Thursday, May 2, 2019

Books: Gabrielle Union's "We're Going To Need More Wine"

We're Going To Need More Wine: Stories That Are Funny, Complicated, and True
By Gabrielle Union
Dey Street Books; Trade Paperback; $16.99

Gabrielle Union is most known from her roles on the big screen in her film and television roles, but she also has built a reputation as an activist on behalf of the victims of sexual assault, makes smart statements about the place of women in the world and in Hollywood, and is part of a power couple with basketball star Dwyane Wade.

Union's 2017 New York Times bestselling memoir, We're Going To Need More Wine, which is now available in trade paperback, is an engaging, provocative, and funny collection of essays about her life and our modern world. 

The actress and activist says, "Throughout my life, I've often wondered aloud, 'How the hell did I end up HERE?! Why me? Not sure I've ever found all the answers to those questions, but in this book I share my journey...the good, the bad, and the WTF. You will definitely need more wine for this one."

Union gives details of her life that go beyond the headlines and social media to show the smart, tough woman she really is. From her younger years as one of the very few African Americans in her California high school, to the harrowing story of her rape and the aftermath, to her navigation of Hollywood, to the role she plays as stepmother to her husband Dwyane Wade's sons, to the devastating loss she felt over the friend she loved and couldn't save.

Union writes of some of her earliest roles and what she learned as a young actress, "Ask any actor and they will tell you the teacher who had the biggest influence on them as they crafted their technique. You'll hear names like Stanislavsky, Strasberg, Adler, Hagen, and, of course, my own teachers, Screech and Mr. Belding.
"I made my screen debut with two lines as Misteltoe Girl #2 on Saved by the Bell: The New Class. And, yes, I was in awe of Dustin Diamond, aka Screech, and Dennis Haskins, aka Mr. Belding. All the other kids on set were as green as I was, but these two were veterans as the only holdovers from the original show. In this room, they were stars.
"The show taped in front of a live studio audience, but during rehearsals the studio was empty. So any scene I wasn't in, which was the majority of them, I would go to take a seat in the audience instead of going to my dressing room. I just didn't watch Dustin Diamond and Dennis Haskins act; I studied how they interacted with the director and how they treated the rest of the cast and the crew. Dustin had been doing comedy for years, so he had this slapstick ability that he would reserve and then tweak for scenes. I didn't realize that was a skill set you actually had to work at. Also, he was older that the teenagers on the show, and I knew I was going to be older than the people I was working with as long as I kept getting cast as a high schooler. Do you keep your distance as the adult? How much do you joke around? I literally just didn't know anything. And Dennis was all about dirty humor as soon as work was done, so I definitely learned that you could choose who you wanted to be on set.
"I actually played two different black girls on the show, coming back later as Jennifer, a girl obsessed with collecting coins. She also inexplicably dressed like a 1950s housewife heading to a garden party, but then she went to the Sadie Hawkins dance in a hot red dress. I guess her closet had some serious range. I fortunately started my career off doing a lot of multicamera half-hour shows where I had the ability to sit in the audience and watch people work. One of my favorites to study was Sherman Hemsley on Goode Behavior, a house-arrest comedy. Yeah, a house-arrest sitcom. I tested to be a series regular as Sherman's granddaughter, but I didn't get the part. However, the producers brought me back to play her best friend. The whole time I was on set I was thinking, That's George Jefferson! I sat in the audience, listening to the notes he was given and watching how he tweaked his performance to suit them. It was a master class in comedic timing. Now, it wasn't my cup of tea, but he made it sound like it was. He had just the right rhythm to wait for the laugh and then zero in for the punch line.
"My go-to acting technique was to smile a lot. The guy who played Juan Epstein on Welcome Back, Kotter, Robert Hegyes, was one of the assistant directors. He saw me watching every scene and took a seat next to me in the audience.
"'I have two pieces of advice for you,' he said.
"I nodded and braced for the inevitable: 'One, you're creepy. Two, stop staring at the talent.'
"'I can tell you're basically waiting for your line,' he said. 'It's 'Blah, blah, blah, now me.''
"He was right. Whenever I did a scene, I smiled a lot at the other actor to show I was listening, and almost nodded when it was about to be my turn, as if to say, 'That's my cue.'
"'Always remember to listen to what the other actors are saying, and react. Just listen and react.'
"'Got it,' I said. 'Listen and react.' I really did get it. One thing about me, I don't mind noted if they are helpful."

We're Going To Need More Wine leaves you with the feeling of having a conversation with a dear friend, and it will nourish your mind and expand your soul.

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