Dating is hard. If the rich and successful can’t make it work, what hope is there for the rest of us? Gabrielle Union can be a lesson to us all. In real life, she is overcoming her divorce from Chris Howard and getting back into the scene, and in the movies she’s learning valuable lessons, too.
Daddy’s Little Girls casts Union as Julia, a high-powered lawyer helping humble mechanic Monty (Idris Elba) win back custody of his kids. Enough lousy blind dates with wannabe rappers teaches her to see the value in Monty’s modest means. She does her fair share of demanding and complaining, though. It wouldn’t be a movie if she came to her senses right away.
In person, Union showed the frenetic energy of her character with a bit more kindness. Making small talk about the Four Seasons Hotel’s famous macaroni and cheese, Union showed she’s not too famous to eat with the rest of us…yet.
Hollywood.com: Are you as business and financially savvy as Julia?
Gabrielle Union: Well, I’m not broke. [Laughs] I’d like to think so. I’m savvy enough to hire good people, I think. I hope. I hope I’m not going to end up really broke as a joke. I’m smart enough to handle my own finances but also smart enough to know when I’m a little in over my head and hire the right people to make sure I’m not broke as a joke.
HW: Can you talk a little about working with Tyler and what you may have expected of him and what you found out he was like?
GU: We’re snobs here and I wasn’t really a stage person. I went to see him at the Kodak with some actor friends who were huge fans and said, ‘Just go and not just look at what’s happening on stage, but in the audience and you’ll understand what we’re talking about.’ I went and not only had he sold out three nights at the Kodak and the last time I noticed that it was sold out was Prince and much less for a stage play. Everyone was coming in in their Sunday best and they came into the theater happy and they left happy. They cheered and talked. Some lady came in late and her cell phone rang and Tyler stopped the whole thing and talked to her. The whole audience was involved and laughing. No, it’s not your usual stage experience but at the end of the day, if people are moved and enjoyed themselves, felt like they got their money’s worth, then who the hell am I to judge what’s good and what’s not. So that being the case, I rented Diary of a Mad Black Woman on DVD and watched it. I was bawling my eyes out. I’m a huge fan of Kimberly Elise and you know, sometimes you get stuck different roles. She’s always the long suffering wife or girlfriend, “Save my kid from the…” or whatever. And here she is the true lead of this film, she’s carrying this film, she starts off as the long suffering wife and then she evolves and Tyler takes her on this journey. She’s allowed to be beautiful and funny and dynamic. I was like, “I want that.” I happened to find myself coincidentally, or maybe not, on the same flight as his agent and I said I wanted to work with Tyler, can you hook me up? And a week or so later he set up lunch for me and Tyler and he got to writing and turned in the script a month later, started filming a few months after that.
HW: Do you notice some parallels between this character and Eva from your previous film Deliver Us From Eva? Did Tyler ask for a little bit of Eva or is it something you can bring out in the material when it calls for?
GU: It really wasn’t written as harsh as I made her in certain situations but the motivations are different. He’s like, “I don’t want this to be Eva, I want this to be a strong independent woman who might have some of the same struggles but I don’t want a carbon copy of Eva.” So I made her motivations a lot different. I’m much more Julia than I was Eva. I’m not that involved in my sister’s lives. I’m not that much of a meddler. But Julia being an independent, thirty-something, career-oriented woman who’s fulfilled emotionally with her friends and family but just sort of finding herself on the dating scene, as I unfortunately found myself in the last year. So it’s a lot more of me, than me creating this caricature.
HW: Could you relate at all to this thing about the social strata and not dating men either below your class, does that ever concern you at all?
