Gabrielle Union regrets how she portrayed her Bring It On character: 'I muzzled her'
What would the star do differently if she could bring it all over again? "I would have read the Toros for filth."
Bring It On has left its mark on many as a formative movie — one we can still quote on command. But two decades after its release, Gabrielle Union is reflecting on certain choices she made when it came to her character, Isis.
"I was given full reign to do whatever I wanted with Isis in Bring It On, and I chose respectability and to be classy and take the high road because I felt like that would make her be appropriate — the right kind of Black girl," Union told Good Morning America during an interview this week while promoting her new book You Got Anything Stronger? "Black girls aren't allowed to be angry — certainly not demonstratively angry — and I muzzled her."
The actress went on to say she came to the epiphany while doing press to celebrate last year's 20th anniversary of the teen classic when she, costar Kirsten Dunst, and director Peyton Reed were discussing the possibility of a sequel that would focus on Isis. "I realized that I need to come to grips and acknowledge where I failed Isis," she admitted. "When given full control, I made her 'appropriate.'"
When asked what she would have done differently, Union responded, "I would have read the Toros for filth" but also revealed she would have "allowed her to be angry" and "allowed her her full humanity" because "part of being a full human is the ability to express rage when harmed."
In the popular teen comedy, Union's character was the captain of the East Compton Clovers, a Black high school cheer squad caught in an ongoing rivalry with the Toros, headed by Torrance Shipman (Dunst). Although the film left the relationship between Isis and Torrance on a respectable note, Union told GMA that she was surprised when she saw a recent meme that painted her character as the movie's villain — and it only drove home her regrets about how she portrayed her.
"I made her gracious, this decent kind leader... I did all that shape-shifting for a character not even realizing I was doing that to myself, too. And I wasn't allowing myself the full range of my humanity," Union explained.
Union has been open before about the freedom she had with Isis, telling EW in a 2015 oral history that the character was initially written in a more stereotypical way. "They asked what I thought would make the character more realistic and relatable. Luckily, the writers and Peyton were super open," Union said, adding how they removed a line — "Whatty what! Meow! My nails are long, sharp, and ready to flash!" — that she thought "was reminiscent of a bad blaxploitation film."
The actress also previously opened up to EW in another interview a few years ago, noting she was aware of the fact that fans apparently viewed her in an antagonistic light despite the real villains of the film being its themes of cultural appropriation and white privilege.
"The leader of a movement to make these suburban girls accountable for the theft of our hard work is called a villain? I think that's very, very telling," said Union.
Watch the interview below.