Gabrielle Union is definitely in touch with what she calls her ''inner bitch.'' From her breakout role as a fierce inner-city cheerleader in ''Bring It On'' to her star turn as LL Cool J's hard-to-please lover in ''Deliver Us from Eva,'' the 29-year-old actress has built a nice career by being a little nasty. And she's only going to get tougher, with gun-slinging, karate-kicking roles in ''Cradle 2 The Grave'' (Feb. 28) and ''Bad Boys 2'' (July 18). Union, who's married to former Jacksonville Jaguar football player Chris Howard, tells EW.com about her hottest love scenes, which ''Friend'' is her favorite, and more.
First of all, why have you played so many strong, borderline-bitchy characters?
I used to chalk it up to how I sounded. Because when I started in the teen genre, I'd always be the snotty best friend: I enunciate, I talk properly. But I don't know why it keeps happening. My husband has a different opinion, though. [Laughs] I think I'm drawn to more villain-type characters, because it's so cool to get to say all the things you want to say. In Hollywood, you get to this position where you have to bite your tongue so much. You take all your experiences of not being able to say what you really want to say, and channel that through your character.
You play LL Cool J's love interest in ''Eva.'' How much of an LL fan were you growing up?
I was an LL freak! I wanted to be, like, an LL Cool J groupie, but I was never chosen. I've seen him so many times in concert. The first one I went to was in '90. He was on tour with Al B. Sure, En Vogue, Father MC, and Chubb Rock. We were right in the front row. I had dressed like the ''Around the Way Girl'' video, with the one overall strap attached, and I had my baseball cap to the side, and I had a Tootsie pop. We just KNEW we'd get to be his groupies. It didn't work out, though.
Did you tell LL any of this?
My husband told me, ''Don't say that, it'll sound weird.'' But I was like, I have to -- I have all 10 albums, I've seen every video. It's kinda weird to go into a movie with someone, and you're such a fan. And then you have to kiss him, and it's like AAAAH! Those abs, it's, like, ridiculous. He's yummy.
Given all that, how'd your husband feel about your love scenes?
He hates it. There's nothing about it he likes or finds redeeming. [Laughs] He thought the whole romance could've played out with a hearty handshake. It's awkward and it's weird, and there's nothing natural about love scenes. It's not normal, but in Hollywood everyone's like, It's just acting. But being married and having intimate scenes with another married person is weird to me. My husband definitely wishes I was doing ''Bring It On 6,'' instead.
What'll we see from you in ''Cradle 2 Grave''?
Well, you're gonna see my butt. It's jiggling around, because I have a lap dance. You're going to see a lot MORE of me. It's a martial arts movie where jewel thieves turn into, you know, protectors of the world against terrorists. Me and Kelly Hu have this dope fight scene that took, like, a month to shoot. It looks amazing. My character starts off as a stripper-slash-possible prostitute, then turns into a jewel thief. Then she's a savior. All in a day's work. [Laughs]
Are you more than a damsel in distress in ''Bad Boys 2''?
Well, I can't say much about the plot, but I do shoot a gun. I play Martin Lawrence's sister.
I don't really see the resemblance.
Well, I'm brown, he's brown. [In studio exec's voice] ''They look alike!'' Anyway, it was a challenge for me to hop in between Martin and Will and keep up the flow without bringing everybody down. They have such chemistry and timing. I was a fan of the first one, and when you wait so long to do a sequel, you run the risk of them hating each other by the time you do a sequel, or it just being off. But they've been friends since the first one.
And is Martin Lawrence, um, normal?
It's funny, because everybody's like, He's CRAZY. But everybody goes through their rough periods. The guy I met when I went to see the ''Martin'' show as an audience member -- the hungry comedian who's always striving -- he's back. And he's happy and well and has a great family life.
And how did it work out with director Michael Bay? He's not known for being too involved with his actors.
Yeah, but we got along perfectly. You tell me what you want, I'll give it to you. I wasn't like, ''What's my motivation? Why? Why?'' It was like, It's just exploding, goddamnit. Run when you feel the flame! [Laughs]
On ''Friends'' you dated both Ross and Joey. Which one would you pick?
Ten years ago, definitely Joey. Now, probably Ross. Ross has a job! Ross has his own apartment.