudes bold declaration. A UCLA grad who originally modeled and small-time acted (episodes of Saved by the Bell and Moesha) to pay back school loans, Ms. Union has made the slow n steady climb up the Hollywood ladder, all the while offering some hope to other actresses. From network television (City of Angels and Night Stalker) to cable (HBOs sensational Something The Lord Made) and the big screen (Deliver Us From Eva, The Honeymooners and Daddys Little Girls), the Omaha natives been able to do what many in Tinseltown can only dream stay employed.

Though still in a different financial stratosphere from Julia Roberts, Gabrielle could likely find comfort in the fact that her winning smile and warm demeanor are right up there with Roberts. And who knows, after top studios see the 35-year-old stunner in more family fare like The Perfect Holiday with Morris Chestnut and the Eddie Murphy-led Starship Dave next summer things might change, money-wise, for Union. But as you can probably guess even before reading further, Black Hollywoods "Pretty Woman" isnt holding her breath.

HipHopDX: Gabrielle, speak on the It that you and Morris Chestnut have on screen together?
Gabrielle Union:
You know, by now its like the fourth movie. The first one I was terrified. I didnt want to be the chick who was that nerd or the one who jacks up his run. By now, a lot of it comes out of the fact that hes a gentleman. Hes incredibly easy. Hes free of ego. Theres not an entourage. Hes not a diva. Hes just super easy. When youre a gentleman, chemistry can happen naturally on-screen. With guys who go, You wanna come rehearse in my trailer, it kinda gets in the way. Youre so uncomfortable all the time. When you see people on-screen who dont have chemistry thats probably one of the reasons why. One of the two of them is probably doing too much. [Morris] is incredibly easy and an actual nice guy, so it makes it easy.

DX- This is your second time being a mom on screen, right?
Yeah, but the last time those kids didnt really speak. They were, like, babies. They slept through most of the scenes. It was scary. When you become a mom [in Hollywood], the next thing you know youre on Golden Girls. They age you quick. It was a lil scary to sort of take this leap of faith and hope that I can still go back and do younger roles and hotter roles. I like the whole idea that all this woman wants is a compliment. I like that idea that kind word truly can make a difference. They start the whole ball rolling. I think sometimes we forget. We get so jaded. Just saying, Good morning. You look great today. How are you? Thats a great color for you, can change somebodys whole day or week. I just like that whole idea of how kind words can change the whole thing. Also, we dont really explore the idea of when do you start dating after you get a divorce. How soon do you introduce your kids to your new man? How soon do you introduce your ex to your new man? How does that all work? Ive never seen that sort of played out on film, so thats another reason.

DX: Any worries that this movie wouldnt be supported by blacks, seeing as how it doesnt have the requisite sex and violence they say we have to have in all our movies?
I think we support all movies. If its good, theyll come. When you see a movie like This Christmas that is free of violence and overt sexuality, not only do we come, but a lot of other people came. And certainly with Tyler [Perrys] movies doing so well that are free of overt sexuality.

DX: What happened with movies like Pride?
Pride came out on a jacked up weekend. I think a lot of the sports movies arent doing well, black or white. [The masses] didnt go see the [We Are Marshall] movie either. They come out at jacked up times. Its hard for a feel-good sports movie, certainly one about the death of a bunch of players during a time when were losing young people. Theyre releasing them at really jacked up times with the thinking of, Oh, its for a different audience. You cant compete with Ghost Rider or other comic book movies.

DX: We always speak about how slow Hollywood is in opening up roles to blacks, but what kinds of things have gotten better since Love Jones?
You see a lot more people of color getting their own money together, forming film funds. You got what Boris Kodjoe, Bryan White and Dallas Austin have. They formed their own production unit and have gotten their own funding and investors. And its true, in comparison to other ethnic groups, I suppose were doing fabulous. To be Middle Eastern in this country right now and trying to find roles where you arent a terrorist, good luck on that. Native Americans had like one movie over the last five years, The Wounded Knee. Its definitely improving in that sense, when you compare it to other people. The face of America is changing so rapidly. The demographic we pander to, the 18 to 34 demographic, they dont care. The people in charge of studios seem to be completely out of touch with the audience that theyre chasing after. If you list of the hottest chicks, [youll see] Vanessa Minnillo, Halle Berry, Lucy Liu, Jessica Simpson. They dont say, Oh, shes a hot Asian chick. Or Jessica Albas a very hot racially-ambiguous woman. They just say that these are hot chicks. With movies like Transformers, cool things are exploding and stuff. You dont notice that theres a very diverse cast. When you look at a movie like American Gangster, I wonder if anyone asked Russell Crowe, How does it feel to be in a great black movie? Thats what he was in. They just say, Cool movie. It just kinda depends on your perspective. Its definitely hard being an African-American actress where there used to be roles that were specifically written black. Like, if you knew Denzel [Washington] was doing a movie, his wife/girlfriend/love interest was going to be black. Thats not necessarily the case anymore. So, youre in that [auditioning] room with every amazing, talented actress of every hue. Its just a dogfight. Its hard. Its definitely a challenge.

DX: How do you survive?
With TV. TV is the next frontier as far as opportunity for us. Its kind of like, if youre looking at the door that just slammed in your face, you miss the window that opens up behind you. TV is that window that is opening up behind us, with all the different cable channels and everyone having the means to greenlight projects, you just have so much more opportunity. Look at a lot of the cable shows. Theyre much more diverse than your traditional network television shows. Theres a lot more opportunity in TV.

DX: How did all of this start for you?
I got an internship at a modeling agency during my senior year at UCLA. When my internship was over, they asked if Id be interested in staying on as a model. I was still working at the bookstore making $6.16 an hour after three raises. I was the book buyback supervisor at UCLA. I was like sure. I had a stack of student loans that needed to be paid off. I immediately started booking modeling jobs like two days later for [magazines] Teen and Sassy and All About You. Two weeks later, they were like, Were going to send you on an audition for Saved By The Bell." I was like, I dont have a resume and I dont know what Im doing. They were like, They dont know. Nor do they care. So, I made a fake resume. I booked my first audition. Every time I got a job, Id take something fake off. Eventually, the whole thing was mine.

DX: Whats your dream role?
Literally, any job is my dream job. My next job is my dream job. I have my dream job. Im working on Ugly Betty. I have a destination. In this business, work is so hard to come by. Competition is so fierce. My next job is my dream role.


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