Welcome to Look Again At It, a month-to-month column the place a few of the most iconic Black actresses in Hollywood reminisce and mirror on the roles that made them stars. For this month’s installment, Gabrielle Union breaks down her profession—from Convey it On and 10 Issues I Hate About You to her most up-to-date movie, The Inspection.
Not many have a filmography fairly as iconic as Gabrielle Union’s. The late ‘90s and early-aughts noticed her occupy a variety of roles, from the most effective good friend in She’s All That to the top cheerleader of the Clovers in Convey It On. So, which position does she take into account to be her breakout? “Effectively, it will depend on whose definition you’re utilizing,” she explains over Zoom. “By white Hollywood’s requirements, it was most likely Isis in Convey it On, however by Black Hollywood’s requirements, it might be She’s All That. I used to be ‘the Black lady’ on the poster. We acknowledge that feat.”
Within the years since, Union has gone on to star in movies with ensemble casts like Ship Us From Eva, The Good Vacation, and Assume Like a Man. And in 2014, she landed the main position as Mary Jane Paul in BET’s drama collection Being Mary Jane. Although she’s been in a slew of films and tv reveals, she tells me that it’s her most up-to-date movie, The Inspection, in theaters Nov. 18, that lastly made her really feel like an actor and never only a performer.
Under, Union takes us by way of her most iconic roles to share the teachings she’s discovered, enjoyable reminiscences from set, and the flicks that modified the whole lot.
Katie in She’s All That (1999)
“The very first thing that involves thoughts is my weave on this. [Laughs] I actually wrapped 10 Issues I Hate About You and began She’s All That in the identical week. On the time, my largest disaster was which weave I may afford. Seems, I could not afford any, so I simply blew an excellent chunk of my test on a ‘superstar hairstylist’ to get me a weave and she or he put approach an excessive amount of hair on my head. However anyway, I made lifelong buddies on this film. Dulé Hill is, to this present day, considered one of my greatest man buddies and that is the place me and Lil’ Kim first bonded.”
Chastity in 10 Issues I Hate About You (1999)
“I assumed each film was gonna be like this. We spent all day lengthy collectively and since we had a few minors on set, we may solely work eight-hour days. Everybody was favored, so nobody had kind of than anybody else and all of our rooms and trailers had been similar. We’d all eat collectively each night time and we positively discovered our approach round Washington and indulged in the entire issues that the Earth needed to provide. My first order of enterprise was getting Larisa [Oleynik] a faux ID. Her mother and father and Julia Kinds’ mother and father signed them each over to me as a result of I used to be the oldest. I simply cherished this expertise and this solid. It was so harmless and enjoyable.”
Shawnee in Love and Basketball (2000)
“I auditioned to play Sanaa’s role. I performed basketball my complete life and I walked in with my precise basketball gear on. And Gina [Prince-Bythewood] stated, ‘You don’t appear like an athlete, however there’s one other position I feel you may be proper for in case you wanna go within the hallway and have a look at the edges.’ So I’m within the hallway with the edges and I used to be like, ‘Oh, I don’t appear like an athlete by your requirements, however I appear like a whore.’ [Laughs] So with this one, we had a triple banger which isn’t the most effective trailer scenario. Me and Boris Kodjoe shared a trailer and he was on the opposite facet of it. So he needed to play Sanaa’s love curiosity, however Sanaa and Omar [Epps] had been an precise couple. So we had been each on the surface. Neither of them actually fucked with us on the time, however that’s how Boris and I grew to become actually shut buddies. Sanaa and I didn’t turn into buddies on this. That occurred later.”
Isis in Convey it On (2000)
“The very first thing that involves thoughts is the day after we filmed the scene the place the Toros come to the health club and we confront them. My buddies got here all the way down to San Diego the place we had been filming to hang around and we went to a park. On the park, there was a Black household reunion occurring they usually had been having a watermelon consuming contest.
I used to be like, ‘No! Why are they doing this?’ However they had been simply having the time of their lives. They didn’t care about any stereotypes. We discuss that afternoon ‘until this present day. Like, ‘Why did it hassle us a lot that this Black household was consuming watermelon?’ I’m bringing this up as a result of within the film, I’m such an unapologetically Black chief, however in actual life it didn’t match.”
Conny in Two Can Play That Sport (2001)
“They’d initially provided me Vivica [A.Fox]’s position and I used to be like, ‘I don’t suppose I’m proper for that. I’ll play a smaller position. But when I do take a smaller position, I want you to pay me.’ This and The Brothers, which got here first, each opened at primary. And I keep in mind Clint Culpepper [the former Head of Screen Gems] actually hand delivered a six-figure test to my door the Monday after. Studios are infamous for messing along with your cash they usually’ll make you chase it and wait. Clint by no means did that. He introduced me the primary of some large checks. I used to be like, ‘Bitch, I made it.’”
