Actor and author Gabrielle Union doesn’t know what Black Hollywood is going to look like when the world settles into the new reality brought on by COVID-19, but she does know that it will look a lot like community support.
“None of us know how we’re going to come out of this, right, and what Hollywood is going to look like,” Union said during an Instagram Live conversation. “You see people’s deals being announced every day, but none of us have any clue about when they’re going to open up Hollywood.”
As an example of someone who always helped bridge the gap in Hollywood, Union evoked the spirit of the late Andre Harrell, the Uptown Records founder and hip-hop pioneer who died May 7 at age 59. She recalled meeting him at a club on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles when she was 23.
Harrell and Union went on to become good friends. And though Harrell didn’t get into TV and film until a bit later in his career, she said he was constantly sharing information to help others.
“He always hipped me to game,” the actor said.
“How you negotiate contracts, how you bridge those communities, how you put people on, how it’s OK to decenter yourself in a narrative and still consider it success, and for the world to be without people like Dre. We have to pass that baton and give that information enthusiastically.”
That’s especially significant for those in Hollywood who aren’t big-name stars, including backstage workers like hairstylists and makeup artists.
“When I talk about Black Hollywood, I’m not just talking about actors that you’ve heard of or the famous producers or directors. The Black Hollywood that is the nuts and bolts of Black Hollywood are people who you may never know their names but they’re really as vital and important and we can’t forget their stories and their plights and even if you had a steady gig,” she said.
“To have no work indefinitely, and you don’t even have the hope for a job, and it was already hard to begin with for us.”
“I hope one of the things people take out of this [pandemic] is that success can look different,” she said. “It can be a redistribution of wealth, opportunities, resources. You can share resources and information; it doesn’t take anything away from you.”