In her latest film “Breaking In,” which arrives in theaters this Mother’s Day weekend (May 11th), Gabrielle Union portrays a mother who must take any means necessary to protect her children when they are held hostage in their home.
In partnership with Twitter’s multicultural ERG, the Twitter Blackbirds, Union who is also producer of the film hosted a private screening and Q&A of the film at the Bryant Park Screening room. The Q&A was moderated by Twitter Blackbird, Elizabeth Duke, and covered a range of topics, from the film’s focus on female empowerment to Gabrielle’s preparation for the role.
What made you decide to put on the producer hat for this project?
Gabrielle Union: It’s more and more important to help control the narrative and help control the creative process. I think there’s a unique bridge between talent and the production side. Who better to understand how to get the best performances out of talent but talent. I can tell you that wasting my time is not gonna put me in the best mood to get the best performance out of you, especially when you’re calling in favors and you don’t have a big budget, just being super organized making sure everyone feels appreciated and comfortable and is in the best position to do their best work. Just being able to provide jobs that’s the biggest part.
What was it like balancing being in front and behind the camera?
Gabrielle Union: Well I have had some battles. (Those of you guys who’ve just watched it)How many of you guys have noticed her being barefoot? This was a ongoing discussion throughout the filming of this. I was like black folks are barefoot like that. They were like no no no it was a long drive, she took her shoes off, she doesn’t have socks, a house shoe I mean it’s it’s just not really a thing. They’re like no no no it’s not even gonna be a thing . I was like I promise you. It was about all their wants, but you saw the first bad guy she takes out. That was like one of the times where I’m talent but I’m also producer I have to think about what can take the audience out of the film in a not so great way. I was looking at the bottom of my dirty feet could possibly be a little distracting for some of us that don’t believe in being outside barefoot.
She’s a normal mom but not the normal type of mom you see in movies. How does this movie upend traditional storytelling?
Gabrielle Union: The fact that people are like so she’s a single mom. So I was like we done seen it enough obviously. There’s all kinds of families in the black community and I don’t know I’m trying to think of the last time you saw a black family that had a second home that wasn’t flipped or a rental property or something. Just showing all different facets of black life, and love and families. I was talking about that, I long for the days to just do mundane projects about nothing. Can we have a Seinfeld, a show about nothing? I want the opportunity to be average. I don’t always want to have to play a pillar of the community or a stereotype. There’s billions things in between, there’s literally billions of brown people on the planet and we can do so many things, just give us the opportunity to show different kinds of families, different kinds of stories. The books are out there, the articles are out there, we’ve optioned them, we’re now financing our own projects. We’ve shown that inclusion is actually not just the right thing to do it’s actually quite lucrative. We just need the opportunity.So that’s part of the reason I produce and have my own production company to provide that opportunity.
With the film you created the hashtag #MamasBreakingIn. Can you tell us about the #MamasBreakingIn community and how you brought everyone together?
Gabrielle Union: We always see moms as sexless, helpless, incapable, underestimated. We never get to see regular moms be heroes. Regular moms do heroic things everyday. Most of us do heroic things to save ourselves everyday and rarely do we get to see that unless it becomes marvelously inversed or she happens to be oh my god she’s just a regular mom and also a Navy Seal, or a Special Ops and a jujitsu champ in her down time. We just don’t get to see us reflected as the everyday heroes that we are. So I just wanted to celebrate us and I thought his film does that, and gives everyone the chance to see themselves reflected in which which some of them are not reflected as the heroes that they are.
The relationship between Shaun and her daughter and the language that was used was that intentional in the script?
Gabrielle Union: Yeah yeah. We wanted you to see they have a strong relationship. She’s empowering her daughter to learn how to save herself to be apart of her own salvation if you will like we do everyday we just don’t get to see it all the time. But what was funny a little tidbit me and Ajiona (she’s actually not a child she’s grown she’s like 23, retroactive Twitter, yes that was her at the Casamigos mixology party over the summer, she’s legal). Everytime we would do that speech it was probably like 5am, our hours were like from the time it got dark until the time the sun came up. we would be doing these intense scenes and delirious, so I would be doing a scene and go into the speech from The Help [You is kind, You is smart,You is important], because it’s such an earnest scene and at that hour I’m tired and I’m like damn I still gotta drive home so we tried to find some humor. It’s a dark kind of intense project so we had to find our moments.
How did you prepare for the role and do you see yourself doing more thrillers in the future?
Gabrielle Union: I love to see myself just working period in the future. I just like when the checks clear. Any genre I’m open. I didn’t think this was kind of my genre.I’m not generally a huge fan but after Get Out and realizing you can do them differently I became a fan again. Oh how did I prepare. I didn’t , we wanted Shaun to be a normal mom. I didn’t want all the punches to be super choreographed like she takes Billy Blanks or whatever. I did Pilates to make sure I was limber enough to run barefoot and drank rosé .