In the 2000 movie, the Toros learn their previous captain stole their moves from a rival high school squad, the Clovers. Union played Isis, the head cheerleader of The Clovers.
She looked back on the experience in her new book, “You Got Anything Stronger?,” by penning a letter to Isis about what she wishes she could have changed.
“There was Torrance Shipman, Sparky Polastri, and the Pantones — Cliff and Missy. But us Clovers? Isis, Jenelope, Lafred, and Lava? None. No surname for you to claim, Isis. Or to claim you. So, you were my daughter alone,” Union wrote in an excerpt that was posted on The Cut.
Union said she “already felt isolated” as the only Black person at the script reading, but said she felt she had to read what was written in order to land the part. She revealed that “created a whole life” for Isis, including having involved parents, but none of this was reflected in the movie. She said she didn’t speak up out of fear of being maligned by her community or being replaced.
“I failed you and myself. I was the fourth lead, but my face was on the poster,” she wrote. “You were the girl with no last name, but the star of every meme. You were only in about a third of the movie, and now I would know to fight for equal time to tell your story.”
The actor also opened about the moment she saw Isis on a poll of the greatest movie villains and questions why the character is seen as one. “Because you asked for accountability in the most civil tone I could manage? When people do their impersonation of you — to me! — it’s an aggressive, slang-talking girl threatening violence.”
In the excerpt, Union apologized to Isis and shared what she wished she had done at the time.
“I wish I had just given you the space to be a Black girl who is exceptional without making any kind of compromise. Because that’s who I want to be now,” she wrote. “That’s what I am chasing, so much later in life than you: to be exceptional by my own standards. Unapologetically me.”
This story was originally published on Today.com.