Gabrielle Union’s latest project elicited harrowing emotions every day. But, that didn’t stop her from being doing it, and being all in every day.
Union stars with Oscar winner Octavia Spencer in Truth Be Told which provides a unique glimpse into America's obsession with true crime podcasts. Spencer is also an Executive Producer on the series.
In that latest season of the drama, frustrated by the lack of media attention surrounding the case of a missing Black teen, podcaster and investigator Poppy Parnell (Spencer) joins forces with an unorthodox high school principal (Union) to keep the victim's name in the public eye.
Creator and Executive Producer Nichelle Tramble Spellman explains the inspiration for the narrative, saying, “This story [is] personal because we had an incident similar to what we see on the show in our extended family in the Bay Area. So, we got to see up close and personal how hard it could be, how devastating it is, and how the lack of resources actually can make the problem worse.”
She says that the show asks the tough questions about the use of resources, including, “Who's important and who's not, how the service is allocated, what are the police doing, what's the press doing — it's all a part of the question of the season.”
For Union, the story is incredibly personal as she says, “I've been talking about my rape publicly for 25 years, but that's first person account. To fictionalize it, and to figure out a way into the character using my experience, I just didn't know [how] it was going to happen. It's my first time really doing that kind of deep, deep work. Every day was a trigger, and to be triggered for months on end, it literally frazzled me.”
Union admits that she’s still dealing with the aftermath now, three decades later. And while she says at the time she was believed, “when you're talking about the most marginalized of the marginalized that go missing and get brutalized, and no one gives a shit, what that does to the individual, what that does to the family, what that does to the community — it's like suspending you in terror. And you're screaming, and no one cares to throw you a lifeline.”
During her work on the show, Union admits, “I saw my therapist a lot.”
Even though the process was exceedingly difficult, Union says she was all in on doing the series, because, “Being able to work through my own personal trauma through art, there was no way I was going to turn that down.”
Spencer agrees, saying that even during breaks in filming she couldn’t shake off the subject matter. “I can't pack it all away until they say it's a season wrap. So, you have to sit in it for the entirety of the four months that you're shooting. Because every day there's a new emotion.”
However, she admits that there were light moments during the shoot. “As soon as the camera stops rolling, we're singing, we're talking about lunch. There's levity that we build in behind the scenes. We have a good time.”
In explaining how she feels deep down about the subject matter on the new episodes of Truth Be Told, Spencer says, “I'm not a mom, but I'm a woman, I'm a sister, I'm a friend, and the thought of someone going missing had never occurred to me — because it happens to other people. What I loved about this season is that we experience in real time the anguish that the families go through. And then, if there's a lack of media attention, if there's a lack of police attention, and it happens to be your family member, the only people that you can rely on are the people in your community. So, I love that we really, really explore that.”
By highlighting all of this, Spencer is hopeful that when viewers take in the series, “it gives them the tools in case this happens to them. But also, [that] it opens dialogue between parents and their kids about how they interact with people in society.”
‘Truth Be Told’ is available for streaming on Apple TV+