Gabrielle Union may make acting looking easy, but for her, that’s not always the case. While attending the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this past Friday, she opened up about how difficult it was to play a homophobic character in her upcoming film, The Inspection, while parenting a transgender daughter.
“As an actress, I normally look for characters that have some chunk of me in them. I did not see that in Inez,” she says of portraying one of the film’s principal characters, Inez French. French is a homophobic prison guard who does not accept her gay son (played by Jeremy Pope) due to her religious beliefs.
Union was initially drawn to the film’s “beautiful story,” though playing a homophobic character while raising a transgender daughter (15-year-old Zaya Wade) was difficult for the 49-year-old mom. According to People, she shared with TIFF attendees that the dark side helped her figure out how to play French.
“My darkness defined the common space with Inez, which is a very vulnerable place, to know that I too am capable,” said Union.
The veteran actress also discussed how dangerous it is when you seek validation from an oppressor.
“It’s not going to manifest itself in the same way, but when you are centering an oppressor’s idea of who you need to be to be considered worthy of all of the things, everybody is on the chopping block,” expressed Union.
Playing French may have been emotionally taxing, but it also helped her understand a perspective so different from hers.
“I always look at homophobes as trash,” she shared. “‘Google is free and I’m not doing free labor for you to figure out how to love your kid.’ But through the process of this, I’m like, ‘Maybe I’m not so different in terms of what led me to that point.'”
Though Union says she would never “reject [her] child” because “none of [her] children are disposable,” she does understand possessing “the deep desire to be seen as worthy, and anything that threatens that can go, and for some people that includes their children.”
Gabrielle Union and husband Dwyane Wade have championed Zaya ever since she came out as transgender in 2020 and have been equally as supportive of the LGBTQIA+ community. Honoring their daughter’s truth and happiness is clearly paramount for the couple, and this year, when Zaya made the choice not to participate in Pride Month festivities, the Union-Wades had her back, People reports.
“Zaya was very clear that she didn’t want to ‘celebrate’ Pride,” Wade told People at the TIME 100 Gala red carpet. “She went to a Pride Month in Miami years ago, and it was kind of another one of those, in her words, just, ‘I’ve come out multiple times.'”
But the 15-year-old did want to “make sure that we can help other families and provide for the families in the LGBTQIA community. So that’s what we try to do,” Wade shared.