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A perfect world, as Union sees it

THE SUNDAY CONVERSATION

December 09, 2007|Choire Sicha | Special to The Times

Gabrielle Union has been cast as a cheerleader (in "Bring it On") and a doctor (in the CBS series "City of Angels"). She moves into the "seasonal" genre in "The Perfect Holiday," which has her dating Santa. Or someone who plays him in a department store.

It's a Christmas spectacular!

That's the first time I've heard it referred to that way, and I'll use that too!

It's sort of weird that they say this is an "urban" Christmas movie.

No one calls "Fred Claus" the white Christmas movie. "The Perfect Holiday" is a movie about the holidays. It's not race-specific. If there's more than one black person in the movie, it's an urban romantic comedy, an urban thriller -- it's just a flipping movie. The way kids think, the demographic they pander and chase -- they don't care.

The same ways guys are like "Halle Berry's hot, Jessica Alba's hot" -- they don't say, "She's a hot black girl" or "a hot Latina." They notice trends: They buy movies they like, they Google people they like. It's not race-specific. Go to a Wu-Tang concert and tell me what that crowd's about. Give me a break! It's an old-fashioned notion of marketing, and how they like to label things.

You should be in marketing!

I kind of am! When you do movies that have smaller budgets, you become a jack-of-all-trades. I'm also doing craft services.

I promise we won't keep talking about this. But when you look at the '90s, everything was so race-specific -- and you're saying that's not necessary.

For the demographic, the 18- to 34-year-olds, they just don't care. It's just a nonissue for the most part. Maybe their parents -- maybe! But that demographic is paying their own way, buying their own CDs and downloads. This antiquated notion that you can't have a black man and a black woman in a mainstream film because, 'They'll be black, oh, my God'? No one thinks about that. It just is what it is.

What are you looking for in a film now?

In the last couple years, I just want to have a good time. I don't want any drama. I want to work with people I like. Even a movie that's not a straight-up comedy like "Running With Scissors," I enjoyed all those people. To be on a set with Annette Bening and Brian Cox, or a movie with Queen Latifah and Terrence Howard? You can't ask for a better boss than Queen Latifah! That's all cool in its own way.

Yes, how is Queen Latifah as a boss?

El Jefe is awesome. Who else is going to understand something as important as 'I need a black hairstylist who knows how to press my edges'? And making sure your trailer has water. I'm not talking about scented candles. But your basic wants and needs as an actor -- but only an actor can get it.

Your publicist will love this question: What are your Christmas plans?

I'm going to Africa! We're doing a travel show. . . . They're sending African Americans to Africa and taping our experiences traveling the country. For two weeks.

You've never been?

Two years ago I went with a film called "Constellation." We did the only film festival that took place in the townships of South Africa. A lot of times we do movies about South Africa and the conditions in the townships -- but people in the townships never get to see because it's a year's worth of money to make it into the city. And then last year, the Cairo film festival, so we got to travel up and down the Nile and got to see the birthplace of civilization.

And what is this "Starship Dave" film?

It's a movie I did over the summer with Eddie Murphy. . . . This huge cast and it's a kind of sci-fi fantasy comedy. . . . We play these 2-inch-tall Martians who crash-land on Earth. . . . It is just visually that feeling you had when you saw the original "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." That wonder -- that "How did you do that?" It'll be out at the end of May. And I'm doing "Ugly Betty"! I just finished my first episode of a few. I'm playing Vanessa's mysterious sister who appears. And when the writers strike is over, I can tell you more!

When they divvy up that Marie Callender's pie a little better, we'll be back to work. Someone asked me about the strike: I was like, it's a big lemon meringue pie that they're trying to make like a Hostess cupcake. It's so small! And I'm like: It's the biggest Marie Callender pie! A little more fair and equitable and I'll be back to work.

Are you almost always in L.A.?

Well, I've been traveling almost nonstop this year. I've been working, and when I'm not, I'm on the road, trying to see the world. This year I was dedicated to the Caribbean and the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos, and I was just in Cancun a few weeks ago. Next year I'm gonna try Europe.

Huh! You really do want to see the world.

I love that I'm from Nebraska, but my mom, the second we moved to the Bay Area, she said, "I'm going to take every opportunity to give my girls a worldview." She was very committed to that. Now that I'm an adult, I want to continue where I left off. She took me to my first gay pride parade at 8! With little buttons that said, "I'm straight but not narrow." And we saw Nikki Giovanni read poetry in North Beach. She made sure we had a bigger perspective. You don't have to be just what everyone expects you to be.

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