Gabrielle Union's 'secret dream' comes true with new role

Gabrielle Union stars as a news anchor in BET's 'Being Mary Jane,' a movie airing Tuesday night which will roll into an ongoing series also starring Gabrielle Union.

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
Gabrielle Union arrives at the BET Awards on Sunday, June 30, 2013, in Los Angeles. Ms. Union will star in a BET movie and TV show, 'Being Mary Jane.'

Gabrielle Union will star in the dramatic movie "Being Mary Jane," which premieres Tuesday night on BET. The movie will become a series, expected to air in January.

Gabrielle Union plays a successful TV news anchor who attempts to juggle work, her on-and-off relationships and the needs of her family. She said the role would be different from her typical "good girl who meets the bad guy from the other side of the tracks" character.

"If you loved me for one thing and may not have liked me in something else, this role gives the audience a chance to see that I can do more than one thing," said Ms. Union, 40, who starred in movies such as "Deliver Us From Eva" and "10 Things I Hate About You."

Union called her role as a news anchor "sort of a secret dream come true." She said she has always been fascinated with the news, reading three newspapers a day when she was growing up.

In preparation for "Being Mary Jane," Union studied journalist Soledad O'Brien, host of CNN's documentary series "Black in America." She recorded all of the episodes, watching them before filming the movie.

"Her series took up a lot of space on my DVR," Union said. "I love how (O'Brien) delivers information. There's a news anchor's cadence that's different from an actor's cadence. If you do it wrong, you can come off cold or disconnected to the subject. I've been able to grow with the character in that manner."

When Union lost the lead role of ABC series "Scandal" to Kerry Washington, she says, she held onto the hope that strong and likable female characters can be created for black actresses.

"I said to myself, 'Oh my God, these roles are out there,' " she recalled in a recent interview. "It showed me that you don't have to settle. Luckily, the success of her and the show bred more work. Just from the audition process, I knew that I couldn't go backward."

Union hopes she can follow Ms. Washington's success.

"I didn't get 'Scandal,' but I got something better — which is my own show," Union said. "It's all about building a legacy. This new opportunity is something I feel that can grow."

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