When Bring It On came out in 2000, I was a tomboy in high school, a “real” athlete who didn’t give cheerleading a second thought.
But little did I know my eyeballs would be glued to the screen and I would get up after watching it and want to do a few backflips myself.
What started out as a “cheerleading movie” turned into a sports movie franchise that would pave the way for the likes of the Barden Bellas and other girl squads like them. The cheer-tastic flick spawned four spinoffs and launched the careers of young, fresh-faced actresses such as Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union.
Union was cast as the inner city and rival squad Clovers captain, Isis. The producers and casting directors said, “Gabrielle was always Isis. She was Isis at the reading and she was Isis in the movie. She was destined to play that part.”
And Union knew it, too. She also knew that her role would be bigger than that of a high school cheerleader. She knew, at a young age, how she would be viewed and what it meant for her and her role as a black woman. What she says about it shows the head on her shoulders was in a way better place than most teenagers at that age, and it might just blow you away.
During a recent interview with MTV, she said, “There were a ton of teen movies at the time that I passed on that were not committed to getting it right. The reasons why I even took the table read of Cheer Fever was because the cheerleading movie I wanted about bank robbing [Sugar and Spice] — they didn’t want to go black on any of the characters.”
But wait, the rest of her thoughts about diversity are even more impressive. She continues, “So it’s interesting, the group that didn’t want to commit to diversity didn’t seem to do well and the movie that was about righting the wrongs did well, and that included diversity.”
She goes on to discuss that it wasn’t just diversity she was standing up for, but the way black people were perceived in movies.
She said, “I remember at the table read my character being a combination of Foxy Brown and about eight other Blaxploitation characters sort of rolled into a cheer-lawyer-defender type person.”
Which Union was not down with playing. She told the producers that if she was going to be Isis, she was going to do it right. An executive producer for Bring It On said of her, “She was like, ‘You know what, I’m not down with Foxy Brown. I want this character to be super real because I am representing — I will be perceived as a monolithic and I don’t want to be that, because that’s what happens when you’re not white and in a movie.'”
All in all, Union said the cast had a lot of fun together shooting the now-iconic movie, which went on to be one of the most successful teen movies to date.