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    Nia Long Took A Trip Down Memory Lane To Discuss Some Of Her Most Iconic Films, Like "The Best Man," "Love Jones," And More

    "I think we were ready to just put all the rumors to bed, come and represent, and tell the final stories."

    Photos of Nia in various roles

    Whether she starred in some of your favorite movies, you heard her being mentioned in countless rap songs, or if you used her iconic pixie cut as inspiration for your next hairdo, you know the name Nia Long! Ever since she stepped on the scene in John Singleton's 1991 classic Boyz n the Hood, Nia has been meticulously crafting a career filled with memorable characters that not only made us laugh and inspired us, but also highlighted the Black experience in all its forms.

    Last month, I sat down with the star to discuss her latest project, The Best Man: The Final Chapters, reuniting with the cast that immediately turned into family, and her past roles that remain cemented in the hearts of millions.

    You were part of a laundry list of classic films, one being your breakout role as Brandi in Boyz n the Hood. What stuck out to you about that role?

    I just remember the scene where Ricky gets shot and I had to run across the street and tell Laurence Fishburne's character. But I hadn't actually seen the drama of the shooting and what that all looked like — that iconic scene in the living room where his body is just there. I remember doing the scene and not being hysterical enough, because I was afraid I was going to overact. Laurence Fishburne pulled me to the side and gave me some helpful little tidbits to help me get into the moment. Afterwards he said, "You did it! That's exactly right. You did it." 

    Being a young woman and being an ingenue and feeling like this was all new to me, it's wonderful because I feel like I'm that for young actors as well. So yeah, that was my biggest moment. And just missing my friend, John Singleton. I miss him so much. I think he was one of the most prolific filmmakers of our time. And he didn't back down to what Hollywood oftentimes tried to have him conform to. He was willing to say no, even if it made him work less, because he wasn't willing to do the things that he didn't believe in.

    Nia with her arm around Cuba Gooding, Jr. in Boyz n' the Hood

    Definitely a major influence! What's one fact fans might not know about the film?

    Oh, that we shot very close to where I was living at the time. And I was still actually living in South Central LA when we did the film. 

    Throughout your career, it seems like you’ve always prided yourself in telling stories that highlighted and explored the Black experience. Describe your process for choosing projects.

    I feel like sometimes the roles choose me, if that makes sense. Whenever I've really wanted something, it never happens. So, I sort of just know that I'm not in charge of that. I have this thing in me that says, "I'm being used to tell stories, to inspire our people, and to serve as a voice, so I'm going to just trust this process." If I read a script and I love it, and I say, "I've got to do that," then I'm going to do it.

    When it comes to films or shows with a predominantly Black cast or that center around Black culture, they’re often pigeonholed into categories like “Black films” or the stars are considered “Blackfamous.” What are your thoughts on this?

    I think terms like that hold us back. And I have to catch myself sometimes too, because I'm very proud of who I am. When I use the word Black, I don't use it as a way to separate ourselves from anyone — I use it as a way to put an exclamation point behind our greatness, because I don't think that it's always been celebrated and recognized. But I'm also a lover of mankind and human beings and accepting of all people that are good, so multiculturalism is equally as important to me. But I'm here to represent who we are and if you want to come along for the ride, everyone's welcome!

    Nia smiling as she rocks a pixie cut

    There was recently a little debate on Twitter about whether Terry from Soul Food was the movie villain or hero. Many fans didn't realize until they were older that Terry was actually a good person. As someone who starred in Soul Food as Terry's sister, how did you feel about her character?

    I think she was the boss of the family and I think that she took care of business. My father passed away and I had to be that for my family, and everyone is not going to always be happy with the choices that you make. But I knew that I was honoring my father and honoring my sisters, and I was fair. I didn't need the noise in my head while I was trying to work through something that I had never done before. So, I would say Terry's a hero. She stood for something and she was like, "You may not like it, but these are my choices. And this is what's gonna happen." Somebody's got to be the boss, and the boss is not usually the most likable person.