Eva in Ship Us From Eva (2003)
“This was after I grew to become precise sisters with Meagan [Good] and Robinne [Lee]. Essence [Atkins] and I had been solid as sisters on an NBC pilot a 12 months prior that didn’t go. So when this got here, they had been like, ‘Who would you wish to play your sisters?’ I’d by no means been requested to contribute to a film earlier than and the primary particular person I stated was Essence. This was additionally across the time that I bought married for the primary time. Essence was the drill sergeant of my good friend group and wrangled all my bridesmaids, and we had solely actually been buddies for like a 12 months. So after I see this film poster, I consider my sisters.”
Syd in Dangerous Boys 2 (2003)
“That is when the whole lot modified. That is when there was identify and face recognition on a world scale. Dangerous Boys 2 was my first worldwide press tour. It modified my complete life. This expertise was essentially the most enjoyable six months ever. I used to be working round Miami just like the Queen of Sheba. Martin [Lawrence] handled me like his little sister and took me all over the place. He was good in each hood, so I used to be good, too. I had a blast.”
Julia in Daddy’s Little Women (2006)
“This was the primary Tyler Perry film that Tyler was not bodily in. That is additionally, traditionally talking, the bottom performing Tyler Perry film. I don’t know if that is a badge of honor or what. This was Idris [Elba]’s first position after Stringer Bell [Elba’s character in HBO’s The Wire]. He went from that to this, so he was discovering [his character]. I keep in mind on the primary day, it was me, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Terri Vaughn. One thing went somewhat left [on set] and we ended up with 11 hours to kill in the midst of a piece day. And as a substitute of being true professionals, going again to our resort, and finding out our traces, we went to the bars and did a pub crawl round Buckhead. We had essentially the most unimaginable time.”
Nancy in The Good Vacation (2007)
“That is the place I actually bonded with Katt Williams and Charlie Murphy. I don’t know if Katt has ever taken an IQ check, however he’s actually one of the vital clever folks you’ll ever meet in life. He embraces life and lives on his personal phrases. I used to be like, ‘Oh shit, you’ll be able to transfer by way of this business whereas dancing to the beat of your individual drum? And by no means actually compromise?’ It taught me a priceless lesson.”
Geneva in Cadillac Data (2008)
“Cadillac Data was the primary film I used to be in that was directed by a girl, Darnell Martin. She was so unapologetically Black. It was kinda just like the Katt Williams factor. They opened a door that I used to be peeking by way of, however was afraid to completely stroll in. However within the film, all of my scenes had been with Jeffrey Wright. I needed to know what it means to come back with ‘it’ day-after-day. I based mostly my character on my mother. Not that the identical actual factor occurred to her, but it surely was about what it meant to remain and be an excellent lady. That then began me on a journey of embracing that preferrred, after which finally rejecting it in my very own approach. So this film was very pivotal to me.”
Kristen in Assume Like a Man and Assume Like a Man Too (2012 and 2014)
“This was one lengthy, enjoyable circus with all of my buddies. A variety of these persons are household. Like, Kevin [Hart] did the toast at our marriage ceremony. Terrence J is my little bro. Regina [Hall] and Taraji [P. Henson] are household. We had a blast.
If we may do a 3rd one, we’d. Ship us to Europe or Africa. We’d do it in a heartbeat.”
Rachel in Virtually Christmas (2016)
“Mo’Nique is a comedic genius and doesn’t get sufficient credit score. With Danny Glover, all of us took turns reciting his traces from The Shade Purple to him. And day-after-day he was with the shits. He was so superior.
I actually like working with my buddies. I belief them. I do know their work ethic. I do know it’s not gonna be bullshit. So this was one other Will Packer [the film’s producer] household manufacturing.”
Zoey in Cheaper by the Dozen (2022)
“I used to be by no means the one who babysat rising up as a result of I don’t like different folks’s youngsters. I didn’t even wanna have my very own till I used to be effectively into my forties. So this film was a problem as a result of I used to be with different folks’s kids. [Laughs] They’ve a really restricted period of time that they’re allowed to be on set and it’s a must to attempt to get award-winning performances out of youngsters. I used to be additionally an government producer and primary on the decision sheet, so it was a distinct expertise. Nevertheless it was so candy and I like these youngsters they usually’re all extremely proficient. After I was their age, I might’ve been screwing round, however these youngsters had been targeted.”
Inez in The Inspection (2022)
“This job modified my life. It took me from being an entertainer to being an actor who is definitely keen to do the work to search out the humanity of their characters versus judging their characters and performing out that judgment on display screen. I went from a harm one that hurts folks to a therapeutic particular person. This film modified how I method life. It modified how I consider myself, how I regard myself, and the way I respect myself. It began me on this journey of decolonizing my thoughts and my spirit. I simply turned 50 and my nice grandma lived to be 110, so for the subsequent 50 or 60 years, I wish to reside as free as attainable. This film put me on that path.”
Juliana Ukiomogbe is the Assistant Editor at ELLE. Her work has beforehand appeared in Interview, i-D, Teen Vogue, Nylon, and extra.