Family & Companions
An impressively talented African-American actress, Gabrielle Union carved out a niche after landing plum roles in a fiercely competitive field thanks to her consistent yet versatile performances. After her breakout role in cheerleading comedy "Bring It On" (2000), Union moved from teen starlet to grown-up star with hits ranging from a series of romantic comedies like "Deliver Us from Eva" (2003) and "Think Like A Man" (2012) to action hits including "Bad Boys II" (2003) and "Cradle 2 the Grave" (2003). A supporting role in the Chess Records biopic "Cadillac Records" 2008" and the starring role in series "Being Mary Jane" (BET 2013- ) found Union settling into graceful maturity, leading to roles in films ranging from "The Birth of A Nation" (2016) to "Almost Christmas" (2016).
While studying sociology at UCLA, this Omaha native interned at a modeling agency in her senior year in a bid to fit the most into her school schedule. When agents noted that clients often asked after her and were disappointed that she was a behind-the-scenes employee only, Union decided to take the plunge, and following graduation, she began modeling, seeing the high-paying job as a great way to pay off her sizable student loans. Before long, Union's look would migrate from the page to the screen, and in 1996, she was featured in episodes of "Moesha" (UPN) and "Malibu Shores" (NBC). A natural talent, Union landed parts in quick succession, including a recurring turn on The WB's family drama series "7th Heaven". Here she essayed the role of Keesha Hamilton, eldest daughter of African Methodist Episcopal Reverend Hamilton (Dorian Harewood), a close friend of the central Camden family. Carrying on the role occasionally from 1996-98, Union was impressive in her infrequent guest shots. A 1997 two-episode recurring role on the syndicated sci-fi spin-off "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" also helped launch the ingénue's career.
Union made her feature acting debut in 1999's "She's All That", serving as the friend and conscience for Freddie Prinze Jr.'s sensitive but deceitful hero with a small but pivotal role. That same year, she played a far more sinister character as the back-stabbing best friend of Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) in "10 Things I Hate About You", the teen take on "The Taming of the Shrew". Though the actress was by then in her mid-twenties, she was still very believable as a teen, even as the particularly immature and petty Chastity. These youthful looks would work to her advantage, as the spate of teen-aimed fare seemed nowhere in sight. The critically acclaimed romantic drama "Love & Basketball" (2000) gave Union the opportunity to play a single-minded basketball groupie after hot property Q (Omar Epps), while that same year's similarly sports-themed "Bring It On" made her the center of attention. An athlete from early childhood, Union embraced the opportunity to take on a more physical role, but even she found the training involved in being a cheerleader surprisingly rigorous. Rising admirably to the challenge, the actress brought her style and spark to the role of Isis, an inner-city cheerleader whose squad has the moves but not the finances to win the national championship. Making the most of her role and never descending into a typical "underprivileged fighter with a chip on her shoulder" portrayal, Union lit up the screen in "Bring It On", and her magnetism as well as that of comparably talented co-star Kirsten Dunst was no doubt responsible for the film's surprisingly lucrative box-office run.
Union put aside teen roles for a regular stint on the troubled CBS medical drama "City of Angels" (2000), playing the lead female in a largely African-American ensemble cast. The following year she made history when her featured guest role as the love interest of both J y (Matt LeBlanc) and Ross (David Schwimmer) unfathomably marked the first time a black actor was featured on the New York City-set sitcom "Friends" in its seven-season run. The following week, on March 23, 2001, "The Brothers" opened. An African-American ensemble piece, the film centered around four successful young professional men and their various attitudes towards relationships. Union played Denise Johnson, whose respective gentleman was a ridiculously commitment-phobic Morris Chestnut. Though Denise was originally written as a meek, resigned character, director Gary Hardwick advised the actress to bring her own fire to the role, and Denise became a strong-willed and assured young woman whose independent spirit and alluring self-sufficiency just might change the notorious player's ways.
A supporting turn in the 2001 comedy "Two Can Play That Game" returned Union to the big screen that fall, while projects including the comedy "Welcome to Collinwood"--in which her fleeting appearance nevertheless made a major impression--and the college-set thriller "Abandon" (both released in 2002) would keep her on the scene for a while to come. A favorite among critics and movieg rs alike, Union was poised to be a breakout star although her down-to-earth attitude toward show business would indicate that she didn't look to superstardom as the key to happiness.
