Nate Parker and Gabrielle Union both received invitations to join the Academy late last week. The two star together in the upcoming film The Birth of a Nation, the record-breaking Sundance smash that's been generating Oscar attention since January. In other words, the Academy is setting them up as equals before the movie's release and campaign blitz or festival announcements get underway. Prepare to see a lot more of these two on the circuit among their new class of peers...and the buzz about how compelling this movie must be real enough for the Academy to respond before it comes out.
Like the other inductees, Nate and Gabrielle were named to this list alongside two of their most notable projects - Nate for Beyond the Lights and Red Tails and Gabrielle for Top Five and Bad Boys II, respectively. Regardless of The Birth of a Nation's reception from the Academy or audiences - Nate stars in, directs, writes and produces the film, about the 1831 slave rebellion and uprising led by Nat Turner - the two will get to have their voices heard by the body that deems which stories and performances are worthy of the biggest prize in Hollywood. Shortly after her summons, Gabrielle tweeted about her new responsibility. She knows the value of this honour:
Huge honor... And I cannot wait to vote. https://t.co/nI48CJdFUi— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) June 29, 2016
Gabrielle Union consistently delivers solid performances, whether on her show Being Mary Jane, or in movies like She's All That or Top Five. When Chris Rock was promoting the latter, he went out of his way to praise her talents, calling her an underrated actress. He also name-dropped her in his scathing THR essay about how Hollywood is a "white industry" in spite of its ever-evolving quest for change. He implied Gabrielle could or should be considered an equal to Amy Adams if both were up for the same gig on True Detective.
Either way, the Academy is noticing and she is on their radar. Great timing. New York Magazine reports Gabrielle "disappears" into her role in The Birth of a Nation, a memorable yet unrecognizable non-speaking cameo. In the interview, Gabrielle tells the reporter Jada Yuan, "If this movie can help you see the humanity in real people, maybe next year, in 2017, the Oscars won’t be so white."
Though her role in the film may be small but impactful, Gabrielle has proven she's been willing and wants to promote the movie however she can, beyond herself. At the NBA All Star Game in Toronto, Gabrielle was thrilled to talk about the film and seemed to still be on a high from the Sundance premiere barely a month earlier. She, Nate and their co-star Aja Naomi King (of How to Get Away with Murder fame) also all presented together at the BET Awards last week.
When Gabrielle learned of the Academy’s invitation, she was on vacation in Ibiza, with her husband Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Paul. The Birth of a Nation opens in October. Next stop…TIFF?