Interviews , Film

'Cheaper By The Dozen' Star Gabrielle Union On Decentering White Fear And How The Wades Are Like The Bakers

Disney+ has a brand new film on its platform and it's a modern spin on a family comedy classic -- and it stars Gabrielle Union as the matriarch.

The streaming service's new original movie Cheaper by the Dozen is a reimagining of the 1950 and 2003 films of the same name. However, this year's flick tells the story of a blended family of 12, the Bakers, as they navigate a hectic home life while running their own family business.

Shadow and Act spoke with Cheaper By The Dozen star Gabrielle Union ahead of its premiere and asked her what it was like to work on a film that showcases the ups and downs of a mixed-race family.

"The Bakers are not unlike the Wades..like we are a blended family," Union said. "It is a traveling circus most of the time. But I rarely get to see families [on-screen] like ours and my extended family, where an aunt might come live with you, a cousin, grandma... everyone's kind of together. Usually, we shame those families as if something has gone wrong. You know what I mean?"

Union calls for a celebration of big, blended families like this. "Rather than celebrating them and opening up the doors to all different kinds of families, whether it's a chosen family or a blended family, or you take in some kids down the street...like that's just how I grew up. And all of those families were celebrated until you turn on the TV," she added. "And then they're like, this is what's wrong with America. And you're like, 'Oh, I thought that was actually what's right with us...that we actually do believe we are our brother's keeper...and you bring everyone in and you cover everyone.' But you rarely get to see that reflected on screen. And I wanted to be a part of that."

For Union, it was important to highlight what a blended family like this experiences on a daily basis, including discrimination and having to go through obstacles.

"I look at race from a realistic lens. I would love to be more hopeful. But I'm a Black woman in America, and I live it every day," she said. "And I live these challenges of how do you exist in predominantly white spaces when you think that they are better? What are some of those challenges that come with that? And in our case with the Bakers, you see that there is there a trade-off. And OK, if this is better...[it is]better for who exactly? But it is kind of like something I've had to unlearn in my own life..if facts are facts, if two plus two is always going to be four, perhaps I need a different school house for these children. Because the best school is devoid of any teachers of color, administrators of color...if there's only one other child of color in the classroom...oh baby, stop patting yourself on the back! That's not actual diversity or inclusion...like....that's not anything. So [it's] having to unlearn that and find our own way for what is best and better in our own household and decentering white fear, basically."

With Cheaper By The Dozen, Union and the rest of the cast were able to not only showcase the inside happenings of a blended family, but they also shine a light on the love that one of such a big size shares with each other.

"We needed to see on-screen what of this family is going throug and how do you balance being present with ambitio and love?" she shared. "How do they all work together? Or do they? We explore that in a very family-friendly, age-appropriate sort of way where the villains are easy to identify."

Cheaper By The Dozen is now streaming on Disney+. Watch the interview above.

Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

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