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Nicole Ari Parker: It’s A Beautiful Life

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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 didn’t know much about

the fresh-faced thespian before her quiet but memorable role in 1997’s Boogie Nights, she was actively building

her resumé from the time she graduated New York University’s 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

Around.

 

In 2005, Nicole appeared in the big screen comedy King’s 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.

 

AllHipHop.com:

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

satisfied.

 

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 you’ve 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.

 

AllHipHop.com: 

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

brand new.

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