Skip to main content

Cheaper By The Dozen’s Gabrielle Union Joined The Disney+ Movie Because She Saw ‘Zero Diversity’ In Family Movies While Growing Up

Gabrielle Union and family fare aren’t usually mentioned in the same sentence. She tends to lean toward iconic roles in more broad comedies and dramas, along with some action flicks. So doing a new interpretation of Cheaper By the Dozen added a traditional family film to Union’s extensive film resume, but that doesn’t mean the actress isn’t a fan of the genre. She grew up on them, but there was one glaring omission that drove her to join the Disney+ movie.

Growing up in Nebraska, the Cheaper By the Dozen star watched countless family fare courtesy of her older sister. She spent years watching the original Cheaper By the Dozen, along with classic musicals Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Meet Me in St. Louis. While Union cherished those films, she noticed a lack of diversity amongst the casts. Gabrielle Union opened up to CinemaBlend about her observations while sighting another Disney movie, saying:

The thing about all of those movies is they were all devoid of color. No people of color, no different, you know, cultures, languages, there is zero diversity at all. And in a lot of family fare, certainly the more classic, unless they're cartoons and like not humans, there's just very, very little diversity. I was talking about this earlier today. I think one of the first films that I saw of brown people living in a multi-generational household where everyone's talents were celebrated was Encanto, and that just came out, you know what I mean?

Seeing the Disney animated musical Encanto (which CinemaBlend's Dirk Libbey rated 4.5 out of 5 stars) as the first real diverse family spoke volumes. As classic as Gabrielle Union’s favorites are, the glaring omission of diversity and representation was obvious despite those films taking place in the real world. So Union felt it was her obligation to change the look of family films. That’s why she chose to do the latest Cheaper By the Dozen remake, but doing the film was more about mirroring her current family life and upbringing on screen. In her words:

So having a blended family of my own, and you know, being a part of the dozens of cousins, which we are the largest Black family in the state of Nebraska, one of the largest in the Midwest. We've always had a grandma that lived with us, or an aunt or a cousin, or neighborhood kids. Like, that's just how we got down, we do believe we are our brother's keeper. So, we wanted a family that represented what pretty much most communities of color have been doing since the dawn of time anyway. But our families are generally held up as a sign of failure if you don't have the quote, unquote, traditional family, which I think is a bunch of BS and just use to shame folks for surviving any way they can. But our kinds of families are rarely celebrated, much less represented on screen. So, I wanted to be a part of rectifying that.

As Gabrielle Union pointed out, many families across different racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds function similarly to the one in Cheaper By the Dozen. Having multiple generations in one home isn’t far from the norm. Unfortunately, as Union mentioned, that portrayal is often shown in a negative light because of often-difficult circumstances, but the Disney+ film is the actress' way of correcting that narrative. Of course, Union isn't one to hold her tongue, as witnessed with her regret over muzzling her Bring it On character Isis. 

Of course, the Disney+ remake is the third time this large, blended family has come to the screen. The 1950 original film was a critical and box office hit before being revived in 2003 with a loose adaptation starring Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt respectively playing Tom and Kate Baker, with a sequel arriving in 2005. The cast of the 2003 film reunited to recreate some beloved scenes for the non-profit No Kid Hungry. While the newest remake is receiving mixed reviews, the film is changing the look of blended families in cinema. You can watch Cheaper By the Dozen now, along with other amazing movies on Disney+.

A boy from Greenwood, South Carolina. CinemaBlend Contributor. An animation enthusiast (anime, US and international films, television). Freelance writer, designer and artist. Lover of music (US and international).