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Being Mary Jane premiere postmortem: Gabrielle Union on Mary Jane's car crash, beauty standards, more

‘I definitely think she’s being challenged to figure out who she is,’ Union says of her character

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Warning: This story contains major spoilers from the season 3 premiere of Being Mary Jane. Read at your own risk!

If you’ve emerged from a horrific car accident without a broken bone or serious injury, does that mean you’ve survived in one piece? That was the underlying premise of Tuesday’s two-hour premiere of Being Mary Jane, where our favorite news anchor found herself physically bruised and emotionally battered following the double-whammy blow of a devastating phone call and a car crash. 

After being sent home to recuperate, Mary Jane (Gabrielle Union) found she had a lot more on her plate than the matter of whether the scars on her face would heal completely: a Latina reporter has been tapped as her replacement on SNC, her relationships with David and Lisa are in utter disrepair, she doesn’t have a single love interest on speed dial, and to top things off, she’s being blackmailed for thousands of dollars. Though Mary Jane is determined for things to return to normal, is that even a possibility given that her job is in peril and she’s facing some serious debt? Will her emotional bruises leave indelible scars that will affect her mentality about friendship and love forever? To get to the bottom of the drama, EW dialed up Union to chat about the premiere’s biggest moments and to get the scoop on the season ahead.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Mary Jane’s face is all kinds of scratched up after her accident. How did it feel being made up as less than picture-perfect? Did you feel at all vulnerable?

GABRIELLE UNION: I mean, any time you define or validate yourself by your looks or job, when those looks either fade or change or evolve, or if in your mind or other people’s minds you’ve lost your looks, it’s devastating. Its like the death of … I don’t want to say a crutch, but of an appendage, really. It’s the first extension of who you are that people make snap judgments about. If you were to lose that, who are you? For both Mary Jane and myself, it was weird. It took two hours to put on that prosthetic every morning. I knew that having that prosthetic changed how I normally interacted with people and how they reacted to me. I knew people looked at me differently. The people around me knew it was me and that it was prosthetics, but they did treat me differently. And I found myself sticking to myself, and going to work and going straight home. I definitely didn’t socialize as much. It was eye-opening in a number of ways. It made me reexamine my own looks and think about aging and the validation I put in the hands of strangers in the Instagram-like age that we’re in. What happens when you stop getting likes? Are you suddenly hideous? Do you still have value? It makes you explore those issues. 

During the premiere, some pretty strong statements were made about women of a certain age, so-called “silver-spooned brothers,” and a woman’s desire to be loved. Which of these topics felt the most personal to you?

They all strike me for different reasons. This probably says everything about me, but I don’t find Mary Jane’s sexual behavior shocking or unique. I don’t want to say that it’s tame, but it is standard. And so the fact that she says, “We’re made to be desired,“ I can relate to that. I think that sexual gratification is standard. And I don’t think it should be shocking or unusual that a woman would actually say that. On social media, I always get “How can you play someone so sexual?” and I’m like “What? People are screwing. People are screwing, a lot.”

What can you say about Mary Jane’s love life this season? Will Sheldon return?

You’ll have to wait and see. There are definitely new love interests. She doesn’t let a little thing like disfigurement stop her. Some lovers cycle back and have their own issues, and then there’s a new one that to me is not unexpected, but judging by the reaction of the cast and crew and the people who know, is quite shocking and wow-worthy.

Is marriage a possibility for Mary Jane this year?

They would kill me if I say, but there’s definitely new love interests on the horizon and possibly new relationships.

Will Mary Jane ever forgive David or Lisa?

I think if we’ve learned anything about Mary Jane, forgiveness is not one of her strong suits. Handling adversity is definitely not one of her strong suits either. I can guarantee you that not only is she not forgiving of any of them, she’s pissed. She is pissed. 

There’s a feeling like Mary Jane won’t be welcome with open arms back at SNC.  Do you see her working as a reporter for the duration of the season, or is there a possibility of a career change?

I definitely think she’s being challenged to figure out who she is, what she does, and she wants to get out of it moving forward. She has to really reexamine her career. I think she really wants to get back to being an investigative journalist. But is that even reasonable or feasible, given the current climate at SNC? I think that she’s definitely is trying to get back to the career space where she was very passionate. I don’t know if that’s going to be at SNC or somewhere totally different. 

Mary Jane is being blackmailed by Loretta DeVine’s character. What kind of relationships will we see develop between these two characters?

Loretta is holding that mirror up to her face and forcing her to dig a little deeper than required of the fluff Mary Jane delivers as an on-air anchor. What is her responsibility to her people in doing the work? Can she be more than just be a celebrity? I’d love to see Mary Jane have an “a-ha!” moment.

With a Latina anchor temporarily taking Mary Jane’s place at the network, is there a larger statement being made about minorities undercutting each other?

Oh absolutely. Women undercutting each other, minorities undercutting each other. We think we know what we would do until its our job on the line, until it’s us feeling threatened. There’s a sense of “There’s only so many crumbs on the table, and I’ll do whatever it takes to get those crumbs.” Time and time and time again, not just with actresses, but I hear about it from my teacher friends, my banker friends, my friends at every sector of business, that when people feel there’s only so many slots and when they feel like someone coming for their slot, they’re willing to do whatever it takes to protect it. 

What kinds of issues will we see Mary Jane take on this season?

I’m most excited about her journey, and the journey the audience will go on when it comes to thinking about the role of beauty. What does it mean to be an aging woman who is in front of the camera? How will Mary Jane internalize that? What are the lies we tell ourselves? “You’re not good enough, you’re a joke, you’re not enough, you’re unlovable, you’re unworthy.” It’s like cognitive behavior therapy, where little by little we see Mary Jane replacing those negative thoughts and negative behaviors with positive ones, and seeing where she comes out of that.