Gabrielle Union (‘The Inspection’): ‘I just didn’t believe in myself enough to think I could pull it off’ [Exclusive Video Interview]

“The love had to be there because what was coming out of my mouth was so hateful,” declares Gabrielle Union about the experience of playing a homophobic mother in “The Inspection.” The film is the feature debut of writer and director Elegance Bratton, who based the film on his own experience as a Black, queer teenager who joins the Marine Corps after being rejected by his mother due to his sexuality.

Tony and Emmy nominee Jeremy Pope stars as Ellis French, a stand-in for Bratton, while Union plays Ellis’s bigoted and cruel mother Inez. Union’s performance has earned her nominations for Best Supporting Performance at both the Gotham Awards and the Independent Spirit Awards. Check out more of our exclusive video interview with the actress and advocate above.

Union signed on as an executive producer almost immediately after reading the script. However, she was far more reluctant to step in front of the camera as Inez. This is understandable as Union is a vocal supporter of the queer community and is stepmother to Zaya, the daughter of Union’s husband Dwyane Wade, who came out as transgender in 2020. But for Union, there was also an issue of self-confidence. “I just didn’t believe in myself enough to think I could pull it off,” she says.

Ultimately it was Bratton’s confidence in Union and the support of her family that ultimately led her to accept the challenge. The actress herself also saw the role as an opportunity to continue her advocacy work in a different way. “Perhaps reading people for filth is not the only way that you can reach more parents,” she argues. “Maybe you can be the mirror to them and show what their behavior really looks like and the damage that it causes.”

In playing Inez, Union had to go to some emotionally dark places, particularly in scenes opposite Pope. The actress describes the emotional connection between the cast and crew during those heavy moments. “It’s as devastating as it feels watching it,” she says. “When I walk out and the door closes, I’m slumped over waiting for them to yell ‘cut’ so I can let it out of my chest. Jeremy is equally as emotional. Elegance is equally as emotional. And there we were just holding onto each other.”

While there has been progress in terms of the number of films made by minority communities, Union argues that things are not moving nearly fast enough. “We need a lot more than incremental, snail’s pace progress,” she argues, “and we need to stop patting ourselves on the back when the bar is on the floor.”

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