One need only peek at advertisements for Disney’s new Cheaper by the Dozen to glean that this is not a paint-by-the-numbers reboot of a classic franchise.

Led by Zach Braff and Gabrielle Union, the Gail Lerner-directed film features a multicultural cast of actors who teamed to tell the story of the blended Baker family living, laughing and navigating all the challenges that come with life in present-day Los Angeles. Upon closer examination, the script, from Kenya Barris, Jenifer Rice-Genzuk Henry and Craig Titley, reveals how the creative team met those challenges head-on through scenes tackling racism, racial bias, depression, bullying and addiction, to name only a few.

“We’re blended racially, culturally, with a variety of different abilities,” Union told The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday night while standing on the red carpet ahead of the world premiere at Hollywood’s El Capitan Theatre. “We’ve got co-parenting. We show you the joys of all of this, some of the challenges and we do it in an age-appropriate, family-friendly way but we don’t shy away from anything.”

Union was also not about to shy away from the other pressing issue of the moment, especially while standing on a red carpet for a Disney film with her family standing over her shoulder. She, too, faced it head-on by bringing up the controversy swirling over Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, legislation that imposes restrictions on classroom instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity, an issue that is personal as she’s stepmother to husband Dwayne Wade’s transgender daughter Zaya Wade. The family also owns a home in Florida where Wade was a superstar NBA player for the Miami Heat.

“Kenya Barris and his writing partner, Jenifer G. Henry, wrote a brilliant script. They came on, they were like, ‘Would you want to star in this and executive produce?’ I was like, ‘Bet.’ Had a couple notes, but no, basically what I read is what you see,” Union detailed of signing on for the film, which will premiere on Disney+. “I’m incredibly proud of this, especially right now, because we actually say gay.”

Union was then asked how she’s processing the moment amid the wave of conservative legislation targeted at LGBTQ+ youth in states like Florida, Texas and Georgia. “I don’t want to say shock because hatred doesn’t shock me at this point. I’ve been a black woman in America since ’72. Nothing shocks me, but the fear that gripped me because I know what this leads to,” she explained. “Every moment in history, there has been this moment. We know how this ends. We know where hate and oppression lead. And it can start now with the LGBTQIA community, but if you think that it’s just a them problem, oh baby, you’re next.”

Though she didn’t specify Disney by name, Union then called on corporations to do more than post on social media. “If you’re going to take a stand and be all about diversity and inclusion — and it’s not just about black boxes after George Floyd died — you need to actually put your money where your mouth is,” she said. “You can’t stand against hate and oppression and fund hate and oppression. That doesn’t work. Obviously, our family has a big spotlight. My child is one child. There are countless children who deserve peace and the ability to survive and thrive in this world, just like everybody else. And if you think that your kid isn’t next, you are so sadly mistaken.”

Gabrielle Union and husband Dwayne Wade pose with their children, Zaya Wade and Kaavia James Union Wade, at the ‘Cheaper by the Dozen’ premiere in Hollywood on March 16, 2022.
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

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