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February 2006
TYLER PERRY’S DADDY’S LITTLE GIRLS: An Interview with Gabrielle Union

An Interview with Gabrielle Union
By Niambi Sims

February 12, 2007

When you look at Tyler Perry’s films, the one thing you see is that he has created a strong role for women in his films, judging by the performances given by Kimberly Elise (Diary of a Mad Black Women) and Rochelle Aytes (Madea’s Family Reunion). Upcoming for Perry is his latest film, “Daddy’s Little Girls”, which stars Gabrielle Union and Idris Elba in a reverse-Cinderella tale that centers on a successful attorney (Union) who falls in love with a financially challenged mechanic (Elba) who is a single father of three children. The relationship hits a snag when the janitor's ex-wife comes back into his life and threatens to take away their kids. Union’s most recent work was in “Running with Scissors” opposite Annette Bening and Gwyneth Paltrow. She also starred in the short-lived TV series, The Night Stalker. Later this year, she will star opposite Queen Latifah, Terrence Howard, and LL Cool J in “The Perfect Christmas” and has another TV series on the way, Football Wives. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Union talks about working with Idris Elba, and being a single woman and the type of guy she would like to date.
So are you really that "material girl", or what?

Gabrielle Union: "Am I that material girl?" No, not fully. I mean, there are things I like; I like nice things but I'm not like, 'it's got to be seven karats"...

You ever find yourself going against who you are as a person to play the role?

GU: No, it was kind of an extension, like a hyper-version of myself, a bit of a campier version of myself because Tyler wrote it (with) my own voice and personality in mind. And there are certain things that I am anal about, one of them being drivers-- part of that is from what I want to say to some drivers...like the one that decide to join me inside of a restaurant and sat down at the table and ordered up lobster and didn't pay. I was just like 'are you okay?' But some of it is like, you know, a hyper version of myself but I'm not THAT crazy...there are sometimes, I don't know -- I don't parallel park very well-- so, if there's no valet...it seems "bourgie" but it's really because I can't parallel park.

How was it working with British actor Idris Elba?

GU: Yummy, I love his accent and he's very manly-- that was the word that we all kept using [to describe him]. He's such a man, with everything-- wow! Like, when you see him with his own daughter, you're just like '[sighs]', and when you see him with either of the girl on screen or around the set and it's just '[sighs]' and then you see him at the club and it's like 'hmmm'-- he's THAT GUY. Like, I hate cigarettes and Idris smokes, and I was like 'nicotine' (laughs) He's just that guy and an incredible actor...and he's just naturally gifted with amazing breath. (Laughs)

So you had a little bit of a crush.

GU: Oh my God, everybody, everybody, like the craft services lady was like [to Idris] 'I made you a sandwich' and his sandwich was like this big with mayonnaise and tomatoes and I'd have like peanut butter and jelly on eight-day-old bread. And I was like 'hmm, somebody's popular'-- [and it's] not me.

Have you ever had any blind dates, like your character Julia in the film?

GU: No, I don't believe in blind dates. I believe in good, solid background checks, so no, I was saying [in another interview] earlier, that I have found myself, after two years in a relationship, sitting across the table from somebody else like 'I don't even know you', like 'what am I doing?' Like your milk was spoiled a year and a half ago and I just kept you beyond the expiration date. So, I've had the same feeling and the same sentiment [before] but no, no blind dates.

As an actress who's well known to the public, how much of a challenge is it to date, especially in LA? Do the guys freak out?

GU: No, they don't freak. But it's not LA, it's everywhere. I talk to my girlfriends, who live in all parts of the country. I don't think my situation is unique. It's unique, more so with finding guys who are comfortable with what I do. I go off for a month at time to kiss Idris Elba or Morris Chestnutt or LL Cool J or Will Smith and that's more of a challenge. I find a lot of nice, great, generous, sweet, thoughtful men. It's just that first date I've got to go off the set it's like the demon comes out; that's more of a challenge. But that's men everywhere.

Do you have a group of girlfriends who keep you in check?

GU: Very much so. (laughs)

So you're dating down?

GU: I wouldn't say 'dating down' but dating the wrong guys, certainly. My girlfriends are very vocal. They were very happy -- like, my girlfriends who don't live in Los Angeles -- when they thought I was dating Derek Jeter and I was like 'girls, you know that would've been the first call [made] before the parade that I would've thrown in honor of my courtship with Mr. Jeter [if it were true] but they were very excited about my fantasy lovelife. They're very encouraging but we're all in the same boat as being women, in our 30s, who've been independent for a long time and we're not looking for "Captain Save-a-Ho"...I need you to walk beside me, you know what I mean? I need you to walk beside me, I don't need you to carry me or drag me along and I don't want to drag you along. But, if I'm financially independent and you are financially independent and accountable for however your life is and whatever form that takes, that's great. That's all we need.  We can walk together and have a spiritual partnership that Oprah talks about. I think a lot of us, even we are financially independent, get caught up [with] this antiquated Prince Charming that we've developed at nine years old that has no place in an adult woman's life...Like, we have this idea that they should come from "this" kind of family and have "this" many zeros at the end of their paycheck and a white horse or a white Porsche or whatever. And we forget that we always say 'I want a good man!' Well okay, good men are everywhere-- they might not have all of the other trappings but if you really are being honest, and what you want is a good man, they're everywhere.

