Gabrielle Union Interview, Daddy’s Little Girls

Posted by: Sheila Roberts

MoviesOnline recently sat down with actress Gabrielle Union (Running with Scissors, Bad Boys II, Deliver Us From Eva) to talk about her latest movie, Daddy’s Little Girls, writer/director Tyler Perry’s follow-up to his number one box office hits Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Madea’s Family Reunion. A romantic drama about family, community and love against the odds, Daddy’s Little Girls also stars Idris Elba (HBO’s "The Wire,” The Gospel, Sometimes in April), Tasha Smith, Gary Sturgis, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Academy Award®-winner Louis Gossett, Jr. The supporting cast includes Malinda Williams, Terri J. Vaughn, Cassi Davis, Juanita Jennings, and LaVan Davis. Daddy’s Little Girls is produced by Tyler Perry and Reuben Cannon.

A single father, Monty (Elba) is a garage mechanic who lives in an inner-city neighborhood and struggles to make ends meet as he raises his three young daughters on his own. But when the courts award custody of his daughters to his corrupt, drug-dealing ex-wife Jennifer (Tasha Smith), Monty desperately tries to win them back, enlisting the help of Julia (Union), a beautiful and hard-nosed attorney he meets during his short stint as a chauffeur. While Monty and the Ivy-League-educated Julia couldn’t be less alike, an unexpected romance blossoms and it soon begins to feel like true love. But in order for their relationship to survive, the couple must reconcile their two very different worlds -- and overcome the forces that threaten to tear Monty’s family apart.

Actress Gabrielle Union vividly recalls her first encounter with Perry’s work: watching Diary of a Mad Black Woman on an airplane. "I was just bawling, completely oblivious to everything around me. And the stewardess asks, ‘Ma'am, are you okay?’ And I go, ‘It's just so sad!’ That’s when I knew I had to work with Tyler.”

Not long after, Union found herself on another flight, seated next to Perry’s agent, Charles King. "I said to him, ‘When can I work with your golden boy? I'd like to hitch my wagon to your rising star.’ Those were pretty much my exact words,” the actress reports. "About a month and a half later, I get a call from Charles: ‘Tyler's written this script for you.’ I read it and said, ‘Let's go.’ Tyler has a knack for finding the kinds of stories we see every day, but that Hollywood hasn’t exploited yet. He takes stories that we are all familiar with -- as community members, as family members, as coworkers -- and brings them to life. And he does it beautifully.”

Perry affirms that he has long admired Union’s work and the versatility she has shown in both comedies like Deliver Us From Eva and Bring It On and dramas like Something the Lord Made. He found it easy to imagine the actress playing the Ivy League graduate Julia. "I saw Gabrielle’s face and smile as I was writing,” he remembers. "Her sophistication and grace is something I knew everyone could relate to.”

Union thinks that Julia’s long romantic dry spell and comical blind dates will resonate with many working women. "Julia is a professional who hasn't made a lot of time in her life for love,” Union says. "When you get to your 30s and you’re still single, the thing that comes up, especially among black women professionals, is ‘are you going to have to step outside of your comfort zone?’”

Monty, is certainly outside of Julia’s socioeconomic comfort zone. In casting this critical role, the filmmakers were seeking an actor with the magnetism of a romantic lead, who would also emanate a father’s nurturing warmth, dedication and strength. The search quickly led to Idris Elba, the British actor who won wide acclaim, not to mention an ardent female fan base, when he portrayed Stringer Bell in the award-winning HBO series "The Wire.” From their first filmed audition, it was clear that Union and Elba would make a potent onscreen couple. Upon viewing the tape, Perry recalls, "I had to ask, ‘Do they know each other?’ And Reuben says, ‘No, they just met that day.’ The chemistry was instant. It was amazing, electric.”

Gabrielle Union is a sensational actress and we really appreciated her time. Here’s what she had to tell us at the Los Angeles Press Day to promote her new film:

MoviesOnline: 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"...

MoviesOnline: 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 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 seems "bourgie" but it's really because I can't parallel park.

MoviesOnline: How was it working with a 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)

MoviesOnline: 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.

MoviesOnline: Have you ever had any blind dates, like your character Julie in the film?

GU: No, I don't believe in blind dates. I believe in good, solid Googling, 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.

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

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 Chestnut or LL Cool J or Will Smith...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.

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

GU: Very much so. (laughs)

MoviesOnline: So you're dating down or something?

GU: I wouldn't say 'dating down' but dating the wrong guys, certainly. [Her girlfriends] are very vocal, they're 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 love life...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.

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

GU: Yeah

MoviesOnline: Like a garbage man? Do 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] 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.

MoviesOnline: You got any war stories of when you went on a date with a baby with a beard?

GU: A baby with a beard?

MoviesOnline: 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.

MoviesOnline: 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.

MoviesOnline: So what about you professional life. When Julia starts talking about being the sole black woman, being the only brown face there, 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.

MoviesOnline: 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]'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.

MoviesOnline: 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.

MoviesOnline: 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 kind 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 he 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 of 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.

"Daddy’s Little Girls” opens in theaters on February 14th.


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