GU: Yeah, it’s an on-going debate I have with my girlfriends. Because what we say is, “I just want a good man and there just isn’t a good man.” What we are acknowledging is that we are holding on to this antiquated notion of who Prince Charming is and what package he’s going to come in. He’s going to come from this kind of family, he’s going to come riding in on a white horse or white Porsche and he’s going to have this kind of paycheck and on top of it all, he’s going to be great and kind and generous and sweet and after a while, we stop focusing on great, kind, sweet, considerate and thoughtful and it’s really just about his socio-economic status has to match mine. Our thing is that if you really just want a good man, there’s plenty of good men but they might be a little thicker in the waist, they might have been around the block, they might married and divorced or they might have kids or they might not make as much as you do but if what you’re really looking for is a life partner and a spiritual partner which is so far beyond a financial business relationship, then you can find those anywhere. But we’re so caught up in they have to be this idea we developed as little kids when watching Disney movies which is crap and unrealistic as an adult woman. My thing is you can afford your own diamonds, what are you waiting for? [Laughs], but we still want someone to come save us but we’ve been saving ourselves our whole lives, and it’s like you don’t need that. Granted, you don’t want to support somebody’s lifestyle but as long as they’re responsible for themselves, they don’t have to make more than you, they don’t have to this, this and this, as long as they’re good people, they can still walk beside you.
HW: So you’ve been out with a 40 year-old rapper?
GU: Oh, I’ve been approached…
HW: In general, you’re back out there?
GU: Yeah and I’ve met great guys. And it’s hard with the job I have and the people I tend to come across more often than not tend to have a few more zeros at the end of their checks than others but I think the goal in searching for quality men who have healthy relationships with their mothers, not too much, just good normal people who are okay with what I do. I think that’s more an issue than with what they do.
HW: So you’re not dating Derek Jeter?
GU: Do you know if I was dating Derek Jeter, there would be a parade. [Laughs] I was like, why would I be keeping this under wraps? Please, everyone would know and there would be a spotlight on us at all times.
HW: Is there anyone else?
GU: No. I talk to people and I date but literally this has been my boyfriend promoting this and working on Football Wives. I’m generally not home. It’s nice to be around. I discovered in my marriage that unfortunately did not work out, that marriage kind of requires you to be home every now and then, [laughs], which I wasn’t. I watched an Oprah special that she had on about spiritual partnerships and I was watching with my girlfriend who’s also my trainer and she’s like, “What do you want in a man?” I was like, “I want this and this and this…” about 25 things. She was like, “Okay, why do you deserve that?” I’m like, “That’s what I want.” [Laughs] So she asked, “How many of those things are you?” And I was like, “About a third but…” And she said, “You need to work on developing yourself into the kind of man you’re looking for so when you are fully fledged you can enter into a relationship and be ready for the kind of man you want, because right now, you’re not.” I’m trying to be ready for this spiritual partnership that Oprah talked about but I clearly have some work to do because that good listener that I want, I’m not always considerate and thoughtful. But I can work on these things and try it again.
HW: But there’s the old adage where opposites attract holds up.
GU: Yeah, where I’m just talking and he’s brow-beaten in the corner or we are just talking over each other. [Laughs]
HW: Why did you decide to do Football Wives and go back to TV?
GU: I love TV. I love the stability of it. It’s kind of like the final frontier in true diversity in true diversity and being a lot better in depicting the changing face of America and actually offering leading roles to women of color and people of color. I think now that we’ve seen the last awards season, I think you can kind of agree that diversity not only pays off in the ratings but in just terms of talent that has been overlooked and shapes and sizes that aren’t always represented in appropriate numbers to how they represent society and our population. I think TV is providing that. And not only do they respect your ability, but they respect you financially and they will back up the money truck. [Laughs.] No, but not something you always get in film.
HW: What kind of wife is your character?
GU: I play Chardonnay Lane. She’s a diva singer on her way up. They were like do you want to change the name and I said absolutely not. I get to live out all of my fantasies of being a pop star. I’m watching MTV, BET at home and I’m trying to do all the dance moves but I’m going to have a lot of acid reflux. I cannot sing. I’ll be sleeping with humidifiers and what not.
HW: Did you watch the British series?
GU: I do. They go full nudity so there’s going to be a couple changes. They’re not going to see my goods.
HW: So you do sing?
GU: I sing well enough to play a reasonable singer, a pop singer certainly. A pop singer of marginal talent with a great personality.