EXCLUSIVE: Gabrielle Union Dishes on Drama, Sex and Michael Ealy in The New Season of Being Mary Jane
The fourth season premiere of BET’s first hour-long scripted drama Being Mary Jane can’t come quick enough after the rollercoaster that was season three. From a life-altering car wreck to police brutality, it’s clear there’s nothing off-limits or too real for the show or its fans, which is why we’re waiting with bated breath to see what sort of drama will unfold starting January 10th.
Between filming while on-set, Gabrielle Union, who plays the titular character, reminded us what’s important to remember from season three – which aired over a year ago! – and what to look forward to in season four (beyond Michael Ealy and his beautiful baby blues’ debut on the show).
Mary Jane has been through the wringer the last three seasons, from dating a married man to her friend committing suicide to being in a serious car accident. What sort of drama can you tease for season four?
A new job, a new city, new foils, if you will, new challenges. She’s humbled at every turn, literally. There’s no part of her life that is comfortable at all, so those are the biggest bits that I can tease. I mean, she’s in New York at the bottom of the totem pole at the biggest opportunity she’s presented with after leaving unceremoniously SNC; her boss, who she always looked up to that she would like to be her mentor perhaps does not have her best interest at heart; she’s got a couple of different love interests and very, very different from any kind of guy Mary Jane’s been interested in; and she’s displaced, she doesn’t have a home. This is like the first time we’ve seen Mary Jane living a transient lifestyle.
Speaking of new love interests, is there anything you can tell us about Michael Ealy’s character?
Well, he kind of enters the picture unexpectedly – they have history. We all know Mary Jane got fired from CNN years ago and, come to find out, Michael Ealy’s character was the one who got her fired and he shows up at her new job, so they definitely don’t start off on the right foot. They are absolutely not attracted to each other, initially, but I think over the course of the year they both learn a lot about each other – unexpected things they learn – and it perhaps takes them in a different direction than where they started. But, he’s kind of an a–hole for a lot of the fourth season – an a–hole in her opinion. I guess no one else shares that opinion.
There have been some big-name guest stars over the years from Ava Duvernay to Wayne Brady to Ludacris – is there anyone special we might see this season?
The people that have already been mentioned, actually. [Laughs] Senator Cory Booker, which is huge for us; the reality star Carty B; Dave East, who is your rapper’s favorite rapper; we’ve got Valerie Kessler, who is a Broadway diva, who is a phenomenal actress and is playing Rhonda, who is the woman who Mary Jane looked up to her whole career who may or may not be her mentor; we’ve got Nick Gonzales, who actually just signed on with [the Netflix series] Narcos, who is a hot baseball player that becomes Lisa Vidal’s love interest; we’ve got a lot of great people on the show this year.
By the time season four premieres, it’ll have been over a year since the season three finale – what are the main things we should remember going into season four?
We should remember that Niecy was the victim of police brutality and that brutality happened in front of her children. We really need to remember how police brutality not only affects the individual but their families, their communities in terrible, unexpected ways. We should be reminded that it’s Mary Jane’s job to report the news and, at this point, the news is her family and we all know Mary Jane, so she’s going to go pretty hard in the paint against the police on behalf of Niecy. We should remember that Kara is embroiled in a sexual harassment lawsuit brought on by her fellow Latina last year, so we don’t know where Kara’s at in all of this. What else? We should remember that David is gone and happy with his family and his choices [Laughs]. That’s sort of where we left off, I think.
This show, clearly by the things you just mentioned, deals with a lot of serious, real life situations – why is it important to you to be a part of a show that has that tone of conversation within it?
I think we look to art for all sorts of things, namely inspiration and different people’s truth and this is one woman’s truth and the truth we are presenting and it’s important voice that we all need to hear. I’m incredibly proud to be presenting Mary Jane’s truth, which closely resembles mine. A lot of the lessons Mary Jane is learning, I’ve learned over the years, and I think that’s important to share what we’ve learned, we don’t all need to make the same mistakes to evolve. We can learn from art and from fictional character’s mistakes. I think she’s an incredible and important voice that reflects the times we’re living in.
With a new showrunner on board, how has the show changed this season?
We amped up the drama. I think before we’ve been more of a slow burning fire but now we’re hitting you hard between the eyes from the jump. We’re making the action a lot more immediate because we’ve been gone for so long we want to give the audience the good stuff, the juicy stuff, the hot stuff right away. We don’t want to play the long game. I think just having a new voice and a very much collaborative voice has been incredibly helpful for the direction of the show, and just being open to taking Mary Jane in a completely new direction and humbling her. Mary Jane hasn’t been likable for a few seasons, we haven’t wanted to root for her for a few seasons and I think the audience is ready for Mary Jane to finally evolve and be honest with herself and make some changes. But, as we all know as in life, just because you opt in to making changes and evolving doesn’t mean everyone else is up to changing for the better around you. I think we’re taking a lot more risks. It’s risky changing course but I think it’s so necessary not just for the actors but for the audience. We all know Mary Jane is going to still be Mary Jane but without any kind of growth it’s Johnny Onenote and we’re going to see her in different situations with different love interests making wiser choices or just being at least a little more self-aware.
I think I can speak for all the fans when I say we’re really looking forward to the fourth season.
Oh, we’re bringing it! We are bringing it from the very first frame – I think people will be like, “Holy s—! Wow! I’m ready to go where they’re going.”
I think that’s a perfect plug for people to make sure they tune-in. Anything else we should know?
Just that we’re not skimping on the sex. She’s still getting it in, she’s still enjoying her sexuality and exploring it. Kara’s finally getting some action in a way that you’re rooting for her. You know, you’re going to see what happens when money enters the picture. We’re just giving you a lot more: we’re exploring pop culture in a way that we’ve never explored it and it’s coming from a different Mary Jane because she’s been humbled – she’s not at the top, she’s at the bottom. I think like a lot of us, especially after this election, you know, feeling very put-upon and feeling like the weight of the world is in your shoulders, I think – while we didn’t know that because we started shooting before the election – Mary Jane is more relatable because of that, so here we go.