ATLANTA — Even though Gabrielle Union lost the lead role of ABC series “Scandal” to Kerry Washington, she says the experience gave her hope that strong and likable female characters can be created for black actresses.

“I said to myself, ‘Oh my God, these roles are out there,’ ” Union recalled in a recent interview. “It showed me that you don’t have to settle. Luckily, the success of her and the show bred more work. Just from the audition process, I knew that I couldn’t go backward.”

Now, Union is ready to move forward and make her mark. She stared in the dramatic movie “Being Mary Jane,” which premiered Tuesday night on BET. The movie will become a series, expected to air in January.

Union plays a successful TV news anchor who attempts to juggle work, her on-and-off relationships and the needs of her family.

“If you loved me for one thing and may not have liked me in something else, this role gives the audience a chance to see that I can do more than one thing,” said Union, 40, who starred in movies such as “Deliver Us From Eva.”

Union called her role as a news anchor “sort of a secret dream come true.” She said she has always been fascinated with the news.

In preparation for “Being Mary Jane,” Union studied journalist Soledad O’Brien, host of CNN’s documentary series “Black in America.”

“I didn’t get ‘Scandal,’ but I got something better, which is my own show,” Union said. “This new opportunity is something I feel that can grow.”