Gabrielle planned on pursuing Law, but instead turned to modeling after the modeling agency she interned with as a college junior asked to represent her. She then won a series of small roles in television and film, including Love and Basketball, 10 Things I Hate About You (both 1999), and a part on the short-lived series City of Angels (2000). But her career really took off after her breakthrough portrayal of a sassy cheerleading captain from Compton in the late-summer surprise hit Bring It On (2000). It's ironic that cheerleading would be the activity that helped launch Union's star. The Omaha, NE, native was born October 29, 1973, and spent much of her youth playing sports, from soccer to basketball to track. She attended high school in Nebraska, where she was an all-star point guard, and, after graduating, moved to Los Angeles to attend school at U.C.L.A. After graduating with honors, Union chose to forego law school, stay in L.A., and concentrate on her acting career, which took off after her sparring with cheerleading rival Kirsten Dunst in Bring It On. After that film's release, Union won a substantial role in The Brothers and was slated to appear with an all-star cast in Welcome to Collinwood, as well as in Oscar-winner Stephen Gaghan's directorial debut Abandon. Her future film line up looking ever more impressive, Union took her biggest role to date as the acerbic titular character in the /comedy Deliver Us from Eva. Subsequently slated to appear in Cradle 2 the Grave and Bad Boys II, it appeared as if Union's film career was just warming up. In her spare time, Union hangs out with her husband, Jacksonville Jaguar Chris Howard.
Deliver Us From Eva: An Interview with Gabrielle Union
With a myriad of impressive credits under her belt, including: the first black person to be featured on the cast of Friends and Blockbuster films like Bring it on and the Brothers, talented actress Gabrielle Union is unquestionably on the rise! Here she shines her stellar light on Blackfilm.com and talks about her experience in her latest film Deliver Us From Eva.
NS: Hey Gabrielle! How are you?
GU: Hey! Good.
NS: Eva is a very “interesting” character. How close is Eva’s character to your own?
GU: I have some Eva isms. I don’t function well in chaos. My life is much regimented. Everything has a place. My closet is color coordinated from the whites to the creams to the tank tops to the three quarter sleeves and down the color line. Most of my friends as well are Eva- esque. We are all strong and independent and have our own things going we are not “yes” people. We offer a little challenge.
NS: You have chosen roles that are relatively small yet just big enough to showcase your skills. Has that been a conscious career choice or part of a long-term career plan?
GU: No. I just wanted to keep my bills paid and work I am just happy to do good work. I was just as happy on City of Angels as I was doing guest spots on Moesha as I am right now. I just like to work. I am proud of my work and I put it out there and if more people see it and the budgets get bigger than great!
NS: What would you be doing if not for acting?
GB: I would be an attorney. I was studying for the LSAT during my senior year at UCLA when I got and internship at a modeling agency. When my internship ended some clients had come in and asked if I were a model would I be interested in acting. I had student loans to pay back so I said “If you think someone will pay me that, sure.” Literally two days later I was working. Then they sent me on my first audition booked my first audition.
NS: What was it?
GU: Saved by the bell the new class
NS: It’s wonderful how the relationship unfolds between you and LL’s character, Ray, What attracted you to this script/ character?
GU: You see her evolution in the character from being an extra bigger than life person. Different little things come into her life that allows her progression and she makes small changes that don’t come overnight. I like that they made her real in that respect. We’ve all come in contact with people who are a bit extra and over the top and it comes from loneliness or despair and then maybe a big event will occur like a death, a birth of a child or meeting a man and you see this marked change. And that’s what I liked about Eva
NS: Rumor has it that this movie was originally written for a white cast and that your character was optioned for Julia Roberts.
GU: Well, it got passed to Julia, then it got passed to Halle, then it got passed to me. But it is a movie with universal themes. The script was generically written. But we added our own culture.
NS: How do you feel about the plight of the African American actress and the challenges you face?
GU: It’s hard when you come out of academia and you are used to a meritocracy and you come into this and it is so random who gets chosen and who doesn’t. You can have a Master’s degree in theatre from Yale and be the busboy at a restaurant. You can be on your way up but someone else can have a top selling album and you can’t compete with that.
NS: Is there a spiritual regimen that you follow?
GU: I go to church. You’ve got great churches in LA with great pastors. I go to church and then my friends and I go to brunch and discuss the sermons
NS: What do you credit your success to?
