Check out an excerpt from the interview below in which Union shares her views on racial equality in America, why she accepted a non-speaking role in the film, and what troubles her most about the film’s “failure.”
Union saw the completed film for the first time when it debuted at Sundance earlier this year, and noted how not much in America has changed in terms of racism and inequality.
“Nothing has changed,” she says, referring to the treatment of black people in America, and the ways in which we are perceived and vilified and punished for merely wanting to be valued as human beings. “The venom has not lessened.” Just being black has long been cause enough for vilification. Add being a woman to the mix—particularly in light of the election results, which has given us a president who ran an openly racist and misogynistic campaign—and it’s a straight garbage fire. “I think what I was left with,” says Union, “aside from it not changing how [white] people feel about blackness, is also how we look at sexual assault.”
Union also explains why she was comfortable accepting a non-speaking role and having a very small part in the film: “I was going to then go on a press tour and be able to say all the things that I’ve wanted to say, that I’ve been saying for the past 25 years—whether that be testifying before Congress or state legislatures—to the biggest audience I was ever going to get to listen to me talk about sexual assault, and the history of sexual assault being used as a weapon of mass destruction against black female bodies.” In this particular instance, Union’s position runs adamantly counter to the notion of separating the art from the artist. “I need you to connect me to rape, because that’s my reality.”
“I look at Aja,” says Union, referring to Aja Naomi King, who plays Nat Turner’s wife, Cherry. “She so deserves people to see her performance. She’s such a feminist. She’s this young dynamo. This could have been her big break. This big job that gives her the accolades and attention that she deserves. It’s like we all got thrown out. It’s like the baby and the bathwater all went down the drain.”
You can read Gabrielle’s full interview with Harper’s Bazaar HERE.