Gabrielle Union was nearly Olivia Pope.
The actress – who now stars in BET’s “Being Mary Jane” – made it to the final crop of actresses considered to play the coveted lead on ABC’s “Scandal.”
“Yes – me and half of black Hollywood [were up for the role],” Gabrielle told Billy Bush and Kit Hoover on Wednesday’s Access Hollywood Live. “I didn’t get it, but, you know, I was [in the top] five or six or so.”
Gabrielle explained why the role of crisis manager (and White House insider) Olivia was so desired by black actresses.
“It’s very rare to have a black female lead who gets to do stuff, who’s not the sassy desk sergeant or the sassy best friend or the wise, sage, Confucius-like character delivering sage advice at key points,” she said with a laugh. “So to have the opportunity to even audition for a role like that was awesome.”
Despite losing the role to Kerry Washington, Gabrielle was encouraged by the way “Scandal” creater/writer Shonda Rhimes held auditions.
“She did it with such respect. It was like, OK, I didn’t get this. But instead of wallowing in self-pity, [I found] inspiration,” she said. “And then literally, the ‘Being Mary Jane’ script came about… it’s everything I thought I wanted.”
The actress said Kerry’s powerful performance as Olivia inspires her to work as hard as she can for her new BET role.
“Kerry does such an amazing job. She set the standard so high,” she said. “I got this opportunity and now I wanna run with it. But it’s because of Kerry.
“She’s inspired me – well, not just me, I’m sure millions,” she added. “She KILLS that role!”
Catch Gabrielle in the BET original movie “Being Mary Jane,” July 2 at 10:30 PM, with a series to follow in 2014.