GU: I have established a good work ethic. I have established good relationships. I treat people the way I want to be treated. I don’t demand only white furniture and rose petals. I don’t throw fits. I get along with people I don’t pull a lot of ego mess. I come to work and do what I’m supposed to do and then I go home. I’d like to think that I work because I’m a good person.
NS: Thank you for your time.
GU: Thank you.
Bad Boys II: An Interview with Gabrielle Union
If there’s anyone who can match wits with the guys, it’s Gabrielle Union. She seems to be rolling high these days as she has appeared on screen three times this year. She locked horns with LL Cool J in Deliver Us from Eva. She saddled up with DMX in Cradle 2 the Grave and now she’s in league of her own with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys II. Looking better in person, than on the screen (if that’s possible) I sat down with Gabrielle Union recently to talk about her stunts in Bad Boys II, her affection for Krispy Kremes and representin’ on Friends.
GU: Hello, I’m Gaby.
GP: Hi, I’m Godfrey Powell.
GP: Tell me about your weapons training.
GU: Well, the boys worked for about a week before I got there. I got to come in on the following Sunday and got briefed on weapons training. You learned how to shoot all the different weapons. Like the little brother to the Ak47, a number of 9s, Glocs etc.
GP: Did you like it?
GU: I loved it. I’m a former athlete and extremely competitive. I won a couple of the competitions and the guys were kinda surprised.
GP: You like guns now?
GU: My husband has always had weapons and I was always afraid. But now that I’ve had weapons training and got comfortable with it, you can’t take me off the range. I’m like (POW, POW, POW) (laughing). I know about gun safety and only shoot at the range in a safe environment. I love it. It’s a great relief. It’s scary because I’ve had weapons training, in a safe environment and I know these are blanks but the power that you feel squeezing them off. You understand why we have a weapons problem in this country. It does make you feel like you can take on the world. You tawkin’ to me (DeNiro imitation).
GP: How was working with director Michael Bay?
GU: Luckily he and I are both perfectionists which is good. He knows what he wants. He’s very specific which I appreciate. I had a lot of questions and he knew what he wanted.
GP: What’s it like working with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence?
GU: Oh, my god. They’re like Martin and Lewis for the new millennium. Everyone was like, “It’s been 8 years, what’s it going to be like?” They must have been having barbecues every weekend because they just picked right back up. And the DVD for this is going to be the greatest ever. Half the stuff that is the funniest is not even in the movie. They are constantly bagging on each other. There are some amazing improv scenes. Yeah, you have to be on your toes. I got to hang around them before shooting so I got to see their banter. So when you’re filming I can jump in and follow them.
GP: You’re well known for romantic comedies like Two Can Play That Game, The Brothers, Deliver Us From Eva. Now you’ve done two action films: Cradle 2 the Grave and Bad Boys II. Which do you prefer?
GU: Me personally, I enjoy romantic comedies. I think after we wrapped Bad Boys right before Christmas and two days after New Years I was doing another romantic comedy. They are smaller and more intimate. They don’t have as much money. There’s a real family environment. You can really get into your character without worrying about car crashes.
GP: You look great throughout the movie. Tell me about your workout regime.
GU: The wardrobe in the movie kept me looking really awesome. One outfit, the Gucci dress (worn for the last half of the film) started off at my ankle and Michael Bay said no and kept moving it up to mid thigh. So it kept me away from my first love, not my husband, it’s the Krispy Kreme donuts. So I worked out 2 hours / day. 5 days a week. It didn’t matter if I worked 16 hours that day. An hour of Pilates and an hour of cardio.
GP: No injuries on set?
GU: Nothing bad. A few bumps and bruises. Martin, I think got the worst of it. He got a busted lip. There were these things called burger bombs that explode around you and it busted his lip. And when I saw his lip I said, “How did they do that? It looks so real. It’s even swelling. They are so good.”
GP: How much of the dialogue did they change to fit your personality?
GU: Some of the dialogue. It was written a little damsel in distress[ish]. And once you meet me, you see that I’m not really a shrinking violet kinda girl. So most of the dialogue was written on the day of the shoot. The script is just a guideline. You can say whatever you want provided it makes sense. Michael hooked me up w/ a local DEA undercover agent for character background. And she was tough as nails. She doesn’t need the men to save her. She’s highly educated and skilled and wont’ cry in the car
GP: Do they re-write dialogue for all your films?
GU: Yeah, again, I don’t play victim-like characters. Once I sign onto the project, they do a re-write where it’s sort of my voice.
