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To Play an Anti-Gay Parent, Gabrielle Union Dug Deep for ‘The Inspection’

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After nearly 30 years of working in Hollywood, Gabrielle Union is used to facing slings and arrows. Still, when she opens up Twitter and sees people attacking her trans daughter, Zaya Wade, it hits differently.

Or, as Union put it to me Thursday night at the after-party for “The Inspection,” which opened the Toronto International Film Festival: “You can say whatever about me — normally, I’m going to come with these fists, or I’m going to read you for filth.

But when it’s your child, it’s a whole different ballgame.” As the loving parent of a trans teenager, Union and her husband, the former N.B.A.

player Dwyane Wade, have become outspoken role models for parents of L.G.B.T.Q. children. “People are listening to me,” Union said, “and I have a responsibility to try to reach those parents if I can.” But in “The Inspection,” Union plays her total opposite: Inez, a flinty, chain-smoking prison guard whose homophobia is so deeply ingrained that she kicks her son out of the house at age 16 for being gay. “None of our children are disposable, but trying to shove that down and bring Inez forward was the challenge of a lifetime,” Union said after the film’s premiere, adding, “This is the most important work I’ve ever done.” The film, which is based on the writer-director Elegance Bratton’s own life story, follows Ellis (Jeremy Pope), who has spent years living on the streets of New York since his mother severed all ties with him.

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