Cast member Gabrielle Union poses at The Pan African Film & Arts Festival’s opening night premiere of Screen Gems’ “Think Like a Man” in Los Angeles, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012. (CoverUp Photos)
Gabrielle Union The “Good Deeds” Interview
One of today’s hottest stars, Gabrielle Union continues to shine. She will soon be seen in Screen Gems’ “Think Like a Man,” based on Steve Harvey’s book “Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man,” which is slated for release on March 9th, 2012. Gabrielle’s impressive film credits include the critically-acclaimed “Cadillac Records,” “The Perfect Holiday,” “Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls,” ” “Bad Boys II,” “Breakin’ All the Rules,” “ Deliver Us From Eva,” “Bring It On,” “Two Can Play That Game,” “Love & Basketball,” “Cradle to the Grave,” “Ten Things I Hate About You,” “The Brothers,” “The Honeymooners,” “Meet Dave” and “She’s All That.”
She made her television debut on the hit sitcom “Moesha,” before going on to guest-star on such series as “ER,” “Dave’s World” and “The Steve Harvey Show.” Shortly thereafter, Gabrielle had a recurring role on two WB hit shows, “Sister, Sister” and “7th Heaven.”
And she stirred things up on “Friends” where she played a love interest to both ‘Joey’ (Matt LeBlanc) and ‘Ross’ (David Schwimmer). In that role, Gabrielle marked the first African-American love interest on the series.
Gabrielle’s passion for acting is rivaled by her involvement as an Ambassador for the Susan G. Komen Foundation as well as her support for the Young Survivor Coalition (YSC) and the Rape Treatment Center (RTC) at UCLA.
She also helped found a program called “A Step for Success” which helps to raise funds for the economically-challenged Kelso Elementary School located in Los Angeles. She currently serves as a brand ambassador for Neutrogena, and is featured in its national television and print campaigns.
A native of Omaha, Nebraska, Gabrielle currently resides in Los Angeles. Here, she talks about her new movie, Good Deeds, a romance drama where she co-stars opposite Tyler Perry and Thandie Newton.
SENTINEL: I’m fine, thanks. What interested you in collaborating with Tyler again and in playing Natalie in Good Deeds?
GU: Once I read the script, the biggest thing was that I loved how he didn’t make her a bitch. My character’s usually the villain in this sort of romantic drama. I was very happy that Tyler made her a normal person who has a great career, great friends and who comes from a great family. So, in this case, maybe the relationship’s just not working instead of my character’s being an evil shrew.
SENTINEL: It’s definitely a much more modulated film for Tyler, and less given to melodrama and the extremes.
GU: I would agree.
SENTINEL: How was it working with this cast?
GU: Phylicia [Rashad] is an icon, and amazing. Just being able to watch her work up close is like taking a master class in acting. Thandie was great, and having Beverly Johnson play my mother was huge, and a nice ego boost. The whole experience felt like being in a big, happy, well-functioning family.
SENTINEL: Harriet Pakula Teweles says: Good Deeds is a film about a “defining moment.” Has there been such a moment in your life or career you’d like to share?
GU: In my life, when I got divorced. I sort of realized that I hadn’t been making sound choices which were the best for me to pursue my hopes and dreams and aspirations and passions. I had been living the life that society tends to dictate for women of a certain age. You marry the person who asks you, even though he may or may not be the best one for you. Around the time that I got divorced, I had an epiphany that there is no blue ribbon or gold medal for living someone else’s life, for fulfilling someone else’s dreams. It’s doesn’t make you happy. You just end up with a life that’s not yours. So, I decided to follow my dreams and my passions and to always have an adventure, no matter what it is.
SENTINEL: Life is a daring adventure, or it is nothing.
GU: Exactly! At least it should be.
SENTINEL: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
GU: [Laughs] No. It’s usually when I hear one, I think, “Gee, that’s something different!” I encourage people to ask whatever question you’re most interested in hearing the answer to.
SENTINEL: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
GU: Five minutes ago.
SENTINEL: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
SENTINEL: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
GU: It’s called “Singleholic.”
SENTINEL: The music maven Heather Covington question: What’s the last song you listened to?
GU: “Groove Me,” by Guy.
SENTINEL: What is your favorite dish to cook?
GU: Collard greens.
SENTINEL: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
GU: Whoever’s giving out free stuff. [Laughs]
SENTINEL: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
GU: My mom.
SENTINEL: How often do you get back to Nebraska to see her?
GU: Pretty often. I go back quite a bit, although I don’t announce my visits in order to protect our privacy.
SENTINEL: What’s it like to lose your anonymity? Can you go to the mall or a movie theater?
GU: I can go, but you go with the understanding that people are going to know who you are, and may or may not respect your privacy. The time when I most want privacy and my anonymity is to do things like buying tampons.
SENTINEL: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
GU: My wish for the world would be to end violence against women. My wish for myself would be for peace of mind.
SENTINEL: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
GU: Playing catch with my dad.
SENTINEL: Mike Pittman asks: Who was your best friend as a child?
GU: There were ten of us. We were called The Bash Crew.
SENTINEL: When did you realize that you had made it?
GU: I haven’t made it yet.
SENTINEL: The Flex Alexander question: How do you get through the tough times?
GU: I eat.
SENTINEL: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
GU: Great communication skills.
SENTINEL: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
GU: I’m going to see Sanaa tonight. I’ll let her know you asked me that. What excites me? A great sporting event.
SENTINEL: Dante Lee, author of “Black Business Secrets,” asks: What was the best business decision you ever made, and what was the worst?
GU: [LOL] My worst was co-signing on a car loan for someone who had an aversion to paying their bills. My best, probably, was taking the role of Muddy Waters’ wife in Cadillac Records.
SENTINEL: The Melissa Harris-Perry question How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?
GU: [LOL, then sighs] I think the impact is that you become a little hardened and you protect your heart a little more. You’re not as open, or so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I was only broken up with once. He just happened to go on to become famous. So, the story has lived on in infamy. Jason Kidd dumped me two weeks before the junior prom. You kind of hoped he’d go off and no one would ever hear of him again. But in this case, he went on to a Hall-of-Fame career in the NBA.
SENTINEL: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: What is your favorite charity?
GU: Gosh, I can’t pick a favorite. I’m a Susan G, Komen global ambassador. I speak on behalf of Planned Parenthood as well. I love UCLA’s Rape Crisis Center. Me and my girls have our own non-profit, called A Step for Success. I truly love them all.
SENTINEL: What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?
GU: Getting raped.
SENTINEL: I’m so sorry that happened to you. The Rudy Lewis question: Who’s at the top of your hero list?
GU: My mom.
SENTINEL: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
GU: Stay in school. You have the rest of your life to act.
SENTINEL: Do you ever feel pigeonholed or pressured to not change creatively?
GU: What’s interesting is that producers, directors and writers tend to typecast me in terms of whatever movie they’ve seen me in most recently.
SENTINEL: The Dr. Cornel West question: What price are you willing to pay for a cause that is bigger than your own self interest?
GU: I love his book, “Race Matters.”
I’ve lost a lot. I’ve lost money, and my reputation has taken a hit for taking the high road to protect my dignity, to protect children, and for other good causes. But I don’t think there’s ever too steep a price for doing the right thing.
SENTINEL: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
GU: As someone who was genuinely happy and who smiled a lot.
KW: Thanks for another great interview, Gabrielle, and best of luck with Good Deeds and Think Like a Man.
GU: Thanks, Kam.