GP: You’ve done a lot of TV work and were the first African-American to guest on Friends. Would you go back on TV?
GU: I always want to do a show that I actually watch. So there’s a struggle. Ok, why do you want to do a guest spot on something that’s 130 in the ratings? Because I like it. (Laughing) We’re working on something now, I don’t want to spoil the surprise but I’ll make a guest appearance arc on a pretty popular show. But as far as Friends, I think I was kinda the guinea pig just so the NAACP doesn’t picket in front of the studio. But lucky Aisha [Tyler] got to step in and kinda pick up. As long as there are people of color. It just needs to be a little more diverse.
GP: Yeah, especially in New York City……
GU: Yeah, on the way here we were talking about that. How can you even begin to have a show that takes place here and not show all the different races and creeds here? You can’t even go one block without seeing all the diversity. It’s like recreating reality.
GP: How do you feel when you see yourself on a magazine cover or a photo spread? Any pressure?
GU: No pressure. They throw you up to smash you down. It’s like watching Venus or Serena on a serve. You go from A-girl to Sh— girl in 2.5 seconds. As long as I’m working, I’m happy. It is funny. I got an invitation to the Maxim Hot 100 Girl List Party. Last year, I was like number 50 after no movies that year and this year, I’ve done three and I’ve fallen. I’m somewhere in the eighties. I mean, what do I have to do? Do I need to send in a resume? An essay? But my relatives will call when they see me in a magazine and say I saw you on the cover of Jet! You made it girl!
GP: Any pressure to keep up your figure?
GU: I’ve never had pressure to being smaller. But I think luckily, in the African-American culture the ideal is not a zero. I’ve been able to work and sustain myself, sometimes a size four, sometimes an 8. But no one’s ever said, can you be smaller? There were times when I look at myself on screen and say, “Ooooh, that was the krispy kremes.”My friends who are non-minority actors though really have a hard time. They put up signs on the craft services that say if you see this girl turn her away. It’s a joke but at the same time they get it. I don’t get it though. Why would you want to see a woman that looks like an emaciated, pubescent boy? I look at Diahann Carroll, Sophia Loren. They were women. We want to see women.
Gabrielle Union Talks About "Deliver Us From Eva"
Gabrielle Union stars as Eva, a determined, headstrong woman whose glare and razor-sharp tongue cause even the strongest man to turn to jelly. In an effort to free themselves from Eva's domineering presence, her sisters' boyfriends hire Ray (LL Cool J), a smooth operator who accepts the challenge - and $5,000 - to take her mind off their business and keep her busy with a relationship of her own.
When casting the role of Eva, director Gary Hardwick was looking for an actress who could instantly change from sexy and funny to caustic and dramatic. Hardwick had directed Gabrielle Union in "The Brothers" and he believed she would be the perfect Eva. "Gabrielle has been on the verge for a while. She's a wonderful actress, very gifted and with marvelous comic timing. She's sexy, and she can make you laugh or she can make you cry. You want to watch her to see just exactly what she's going to do next. She has all the tools of a leading lady, and at a young age, too."
GABRIELLE UNION ('Eva')
What can people learn from "Eva?"
I think that at the end of the day, the overall message that I hope people get is compromise is key. As a newly married person, as much as I would love for my husband to buy into the 'my way or the highway' philosophy, you realize it's all about compromising and finding some sort of middle ground that everyone can live with. You understand that Eva's motivation for everything that she does, albeit she gets a little overzealous, is her love for her sisters. But you figure out a way to compromise, like I can still love you and still give you some advice without taking over your life. With Todd [aka LL Cool J], it's like he comes in and sweeps her off her feet and she kind of gets caught up in the whole whirlwind, but she can still have her life and still get the guy. It's like meeting somewhere in the middle is the overall message - and fun and laughter.
How much fun was it to be Eva?
Oh, good fun. I had a ball being Eva. It's like you can say all the things you want to say without the fear of violence. It's a great time.
How long did it take to find that stern look?
Not long. It's the same look that my father gave me, so I just stole it. So, that wasn't hard at all.
Are you comfortable doing comedy?
Yes, it was more of a broad comedy than I've ever experienced yet. I'm usually the conscience of the film. I'm like the 'Yoda' or the 'Bagger Vance.' I don't normally get to be that big. And with Eva, she had such a bigger-than-life personality, but I based her on an amalgamation of a bunch of people that I've come across. She's a bit of me, but [also] those people who are just larger than life, who are just extra in a bad way that you don't want to be around. She's that person. She's kind of a bit of me in high school before I matured a little bit, and definitely the anal retentiveness side of my personality. But yeah, it's just a matter of figuring out that middle ground of being helpful without being completely domineering.
