From major motion pictures to primetime
television, Nicole Ari Parker (or Kodjoe, if you will) has been a standout
actress in Hollywood for over a decade.
While people didnt know much about
the fresh-faced thespian before her quiet but memorable role in 1997s Boogie Nights, she was actively building
her resumé from the time she graduated New York Universitys Tisch School of
the Arts in 1993.
Nicole appeared in films like Remember the Titans and Brown
Sugar over the years, but it was in her starring role as Teri Joseph in the
Showtime cable series Soul Food (2000-2004)
that she really made a mark with fans.
The small screen has actually been very good to
Parker throughout her career, as she got involved in some made-for-TV movies
and nabbed guest spots in series like Cosby,
CSI, All of Us and Second Time
In 2005, Nicole appeared in the big screen comedy Kings Ransom, and after taking some
quality time to wed her Soul Food
co-star Boris Kodjoe and have two children, she is making a strong comeback
with several new projects in the works. The DVD for her early 2008 movie Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins was just released, and the confident, breezy actress
took some time to discuss her work with us.
Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins just came
to DVD. It didn’t necessarily do as well at the box office as people thought
it would, considering the star power behind it [opening weekend $16.2 million; production budget $35 million; box
office as of April $43.4 million]. Going into the movie did you have high
hopes for it, and then was there any disappointment in the reaction to the film?
Nicole Ari Parker: Wow, maybe my perception is
different. I thought it did well at the box office, I know studios like [for
movies] to blow out the water but in terms of numbers overall I think it covered
itself three times over.
Comparative to Iron
Man or something, it might not have had that same opening weekend box
office, but I think that everybody was happy. Making it was such a blast, and
you’ll see that in some of the deleted scenes and the outtakes, how in the
making of the movie how much fun we had. I think artistically everybody was
Malcolm [Lee] definitely had a big responsibility
on his hands, because everybody was so funny and there was so much material
that he had to cut down to make it work. He had a bunch of good takes, so I
think that was really the only challenge. It made everybody feel good, it was
funny with an all star cast and with the deleted scenes and outtakes [on the
DVD] it’s just even more to watch and enjoy.
I don’t think there was any kind of melancholy or
anything at all, everybody was like “we did a good job,” we did
great, we had fun and now everybody else is gonna have fun with it.
AllHipHop.com: It’s good that you put it into
perspective. In the mainstream there are very high expectations where you see
those big Iron Man and Indiana Jones numbers and then everything
else below that is a “flop.”
Nicole Ari Parker: Martin [Lawrence] is one of
those $20 million guys, he’s no small potatoes. He’s got an audience, him,
Eddie [Murphy], they bring it in, and the studios know that.
AllHipHop.com: You get the opportunity to play
more of the straight role in your scenes
Nicole Ari Parker: I know, I was so jealous. I
tried to jump in with a joke or two, and Mo’Nique and Cedric [The Entertainer] were like,
“Boo, it’s okay. You don’t have to be funny in this one.”
AllHipHop.com: Was there a lot of improvisation
that took place?
Nicole Ari Parker: Oh God, I don’t even think that
word covers what was really done. I don’t even think we got to the lines until
Malcolm had to step in like, “Umm can we get just one scripted section
here, please?” It was so funny just to see them do their thing and so amazing
just to see them set each other up with their jokes and be so open to the other
person shining. Martin was amazing and just a professional gentleman. It was
just a really great time.
AllHipHop.com: You could tell there was some chemistry
in the movie, but there were a few reviews that were harsh on the film
Nicole Ari Parker: Well people don’t like that
over the top humor. There’s an audience for that in your face kind of raw
humor. As a movie watcher we want
everything to be really nice and tidy and PG, and we sometimes wash out some
things that are really funny.
We gotta be open-minded. Yes, you don’t want your
children watching violence or trashy humor, but youve got to give them the
opportunity to make the decision for themselves, explain to them what they’re
watching and have that talk with them so that they see. People criticize the
films for being loud and brash, but people are like that. People aren’t always
polite, neat and tidy, so we just gotta slow down on the cleanliness factor.
AllHipHop.com: A lot of the roles you’ve done were
more straight and serious, particularly with Teri Joseph on Soul Food. Is it harder for you to play
the role where you have to be super assertive and strong, or the one where you
have to be the meek and kind hearted person?
Nicole Ari Parker: It’s not hard. I love the work,
so I jump in no matter how small the budget is, how complicated the character
is or how long the shoot is. I just love to work and I love being a human being
and expressing different sides of different women. So it’s all good, I really
don’t have any trouble at all. Really honestly the only trouble I have is being
away from my husband and children, but in terms of characterization it’s all
good, I love it all.
AllHipHop.com: Being a very busy woman in
Hollywood, how do you balance work and your family?
Nicole Ari Parker: It’s tough, you gotta really
not take anything for granted and make time. People always talk about you gotta
make time in marriage for date nights and stuff like that – you gotta make time
for just being in the same city. The minute we have two weeks off together as a
family uninterrupted, very focused, and really enjoying, appreciating each
other and taking care of each other, we really make that effort, because we want
to work, but at the same time those two don’t always go together – being a family
unit and a working actress.
AllHipHop.com: What is the most challenging role
you’ve had to date in your career?
Nicole Ari Parker: It might have been Teri, not
because Teri was challenging, but because it was long hours. A one-hour drama
is taxing on you. It’s really long days, and when you hear about ER and all of the cast asking for a
million dollars [per episode] 10 years ago and it was a huge deal, once you do
a one-hour drama you understand why. I saw Julianna Margulies [The Sopranos, Canterbury's Law] on a plane once
and she said, “I live with my boyfriend and I see him at 5:30 in the
morning and then I see him at 8:00 at night” – because you’re on set all
day. Especially if you’re one of the lead characters, your storyline is all
over the place and you’re always there.
It’s really hard just in terms of time and energy
put in, I think Teri was the most challenging, but I wouldn’t give it up or
change a thing because it had so much impact on us as a people. Finally, to
last so long as a drama, I was so grateful that I had that chance.
We see that you have two more comedies [NowhereLand with Eddie Murphy and Never Better TV series with Damon Wayans] coming up that you’re
working on. Is that a genre that you really want to get more involved in?
Nicole Ari Parker: Oh definitely. I’m excited
about this pilot I just booked with Damon Wayans. I’m nervous sometimes because
these people are geniuses. Damon is a genius, Cedric, Mike Epps, Mo’Nique, and
Martin were all geniuses. So I’m just learning and I feel fresh again. That’s
always a blessing too in this business, because you feel that sometimes you’re
doing the same thing over and over, but I feel fresh again. I’m excited and all