In 2003, Union joined rap icon LL Cool J for the comedy feature "Deliver Us From Eva" (2003). Union, as the title character Eva, plays an up-tight young woman who finds joy in meddling in her younger sisters' love life. Also that year, Union was cleverly cast in the sequel "Bad Boys II" (2003) opposite Martin Lawrence and Will Smith as Lawerence's lovely sister. Union's character is not only in danger at the crux of the plot, she also has an opportunity to get romantically entangled with Smith and comedically opposed to Lawrence, developments that served to introduce the actress' distinctive charms to an even wider audience in her first "blockbuster" starring role. After starring opposite Jaime Foxx in the romantic comedy "Breakin' All the Rules" (2004), she played Alice Kramden to Cedric the Entertainer's Ralph Kramden in the rehash of the famed 1950's sitcom, "The Honeymooners" (2005). Though promising a fresh take on an oldie-but-goodie, the film was blasted by critics who cited a lack of chemistry between characters, a subservient bow to political correctness-particularly with Kramden's famous threat to send Alice to the moon-and a dearth of laughs despite overwhelming comedic talent. She then took on a role in the ABC remake of the classic supernatural TV series "Night Stalker" (2005) as Perri Reed, the all-too-normal partner to Carl Kolchak. Union was then caught up in a rare mini-controversy in fall 2005 when he publicist circulated an email urging entertainment industry types to boycot the Hollywood night spot Club Mood, alleging that the club refused to host Union's 33rd birthday party because of her race. The club's owner denied the allegations and the p.r. company later issued an apology. Within a week of that incident, it was announced that Union had split from her husband of almost five years, running back Chris Howard.
Union next appeared on the big screen in the film adaptation of the best-selling childhood memoir "Running With Scissors" (2006), followed by a lead role in a Tyler Perry drama, "Daddy's Little Girls" (2007) and the starring role in the action thriller "The Box" (2007). Union returned to TV with an arc on the popular series "Ugly Betty" (ABC 2006-2010), followed by the crime drama "Life" (NBC 2007-09) and the science-fiction drama "FlashForward" (ABC 2009-2010). She reunited with Perry for the comedy-drama "Good Deeds" (2012), followed by the family drama "In Our Nature" (2012) and the romantic comedy "Think Like A Man" (2012) and its sequel "Think Like A Man Too" (2014). In 2013, Union returned to TV in a starring role with the drama "Being Mary Jane" (BET 2013- ). Between seasons, Union maintained a steady presence in film, including the sequel "Think Like A Man Too" (2014), Chris Rock's romantic comedy "Top Five" (2014), Nate Parker's controversial slavery-era drama "The Birth of a Nation" (2016) and holiday family dramedy "Almost Christmas" (2016).
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Guested on episodes of "Moesha" (UPN) and "Malibu Shores" (NBC)
Had a recurring role on "7th Heaven" (The WB), playing the eldest daughter of Reverend Hamilton (Dorian Harewood)
Had a two-episode recurring role on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" (Syndicated)
Featured in "H-E Double Hockey Sticks," an ABC TV-movie presentation of "The Wonderful World of Disney"
Played the backstabbing best friend of Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) in "10 Things I Hate About You," a teen remake of "The Taming of the Shrew"
Made her feature debut in the teen comedy "She's All That"
Guested on an episode of "ER" (NBC)
Had a supporting role in the sports-themed romantic drama "Love & Basketball"
Was a regular on the CBS medical drama "City of Angels" as Dr. Courtney Ellis
Had her breakthrough film role as head cheerleader of rival team The Clovers in the cheerleader comedy "Bring It On"
Played Denise Johnson, the strong-willed woman who might change the ways of a commitment-phobe (Morris Chestnut) in "The Brothers"
Featured in the romantic comedy "Two Can Play That Game"
Made history as the first major African-American role on the NBC sitcom "Friends," guest starring as a woman dating both Joey (Matt LeBlanc) and Ross (David Schwimmer)
Co-starred in the college-set thriller "Abandon"
Played Michelle in the comedy "Welcome to Collinwood," directed by Anthony and Joe Russo
Co-starred opposite LL Cool J in the comedy feature "Deliver Us From Eva"
Played the love interest to Will Smith's character in "Bad Boys II"
Featured in "Cradle 2 to Grave"
Portrayed Alice Kramden, opposite Cedric the Entertainer in the big screen remake of "The Honeymooners"
Starred in Peter Paige's feature directorial debut "Say Uncle"
Starred in Tyler Perry's "Daddy's Little Girls"
Co-starred with Morris Chestnut and Queen Latifah in the Christmas feature "The Perfect Holiday"
Co-starred with Eddie Murphy in "Meet Dave"
Guest starred on ABC's "Ugly Betty" as Wilhelmina Slater's (Vanessa Williams) younger sister
Portrayed Geneva Wade, Muddy Waters' (Jeffrey Wright) girlfriend in the musical biopic "Cadillac Records"
Landed a recurring role on ABC's mystery drama series "FlashForward"
Re-teamed with writer, director, and co-star Perry in drama feature "Good Deeds"
Cast in the ensemble comedy "Think Like a Man"
Began starring on the drama series "Being Mary Jane"
Took on the voice of Nala on the animated series "The Lion Guard"
Co-starred with Jena Malone and Christian Slater in Emilio Estevez's "The Public"