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Gabrielle Union Interview: Strange World

Strange World follows the legendary Clade family on their most important and challenging adventure yet. While the Clade family works to save their home, they’ll need to embrace each other’s differences to successfully complete this mission. Strange World is co-directed by Don Hall (Big Hero 6) and Qui Nguyen (Raya And The Last Dragon) who also penned the screenplay.


Strange World stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, Gabrielle Union, Jaboukie Young-White, and Lucy Liu. Union voices Meridian Clade, the matriarch of the family, as Searcher’s wife and Ethan’s mom. Meridian’s skills as a pilot prove invaluable as she flies their crew through this unknown world of unique wonders and dangerous creatures.

SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY

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Screen Rant spoke with Gabrielle Union about her new movie, Strange World. She explains the importance of LGBTQ representation and how she infuses her own experiences into her character. Union also reveals what aspect of her character she would like to explore more and how much improvisation she was able to do.


Gabrielle Union On Strange World

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Screen Rant: First of all, amazing job on this film. I absolutely love it. I don’t think there’s a movie this year that I smiled more throughout. It had the perfect balance of heart, adventure, and comedy. But first question I have for you is, everyone talked about how, over the course of making the film, that the characters evolved to incorporate elements of the actors playing them. Can you talk about how Meridian evolved and how you added elements of yourself into her?

Gabrielle Union: Well, I wish I could say it was all me. So as I’m acting, as I’m doing my voice acting, as I’m gesticulating, and as I’ve got my facial expressions, they’re recording that, and they’re clocking all of that, and they’re adding my mannerisms to the character as the animation is growing over the year and a half that we’re working on it. So every time I’d come in, they would have added some piece of me, if you will. So by the time I noticed she had dimples where she had not previously, I was like, “Oh wait, they’re watching me. They’re adding little bits of me.” And they were also super open to ad-libs. They would ask me to ad-lib. And for the most part, they kept most of the ad-libs that I offered, which is unheard of. So I was able to really make it my own, and they ensured it was my own because they were watching and adding all of my mannerisms to the character.

Yeah. That’s actually what I wanted to ask you about next, because I know that you talked about it yesterday, getting to ad-lib and improv while recording. Are there any moments that stand out to you that made it into the film? It seems like all of them did, right?

Gabrielle Union: Pretty much all of them did, so they all sort of stand out. When I’m like, “You tried it,” that is a common phrase I say to my family members when they think they’ve gotten one over on Mom. I’m like, “You tried it.” So that one does for sure. “Boy bye,” that’s another one. Yeah. I mean, there were literally so many.

That’s amazing. Now, this really feels like a classic adventure movie. It’s like Doctor Who meets Journey to the Center of the Earth meets Indiana Jones. Were there any characters or stories that you looked at as inspiration for your own performance?

Gabrielle Union: Oh. No. Not really. Partly because you’re seeing images. When we signed on, you’re seeing very rough images, not only of your character but of the world. They give you broad strokes of this story, and then it would change and evolve as we were moving along through the year and a half. So it was kind of hard to imagine. You’re sort of limited to your own imagination, and I’m not a super imaginative person. So really, I just relied heavily on how I am within my own family. We are a demonstratively loving and affectionate family. We do have a lot going on at all times. We are, generally speaking, trying to think of the greater good of the community and how we can be of service. So really, my own life was my jumping-off point and the research that I relied on.

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That’s amazing. Now, I love Meridian’s different layers as a mom, a wife, a pilot, and a leader. Was there anything about this character that you would’ve liked to explore more?

Gabrielle Union: More adventures and more of her backstory. When she was a fighter pilot, what kind of fights did she have? I’d love to see Meridian’s origin story, and how she developed the skill. What obstacles did she go through to become the fighter pilot that she was? How did she meet Searcher? I’m very interested in her origin story.

Absolutely. Now, I absolutely love the way that Ethan is presented in this film. I think it’s very important. I have a seven-year-old, and I can’t wait for her to see this film. Can you talk about the importance of not only having an LGBT main character, but supportive parents in a Disney movie for both kids and parents to see?

Gabrielle Union: Well, it’s interesting. I think people keep using the word normalizing, and the reality is, it’s normal. We’re normalizing normal. It just is. The LGBTQ community exists. We are a part of every community in every society around the world. We just are. And creating a beautiful family-friendly action movie where everyone just gets to be, and we all move lovingly within that space, is incredibly important, because people think it has to be this super treacherous, this hand-wringing, this harmful, confusing experience to raise and love an LGBTQ child, and it’s not. It really doesn’t have to be at all. And this is a beautiful example of a family, though perfectly imperfect, dealing with its own generational issues. They still create a loving space for everyone to exist exactly as they are, and I think the world needs that example.

I couldn’t agree with you more. I love that interaction that Ethan has with Jaeger where they’re talking about it, just because it was completely normal, and I love the way that it was handled. I absolutely do. Now, Meridian hadn’t met people from Searcher’s past, like Callisto, and obviously Jaeger. What do you think her initial thoughts were while meeting them and seeing Searcher forced back into this adventuring part of his life?

Gabrielle Union: I think seeing Searcher in a different light was probably sexy. You know what I mean? I missed seeing my husband with an infant, so the first time I saw him with Cob, it was sexy. It was a different kind of sexy. So I think watching Searcher have to step up and be this different kind of hero that he hadn’t been previously was, in a sense, interesting, sexy, and new. But also, seeing how cyclical the issues are that Searcher has with Ethan, he has the exact same issues with his dad. Her husband probably made a lot more sense once she met his father.

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Right. Now, in the press conference, you said that being in a Disney animated film was kind of a dream come true. Are there any other acting dreams you’d like to fulfill within the Disney lexicon, whether it be Star Wars, Marvel, or any of that stuff?

Gabrielle Union: Oh my God. If you don’t say Marvel, Star Wars, or live-action, you would be lying. I want it all. And I have just never been even considered for any of those things. So it’s been… I don’t know. Maybe this is my year. I’m 50. I feel 30. My face is holding up. My back is holding up. My butt’s still high. So maybe. I can still kick some ass, so maybe. This, The Inspection, and Truth Be Told are coming up; [maybe they] will open me up to people seeing me in a completely different light, and I’ll get opportunities that I’ve never had before.

Another question I have for you is, what do the three generations of Clades learn from each other?

Gabrielle Union: They learn that each of their own paths and journeys that they’ve taken are real and valid, and that they don’t all need to match in order for their lives to be fulfilled, safe, good, and worthy. Jaeger needed to understand that by him making the choice to be an adventurer, it did cost him his family. It did cost him a lot of time. But he followed his heart and his path. He has some regrets, but he did what he wanted to do. Searcher becoming a farmer because it was safer and kept him home. He wanted to kind of right the wrongs, if you will, of his father, but that was his choice. And in allowing Ethan to not want to be a farmer and being more supportive of Ethan’s choices and Ethan’s path in life, [we’re showing] that everyone’s okay, that you’re okay to make your own choices, and [that] all of our choices don’t need to match for us to be safe, good, successful, and worthy.

About Strange World

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The Clades, a legendary family of explorers, are forced on a new mission that is crucial for the survival of their home. While exploring uncharted territory, the Clades must work together to move past their differences and complete the adventure of a lifetime.

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Strange World lands in theaters November 23.

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