If you want to talk about pride and basking in a celebratory moment at TIFF, look no further than Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade, who brought a magnetic, and contagious, confident energy to the world premiere of The Inspection at the Royal Alexandra Theatre last night.
Dwyane and Gabrielle - who have been in town since at least Wednesday - were the first to arrive on the red carpet (a rarity for top talent, typically due to scheduling), and made time to sign autographs and take selfies with fans separately, before posing together. They held hands and put their love on display very proudly, in colour-coordinated black Vivienne Westwood for her, and Burberry for him. Very much together and united, they also posed with lead actor Jeremy Pope (an Emmy nominee for Ryan Murphy’s Hollywood, and a two-time Tony nominee who has his star-making big screen breakout in this film).
I was producing on the red carpet so I could see up-close how Dwyane would step back, and let Gabrielle soak up this moment in the spotlight before joining her for photos if asked, or on occasion. To him, it appeared the night was all about letting her have her flowers, while staying close by and supporting her. He dipped into the theatre before cast and crew interviews started, and when asked for a quick comment by etalk’s Chloe Wilde, he looked right at us, smiled, and said “the night’s not about me” (!) and walked in, looking very happy.
Gabrielle deserves the shine. The movie is based on writer-director Elegance Bratton's own story: a Black gay teen (Jeremy Pope) is kicked out by his mom (Gabrielle) at 16, and at 25 (and nearly 10 years of experiencing homelessness), he decides to attempt to make amends in order to "win her back," and change his life, by joining the Marines in the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" era. Gabrielle, who is also an executive producer of The Inspection, is very good in the film, playing against-type from two standpoints: public likeability (Go Clovers!), and her real-life LGBTQ+ allyship and activism, especially centering around daughter Zaya.
Already, Gabrielle’s performance in The Inspection is being singled out by Variety’s Clayton Davis who compares her role, in part, to Mo’Nique’s in Precious. Many, including Jenelle Riley, say she’s “never been better", and Vanity Fair’s awards reporter David Canfield also enters the chat:
Jeremy Pope is major in THE INSPECTIONâ€”Elegance Brattonâ€™s assured narrative feature debut. An Oscar nod ought to follow. Gabrielle Union and Bokeem Woodbine are stellar in support. #TIFF22— David Canfield (@davidcanfield97) September 9, 2022
On the red carpet, Gabrielle spoke about finding empathy for her character Inez in an authentic way, even though it is so different from her and Dwyane’s approach to parenting. And inside the premiere, after a brief standing ovation, Gabrielle called this creative challenge the “most impactful and most important work I’ve ever done,” telling the audience:
“For us.... We don't play about our children and we don't play about your children. And in this movie, having to embody someone with such darkness was a challenge. And... I know that I go on Twitter, as one does, and I see more darkness. And I had to figure out how to find another's humanity. I figure... If I can figure out her humanity and figure out my way around this character, perhaps just call some of this, "Trash," that might not be the best way to help other parents, to not see their children as disposable. You know, as parents we're the first people to love our babies, to see our babies and love our baby. So, when those same people are the ones to reject those babies, it is... It not only destroys families, it destroys communities. So, this whole film is about community building, and that is our goal. That was my goal to go into the darkest parts of my soul, and to try to be a part of the healing. And.... So everyone can see their children as deserving of peace, opportunity, protection, belief, love. None of my children are disposable and trying to shove that down and to bring "Inez" forward was a challenge of a lifetime. But this is the most impactful and important work I've ever done.”
With heartfelt words like that, you appreciate why Gabrielle feels so strongly about championing this film, Elegance’s vision, and also its possible impact. But she also presented as being very relaxed and self-assured about the project both inside the premiere, and on the red carpet. There was time for reflection and gratitude, but also to have some fun! Word is Gabrielle and Dwyane had a night out at Toronto Mediterranean restaurant Myth on Wednesday, a day before the premiere, and were out in the city during the day on Thursday in between engagements. She was in such a good mood, in fact, that when etalk asked about her fun posts in the city on Thursday night, and whether her daughter “Shady Baby” Kaavia would be impressed by TIFF, she completely played along, and told us her young daughter would LOVE the “Six,” especially if “Drake gave her a tour… C’Mon Drake!”
Listen, if there is anything that will please the hometown crowd during this audience-centric film festival, it’s the combination of a buzzy film, aspirational red carpet moments, and also a shout-out to Drake in his city. Last night, Gabrielle delivered on all three, plus she got to savour this professional high, with a very supportive Dwyane by her side.