What is it about LL Cool J?
The ladies love cool James. I mean, there's the obvious thing, the shell. There's the six-pack and then the lip-licking thing that a lot of people like. He's got that disarming smile that just makes you melt. And I like that he giggles. I wasn't expecting that laugh. It's the craziest sounding laugh for someone of his size. It's just like, "Oh my god, I love you." He's just that guy and he's such a complete entertainer. Just the way he comes across with the bravado but yet some of his songs are kind of sensitive, he's got that duality that women just love. And he's enough of a man's man, the guys want to take him out to the golf course or go have a beer and go to Hooters. He's still a guy's guy as well.
Your character is very into horses. Do you really ride?
Yes, I started riding when I was eight. I love horses. I'm really comfortable. And Todd, fortunately for him, the character was written that he was bad, which worked for him because Todd and horses don't really mix. I think the horses are like, "You're as big as I am. Why are you getting on my back?" He didn't have good luck at all. We shot a video in Hawaii with this white horse that hated Todd. It saw him coming and it took off. I'm like, "There's something about you and horses." I think they can sense that he just is not comfortable. I'm not sure exactly what it is.
Anything surprise you about acting and Hollywood?
The friendships that can be made. I just kind of assumed that you do a movie and then you leave and you hop onto the next thing. I never thought that people are actually buddies. When you see them at awards shows and they're hugging, I just thought that was all for show. I didn't really get that you stay friends and you make these amazing, lasting friendships. I still have the same friendships that I made from "10 Things I Hate About You" and "She's All That" that I have now. It's kind of weird.
Who do you still hang out with?
From "10 Things," whoever's in town. When Julia's [Stiles] in town or Heath [Ledger], but Heath's all over the place with Naomi [Watts]. But all the "10 Things" gang, whenever we're in town, we all get together. "She's All That," Dule Hill from "The West Wing," he's one of my closest friends. We see Freddie Prinze, Jr., and Paul Walker was just in Miami with us doing "Fast and the Furious." That whole teen crew, the brat pack for the new millennium, sort of still all hangs out.
Ever have an 'Eva' moment?
The last time my husband [loaded the dishwasher]. I don't get how people just think there are little hands in the dishwasher. They think there are little hands with little scouring pads. I'm like, "If you couldn't get it off, what makes you think the dishwasher could?" So, I had a little Eva moment. He's like, "It's a little piece of spaghetti." I'm like, "But where do you think it goes? Onto a glass. It doesn't just disappear." I had a little moment with the dishwashing, and I don't really like how he makes the bed so I remake it.
What does he do wrong?
He just doesn't tuck things in right. It's like so loosey-goosey. This is not what I want. You want to come home to a nice firm bed with the corners tucked in so you start over, like each night is like a new night. I don't function well in chaos, whether it be my sheets or the dishwasher. He doesn't use the Jet Dry. "Oh, forget about the Jet Dry. Who needs the Jet Dry?" I like to open up the dishwasher to sparkling glasses, not water spots and pieces of spaghetti.
Do you do anything that drives him nuts?
Other than that? We don't really agree on movies, so I drag him to... I think after "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" he was like, "That's it." I always say, "Well, we'll decide when we get there." And it just so happens that when we arrive, the movies that are right about to start are romantic comedies. I don't know why the shoot-em-up killer, gangland movies don't start for another hour. That's not my problem. So yeah, the movie choices, the house cleaning thing, and constantly with the coasters. There's a reason we have coasters. There's no place for water spots, or water rings. Those are hard to get out. There's a reason God made coasters.
What's the nicest compliment you've ever received?
Probably that you've inspired me or that your work has inspired me. I'm like, "'Bring it On,' really?" It's funny. I've had younger actors come up and say, "The things that people say about you really inspire me to really get my stuff together." I'm like, "Well, what are they saying?" "That you're nice and that you treat everyone the same, whether it's the craft service guy or the director, that you just treat people with a lot of respect." I'm like, "Isn't that what everybody does? Who are you working with that this is not normal?" I guess it's just that I'm a nice, happy, well-adjusted person. That to me just seems normal, but maybe that's just the Omaha coming out. Or that I've inspired them in some way, hopefully.