Gabrielle Union Partners With Longtime Friend Snoop Dogg on Shipt Holiday Campaign

Gabrielle Union
Frazer Harrison /2020 Getty Images

Gabrielle Union is back at work. After an extended time away from filming due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the actress and producer, who fronts the Sony-based production company I Will Have Another, filmed a holiday campaign with Snoop Dogg for the personal delivery service Shipt. To coincide with the debut, Union spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about navigating the COVID-19 protocols on set, her strategy for this year's unique holiday celebrations and what's next for her on the producing front.

Why did you decide to partner with Shipt and Snoop? (which is something I had to practice saying)

When the Shipt app first launched, I randomly read about it and thought, well, that sounds amazing because I like the idea of an actual person who communicates with you as they shop for you. To shop for someone kind of feels intimate, and tasking that with a relative stranger just kind of felt like, “Ooh, I don’t know,” but somebody who actually communicates with you as they're shopping for you is great. You can ask, “Well, what do you think about this? I know you asked for this tomato but they have a sale on Roma tomatoes, would you want Roma tomatoes instead?” It’s awesome. You don't have to leave your house and everything comes within an hour. And working with Snoop, I've just known him for 20, 25 years — a very long time. He's always fun. When they approached us about doing a holiday campaign, it just seemed like fun and it really was fun.

After being friends so long, what was it like to work together?

I wasn't sure what to expect other than assuming it would be fun. A lot of music folks get a bad rap when it comes to being on time, but because he's older, he's a pro. It was easy and fun. We joked the whole time. I hope there's going to be like an outtakes clip because there's so much that was just funny as hell. Hopefully, it will never see the light of day, but it would be good to have. He’s a very good time. I get why everyone wants to be in business with him.

I watched the clip Shipt posted on social and was reminded again how different the holidays will be this year with people Face Timing and sending deliveries back and forth. How are you approaching the holidays?

The holidays have kind of changed for our family. Since [husband Dwayne Wade] and I have been together, holidays have just never been “normal” because he always played basketball on Christmas and was away half of the time. We’ve had Thanksgiving in a hotel room in Philly, we’ve celebrated Christmas on the 27th or 28th. This year isn’t that much different in the sense that it’s atypical but all of our holidays are atypical. Every plan or tradition you have, you just have to think outside the box and rejigger it all.

There’s an area that's not too far from [where we live], that I call Christmas Tree Lane. It's this whole neighborhood that goes ham for Christmas lights and everyone walks around with their apple cider or spiked apple cider. You sing carols and it’s very sweet. Now, you can’t really be congregating with your neighbors, singing and spreading germs but they do a drive-through thing so you can still see the lights but be safe in your car.

It sucks for so many of our relatives who have pre-existing conditions or those who are susceptible to communicable viruses and diseases. We probably should have been thinking of them in this way this whole time. I know young people want to go to bars and older people want to get out of the house to have a cocktail or hang out with relatives neighbors. I'd rather use Shipt to send a bottle so everyone can stay at home.

What was filming like for the Shipt spot with the new COVID protocols?

It was one of the first gigs I've done since the end of February at LA’s Finest wrapped. They started testing a few weeks out and we got tested every few days. Then, the day of, we had another test. Everyone wore masks and socially distanced, so there weren’t a lot of close-ups in the traditional sense. So, it was just different in the sense that there was no physical closeness. I wish I knew the name of the lens they used but I can tell you that they used a lens to appear closer than it was. Everyone on set wore a mask on mask on mask. Some wore two with a visor. Other than that, there wasn’t a lot of [makeup] touch-ups so if I look shiny that’s just what I’m going to look like because they wanted to limit the number of people coming on set and being in contact with you. If this is the future, as an aging actress, I’m OK with not having close-ups of my nose. I’m OK with that.

Having a smaller crew with everyone spread out and distant did result in a different kind of confidence. There was some trepidation, obviously, but in the end, it led to confidence in knowing that we got through production and it turned out really well. Everyone stayed safe. Everyone was confident in their little space while still being able to do their job safely and not risking their life or bringing it home to their families. I definitely thought everyone was going to be nervous, scared and shaky because I was, but they had it under control. They got us in and out. That's another thing — a lot of less wasted time.

Separately, as producer, you’ve kept busy developing projects during this time. You are working with Jemele Hill and Kelley L. Carter on New Money for Showtime and you optioned George M. Johnson’s memoir All Boys Aren’t Blue. What are you looking for in a project these days?

At this moment, I have to be passionate. I want to offer as many opportunities to marginalized folks to be able to tell their own stories. That was our original mandate — to center marginalized people and let them tell their own stories — and when I did the grid of all of our projects, I was like, “Oh shit, OK.” So, we started putting other pods on because we have a wealth of richness in the projects. Now is the time to spread the joy and the love and put on other pods who maybe don't have the same platform or profile but are equally as talented. We’ve made a lot of progress in development, pitching and sales. I just want to only take on things that knock me on my ass in some form or fashion.

There’s a project about a school district in Lexington, Kentucky that has the most trans students. They've implemented amazing measures in one of the country's biggest school districts and they've been the warmest, most welcoming, and protective of LGBTQ+ students in the country. You think, in Lexington, Kentucky? And it’s true. That’s a project that I'm super, super passionate about. It’s based on an article that was written about a year and a half ago. As much as people say that they want new stories by new emerging voices, it can still be a very hard sell. Instead, they take on existing IP or do another remake or prequel. So, it’s a challenge but one that I’m very passionate about. That’s what we’re looking for right now.