So you're saying that you want a good man?

GU: Yeah

Like a garbage man? You have a certain standard or a certain type of man you're looking for?

GU: If you're a garbage man and you can maintain the style with which you're accustomed with your own paycheck, then yeah -- and if you're fine (laughs). No, I don't have a problem with that. I've dated men of all different socio-economic [backgrounds]...you know, there was the beauty school dropout and I was sticking in there with him but then he just wanted to smoke weed and play basketball all day. I can't ride out for that. If you're just not down with what you're passionate about -- I could ride out with you for a minute, provided you're twelve. But if you're a grown man, I would hope that you were on some sort of path. If you want to be a garbage man, be the best. I don't want to date the guy who's like 'hey, it's just a job' and [I'm] like, 'no, I want you to be happy with what you do' and fulfilled. I don't want anyone who's looking for me to validate them or fulfill them, financially or with swag or anything else that they think comes with being me...I've dated the whole spectrum.

Do you have any war stories of when you went on a date with a baby with a beard?

GU: A baby with a beard?

A childish man?

GU: Oh, oh...I was like 'a baby with a beard'? Oh God, I don't date that much. I just found myself dating in the last year. But I haven't been dating that much. No good stories, though.

How much of your personal life informs your performance in the film?

GU: It did because [Tyler Perry] wrote it based on a lot of our conversations and it was incredibly difficult-- the scene that was shot in the car where I made the vow to put myself out there in order to keep him was incredibly difficult. It's not the fact that we were shooting at 2:30 in the morning at the end of a very long day it was just emotionally trying. As actors, if it's not your coverage [in the scene], not that you don't give your full [performance while standing outside the shot] but you're certainly not crying and I look over and Idris' face is just wet, he's crying with me and he's holding my hand-- [the cameras] are not even on him. He was just there for me because with all of our conversations and him knowing what my last year has been like. He was more of my friend at that moment then, than my fellow actor. In those situations like that, very much so, my personal life is bleeding into my character.

So what about you professional life? When Julia starts talking about being the sole black woman, being the only brown face there, do you ever feel that?

GU: Well, yeah. I mean, obviously, in our town unless we're doing FUBU film-making which is what we were doing [last] summer, which is what we call 'for us, by us'- film making, you are normally THE ONE and it's incredibly challenging to find a mate, much less find a comfort level. And to find that place where you feel comfortable in your abilities and confident in your surroundings, you're not the token and you're there because you have ability and that you're there because you're qualified. Once you get past that, trying to find somebody within the dating structure is a whole other set of issues. But that's really not hard for me to relate to, because I'm not in corporate America but I can relate in terms of being an actress when there's just not that many of us in front of or behind the camera. When you're not doing a FUBU film

So it was more pronounced, you felt more comfortable on the set of this film, then?

GU: Oh yeah! I mean any time you don't have the burden of carrying your entire race on your back when you go to work is [freeing]...it's hard when you know that every day that you're on time, you're chipping away [at a stereotype]-- it shouldn't be that way! But you know that you have the responsibility and you better know your lines, don't cause a ruckus-- you know bring an entourage; all the stereotypes about black entertainers that you carry with you at every step. You hope that each time that you do well, that the film does well and people have a good experience with you that's opening up more doors and cutting down stereotypes...

What do you have coming up next?

GU: I have Footballer's Wives, a pilot for ABC that we start in about a month, I'm excited about that. I've got a little experience as a footballer's wife. (laughs)...it's a comedy which is what I love to do best.

So what is it? What happens in it?

GU: Well, it's based on a UK series, that's a huge hit over there, based on soccer players' wives. It's kind of like the lives of like Posh Spice and those sorts of women. And we just adapted it to the NFL. So, I play this up and coming pop star who's engaged to this Chad Johnson-ish wide receiver and there's the wife of the Bret Favre-ish kind of character and she's kind of ruthless and cunning and there's the new wife and, basically, [it's about] how our lives intersect and all the things you go through as the wife of a professional athlete. And I think it's a lot of what's in the news with certain athletes and them going through their various divorces and relationships. There's a wealth of information and storylines. I think a lot of people are excited and interested in what these women [in the news] are going through.   

TYLER PERRY’S DADDY’S LITTLE GIRLS opens on February 14th, 2007



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