Since her initial appearance on the acting scene, Nia Long has captured the hearts of millions. Whether its playing the Catholic school girl next door, the fine sista down the street or a sassy poetic photographer, Ms. Long definitely plays the part to the fullest by adding a little of herself into each role. Over the years we have not only grown to know her, but also to love her and relate to her.
After nearly a four-year hiatus, Nia came back on the scene starring in NBCs hit TV drama Third Watch and recently showed us her major film range with her debut reappearance opposite Jude Law in Alfie. Now starring in Are We There Yet? with Ice Cube, she has once again placed herself back at the top of everyones list as that girl to watch. AllHipHop.com Alternatives spent some time with Nia in New York to discuss career growth and the balance of motherhood and stardom. Surprisingly, with all the success and her celebrity status, she is still amazingly humble.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: How was it working with Ice Cube for the third time?
Nia: It was great, we actually were sitting back talking about our films we had together one day. We had basically talked about the reason why we chose our roles in films that we were in like Boyz In The Hood, we did it because we knew it would be a success. There was no way it would fail. It was so real and everyone could relate to it, its the same with Friday and now Are We There Yet?. We always said that we started this together, so we will continue to work together…kind of like a legacy.
AHHA: So looking back, how would you rate your performance now versus then?
Nia: Well, with acting as with anything you do, the more you practice the more you grow. I definitely feel that as an actress that I have grown and perfected my craft over the years. Although I feel like I have grown, I also know that I am nowhere near where I want to be, and hopefully better opportunities will come to me in time. As far as Cube, he is very technical and approaches things from a technical aspect. Like when we are on set, while most actors are really focusing on perfecting their role, Cube is focusing on his role and where to stand as far as to get the best shot. I learned from him how to be technical and focus on those things as well because everything is really about the shot.
AHHA: Did you read the script for Are We There Yet?, or did you say yes to it because it was Ice Cube?
Nia: Oh no honey, I always read the script. You have no idea on what could happen if you dont. I read it and it was a great script. The only thing I was like hmm… about was the fact that the kids in the film were scripted to be so bad and my character was so lenient, I was like no one is going to respect me as a mother after this! [laughs]
AHHA: As a mother, have you had any moments with your son similar to the behavior of the kids in the movie?
Nia: No, not really. For the movie we had to go to an interview at Nickelodeon, and my son gave me one of those moments where I was embarrassed. It all started because he saw the lights at Toys R Us and he wanted to go. I mean he was acting like a four-year-old, wanting to do what he wanted instead of what I needed to do. I was just so upset that I had to walk away [smiling]. Although he has his moments, I still have to remember the fact that he is a child, and issues that may seem unimportant to us is just as major to them as our everyday issues we face as adults.
AHHA: Believe me I understand as a mother! I read in an article that you are a now a single mother, are you finding it hard now to balance your career and motherhood?
Nia: No. Fortunately my sons father and I have remained great friends, he understands what I do and the fact that although we are not together that we still have a son and he helps share some of the responsibilities. I also have a great support system with my Mom who watches him for me when I go away to do films that may not be appropriate for him to be on set – so overall I am fine the hardest part really is leaving him.
AHHA: I hear that you are in the process of filming Big Mommas House 2. When is it slated for release?
Nia: Yeah, I actually just agreed to do it. We havent really received a date yet, but it should be soon. I am actually excited because I think it will be fun to do that film.
AHHA: What would be your ideal role?
Nia: Any role created by me, for me, starring me and written by me. I mean each role that I have done has been a reflection of me in some part of my life, even in Alfie in which I played a little crazy. I mean I have been known as being a little demanding or whatever, but I feel a little craziness is cool – it keeps life interesting. I also would love to star in an autobiographical film about the life of Nina Simone, because I love her and feel that it would be very interesting. I think overall for me to find that perfect role for me, I would have to develop it on my own.
AHHA: That would be hot, not to mention the fact that a lot of African American actors and actresses really receive their recognition after starring in autobiographical films. Look at Halle Berry and Jamie Foxx.
Nia: Exactly. I really feel that [African American actors] are really very talented, but the roles to actually show our talents are limited, so I feel that we really need to get out and create our own movies with roles specifically for us. But also, when labels and production companies start to put more faith into good movies that have us on those kind of roles and believe in it when they see it on paper, instead of having to see other movies like it be successful then we could also have better quality roles as well. For instance with Ray it took a long time for that movie to be created, it was in the works for a while. I remember auditioning for it after I had my son, but I lost it to Regina [King]. [laughs] But if you look at Jamies body of work, he is very talented. As I stated before a lot of Black actors out there are talented, its just all about that right opportunity.
AHHA: You were on a very deserved hiatus after having your son, what made you go to star on Third Watch instead of jumping into major movie roles?
Nia: Well, when you are a mommy, you appreciate the stability of a TV job. Working on Third Watch I know I will be getting off about 3:00. Also around that time I wanted to play a role a little different than what I had played before, because when I tried out for Ray one of the reasons I didnt get the role is because they saw me as always playing the girl next door. So I wanted to play an adverse role to show my talents as an actress, thats when Third Watch came about. Soon after that I was offered my role in Alfie, so I am a firm believer in divine order. I believe everything happens for a reason.
AHHA: When you look back at your previous films, do you critique your work?
Nia: You know its funny, when I look back at my old films I can really remember how I felt at that time – like remember what was on my mind or what I was going through. As far as critiquing my work, of course. I look back and think like, I could have done this or that – but overall, I really enjoy them because it gives me a chance to look back and reminisce.
AHHA: How do you prepare for complex roles, do you have a special routine?
Nia: I really dont have anything set as far as a routine when I prepare for roles. Honestly, my motivation comes from my son, whether its missing him or whatever all my energy now is from him.