Gabrielle Union is Alice Kramden in The Honeymooners
The Honeymooners casts African-American comedians Cedric the Entertainer and Mike Epps as Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton respectively. It casts African-American leading ladies Gabrielle Union and Regina Hall as Alice and Trixie. But it is not a "black film," despite media attempts to market it as such, according to Union.
"Any normal person who has any kind of sense of diversity in their lives won't look at it as anything other than an American movie because it's a basic American premise or worldwide premise of two couples who want more today than they had yesterday, and are willing to get there by any means necessary," Union said. "I think that's a common, basic desire for most people. It's interesting because I think a lot of the studios get a little nervous any time there's more than one black lead, and certainly with four there's the fear of ‘Oh God, we have to market it as a black film' or ‘people are going to view it as a black film.' But Bad Boys II, last I checked, made $275 million worldwide and we only had one white person in our whole cast. That was Joey Pants. So clearly diversity can pay off. If you just market it as a movie or as a family movie, not as a black family movie or a black movie, you're cutting into your profits. It doesn't really pay to be closed minded and not see this as anything more than a great, American sweet movie."
Having appeared in movies such as The Brothers, Deliver us From Eva and Breakin' All the Rules, Union has experienced this kind of narrow-minded marketing in the past. "I've done quite a few what they call urban romantic comedies. Basically, once you get slapped with that label, the budgets go down, the studio support goes down, your number of screens goes down. And you don't have the opportunity to stay in the theaters as long or make as much money, see any kind of back end if that's what you negotiated. And it basically gets marginalized. And it's not really fair because if you look at who's popular across the board, if you look at the top 10 hottest women on earth, it's Beyonce, Halle Berry, Salma Hayek, Eva Mendes, Lucy Liu, all people of color. And if the world thinks those women are attractive and want to be with them, wouldn't you want to go see them in a romantic comedy? And to marginalize them and to make them a niche film or genre is to marginalize your profits. So it just doesn't really make a lot of sense. If you keep your ear to the street and get your finger on the pulse of what America is desiring, that reflects the diversity of America and the changing face of America. Everybody in small cities want to get to the big cities. Well, in big cities, there's diversity. You're going to see some black people, you're going to see some Latinos, you're going to see some Asian people. To not address them, not to give the people what they want is foolish."
Union thinks The Honeymooners should be relatable to everyone. She herself could realized that she has found herself in many silly arguments as a married woman. "When you get married, there are certain things that you can find humor in that I would have never thought would be funny when I was single, so I took a lot of my own life and my own experiences as a married woman and I brought that into it. Those are the situations that will come up that if you're not married, you're like, ‘Why are you fighting over toilet paper in the middle of Target?' But at that moment you're like, ‘I've got to win this one,' and it just becomes you have these random situations that become that can mushroom into these huge situations where you will fight to the death over ‘I want Scottie dammit!' and ‘You want Charmin but I'm going to get the Scottie' and this is going to make my day. You have these random situations so marriage can feel like a broad comedy because sometimes it doesn't always make sense, and sometimes the things that you hold onto just have nothing to do with anything, so I sort of brought that kind of whimsy of marriage into the film."
Playing Alice Kramden in The Honeymooners actually gave Union a chance to tone down her usually outspoken persona. From Isis in Bring it On to Eva in Deliver Us From Eva, Union's characters usually have the last word. "This character has a quiet restraint. The initial few takes of when Alice finds out that Ralph ha taken the money, I had gone a little Lorena Bobbitt, and they said, ‘You know, this is still PG, you can't be that knee-jerk, reactionary kind of wife.' The whole thing about Alice is she has this quiet resolve and then it reminded me of something my mom said when I got married. You can't nit-pick over every little thing. You've got to sacrifice a couple of battles to win the war, and that's sort of Alice's mantra. She's not going to fly off the handle about every little thing. She's going to sort of internalize things, sort of rationalize it in her own head, and then when the time comes when she needs to act, she acts, whereas some of the other characters I've played are extrovertedly strong and ambitious and go-getters and leaders. Alice is a leader, but she's a quiet
leader. I think she's one of those people you follow into battle because you trust her, not so much because she's got the biggest voice, or she's all about the hype or the showmanship. She's one of those people you could follow by her actions as opposed to what's flying out of her mouth."
A diverse actress, Union prefers working on comedies like The Honeymooners to heavy dramas. "They are just easier to do, they go a lot faster, they're allowed to be a little bit more creative. I mean, when you're doing dramas, the things that you're pulling from are some of the darkest moments of your life and you come home and take it with you and just feel like, ‘I need Prozac. No, screw Prozac, I need Lithium.' It's draining. Drama can feel like therapy whereas comedy feels like there's been a pressure and a weight lifted off of you. You come to work and you laugh all day, you go home and you feel light and there's a certain feeling when you're sitting with the audience and they leave after 90 minutes and it's just pure escapism and they're happy. I loved Million Dollar Baby, but after it I was like, ‘I need a twelve-step program. I'm depressed.' And as much as I love those films, there is something to be said about taking yourself completely out of your own life and trying and kind of embracing the lighter side of life. You know, we can go home and be depressed, and look at your own life and look at your bank account and credit rating and be like, ‘This sucks,' but I prefer to go to comedies. Give me Julia Roberts smiling any day. Closer was traumatizing. I was like, ‘Where's the smile? What's going on?' So I prefer to have people leaving the theater laughing or wanting to make love as opposed to wanting to go visit their therapist."
Now, Union would like to become a producer. "I would probably produce romantic comedies if I could, like Drew Barrymore's company. There's a lot of lighter comedies and sort of chick-flicks, things that I like to watch, things that I wouldn't mind being around on set for and watching actresses sort of being able to blossom and come into their own and get the guy."
She discovered the joys of producing from watching Joel Silver and Jerry Bruckheimer work, the year she made Cradle 2 the Grave and Bad Boys II back to back. "Joel has this larger than life persona. He's one of those guys who walks in a room and it fills up. But everyone respects him and he commands attention, respect and diligence. And I like that. And Jerry is a different kind of producer. Jerry is one of those guys who attracts more flies with honey than vinegar. But he's a facilitator. He gets shit done. And people respect him for it. He turns out the products that America likes and whether critics like them, clearly his last few projects or if you look at his body of work, he's made more money than I don't know what and seems to understand what people want. And she's also one of those producers who really takes great pride in diversity in casting."
Unions style, she said, would be "A little bit of both. I could be abrasive when I need to be, and be a yeller when people are slacking, but I tend to kind of err on the side of Jerry."