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Gabrielle Union, 'Being Mary Jane' Star Talks On 'The Year Of The Black Actress' On TV

Gabrielle Union thinks it's a good time for black actresses to jump into the world of TV, with the success of Kerry Washington on Scandal and Taraji P. Henson on Person Of Interest.

By Xiomara Martinez-White, EnStars on May 20, 2013 04:00 PM EDT
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Gabrielle Union On 'The Year Of The Black Actress' On TV
The actress on joining the ranks of other successful black actresses on TV: "I’ve big shoes to fill, but it’s dope." (Photo : Reuters)

Gabrielle Union thinks it's a good time for black actresses to jump into the world of TV, with the success of Kerry Washington on Scandal and Taraji P. Henson on Person of Interest.

The actress just wrapped her new BET show Being Mary Jane, in which she plays a news anchor balancing family, friends, and her search for Mr. Right. The actress thinks that television might just be the most viable option these days because it's allowed for more diversity on both sides of the screen than film has. As a new television star herself, she realizes she has a lot to live up to in terms of other actresses gracing the small screen.

"I've big shoes to fill but it's dope," Union told the website CocoaFab.com, adding, "There are so many amazing writers that weren't getting put on with film that have all these amazing stories to tell and they're being able to tell them in a different medium."

"If you just humble yourself and be open, amazing things can come your way and that's what we've seen," she said. "You [have to] take advantage of every opportunity and I think that's what you have seen us do in droves."

Union remains optimistic that recent success of black actresses on television could lead to a new era for black male actors. She said "the time of the black man is coming" for viewers to then see "black love and black dysfunction." She referenced the shows Scandal and Deception, both which has black characters in the lead roles. 

Union also thinks her race and her age has somewhat complicated her career. In one of her breakout roles, as the rival cheerleader Isis in Bring It On, she played a teenager even though she was 28 at the time; her next role, on the television show City Of Angels, found her portraying a doctor.

"At the time, it was a concerted effort because it was like, I'm well into my 20s, I'm hanging out with people's parents after work and I just wanted to kind of segue into more adult roles," she said. "It was jarring for a lot of people... I wanted to be more intellectually stimulated. I'm not going to be able to do that on the Disney Channel doing H-E Double Hockey Sticks as a double agent." (That 1999 film co-starred Matthew Lawrence and Will Friedle of Boy Meets World fame.)

"So yeah, I played a child bride doctor in City of Angels to try to escape that."

Even now, at the age of 40, Union said her former teenager roles lead people to not believe her birth certificate. She cannnot understand the confusion - stating that perhaps it was because she was associated with "young projects" for so long - but she said people refuse to believe that she's 40. She joked, "It's been more like, 'You're 40?!?!' They put my age with everything nowadays. You can't escape it."

Being Mary Jane, announced during BET's upfronts presentation, is due to air early in 2014 but will premiere as a film during this summer.

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