Gabrielle Union had a lot to say about Stacey Dash after the premiere of The Birth of a Nation. But to a lot of people’s surprise, Union is in the film but doesn’t have a speaking role. Union’s cameo as a slave in Nate Parker’s film is not only poignant but also touches upon the sexual abuse inflicted upon slaves.
Union saw the film for the first time at its Sundance premiere Monday, and in an interview with Vulture, she explained why she didn’t have any lines and how she mentally prepared for the role.
“Watching the film, I had a lot of rage for my ancestors and for us today because so much has not changed. It’s still the same,” Union stated. “But watching Nate come on—don’t tell my husband—I’ve never been more proud of anyone in my life. In my life. When it said, ‘Nate Parker wrote, Nate Parker directed. Nate Parker produced!’ I just had so much pride. So much [f—king] pride, and it’s so important.”
Initially, Union said, her character did have lines in the script, but both she and Parker decided to remove them.
“As a sexual assault survivor myself, I didn’t want her to have any [lines],” said Union. “It’s just more symbolic of the lack of control or power that black women had, and have, over our own bodies. As a rape survivor, I know how powerful and voiceless I felt myself for a very, very long time, and the shame and the rage. It’s only relatively recently that I found the power to have a voice.”
Union also spoke about how it was visiting the set, day in and day out, a set that was a former plantation; and the eerie feeling that surrounded it.
“It is haunted with horrors, and families ripped apart and bodies broken and souls shredded. You feel it,” Union explained. “I walked on set, and I’m not a crying person—despite the snot that you saw, I’m not a fan of snot in film. But what happened once I got to work, I don’t know. All I kept thinking was, ‘The chick from Bring It On is about to [f—k] up this movie.’”
Union said she has high hopes for the movie, especially when it comes to present-day issues—not only inclusion at the Oscars but also kids being killed by police.
“At a time when our nation has figured out a way to demonize a 12-year-old boy who was shot within seconds—basically a drive-by—for playing with a toy gun in an open-carry state, this is obviously bigger than Hollywood. Our society found a way to villainize that child. We could not see that child’s humanity. If this movie can help you see the humanity in real people, maybe next year, in 2017, the Oscars won’t be so white," Union said.