    You starred in Love Jones alongside Larenz Tate, and the film has appeared on several lists as being one of the greatest romance films of all time. Why do you think that film had such an impact on so many people?

    Well, there had been years where we just weren't represented as being loved. showing Black love, and being vulnerable. It showed another side of who we are — the world of spoken word and that underground Chicago living. That was another version of who we are. And Chicago is such a beautiful city. Cinematically, it was gorgeous! And you had these two brown-skin people that were the lead, and there was no colorism in that film, we were just there. 

    I know, for me, as a young woman, I was always the awkward one. I wasn't light skinned enough and I wasn't dark skinned enough, and I was always sort of like, "Which group do I cling to?" And we do that to ourselves. So when you see a film like Love Jones, and you see a version of all of us, it's like, "Oh, wait a minute. We shouldn't do that to ourselves. We should just be accepting of each and every version of who we are."

    Nia and Larenz sitting at a table with drinks in a scene from the film

    Okay, let's shift our focus to The Best Man. It debuted in 1999 and ultimately turned into a franchise. What was the audition process like for the role of Jordan?

    I don't think I had to audition. I just remember meeting with Malcolm D. Lee at a restaurant, having a long talk with him, and telling him that he had a great script. I also felt really lucky, because I was like, "Oh, this guy is on to something. He's showing a different subculture within our culture or an extension of who we are." It was something that I could relate to just when I looked around at my group of friends. 

    I just remember going, "Oh, I'm really excited about this one!" It was something different, you know? Because in the '90s, we were telling these hood stories, which were just as equally as important, but there was also a whole group of people that weren't being represented. So, it's just nice to be able to represent a part of who we are collectively.

    You and the original cast reunited for The Final Chapters on Peacock — a conclusion to the many love stories and friendships fans have grown to love over the years. What made you want to continue this story?

    I think we owe it to the fans. I think we were ready to just put all the rumors to bed, come and represent, and tell the final stories. Malcolm had something else to say and we wanted to hear it. We wanted to be supportive. It's hard to make a film and it's hard to make a television show, so if you have a window of opportunity, I think it's important to just do it and to continue where you left off.


    I've always referred to this cast personally as the modern day Black Rat Pack, because you guys are connected in so many ways and through so many projects. What was your initial reaction when you realized you guys would be sharing the screen again? And who do you hang out with the most?

    We were all excited! We came together and we negotiated together, because we are a group and it's one for all, all for one. As for who I hang out with the most...well, I talk to everyone. it's not even like, who do I hang out with the most, but I go to Taye [Diggs] for certain things, I go to Sanaa [Lathan] for certain things, Regina [Hall] for certain things, Melissa [De Sousa] for certain things...we all have this connection. If I want good advice, I'm gonna call Morris [Chestnut]. If I want to talk about something real New York, I'm calling Melissa. [Laughs] You know, she's a Queens girl. I'm from Brooklyn. 

    Regina is like, you know, she gives good advice and she's funny. And she doesn't go out. She's home if you need to reach her [laughs]. If she's not working, she's home. She's like me, I'm always home. And then you know, Sanaa's like a little butterfly. She knows a lot about a lot of things. She's a Virgo. She's very serious about the things that she knows and she will share them with you. But you must listen to must listen [laughs]. She's very bossy. She's my bossy friend.

    How do you feel about your character's trajectory throughout The Best Man franchise?

    I think it's really real. She's a professional. She's a boss. She's running a network. That's a lot of pressure and stress. We have a handful of very strong Black women in journalism that we have to protect, support, and regard, and as you know, are special people. Jordan is a representation of that. Now she's trying to figure out how to have all of that, and have a life, and feel like she's taking care of herself. Feeling like she's also living, you know? Like, "I'm alive — finding peace and grace and not sacrificing one for the other."

    The cast of The Beset Man on the blue carpet

    We always need one in the friend group.

    You gotta have one!

    Have you been able to keep anything from TV and movie sets you've worked on throughout your career? If so, what’s your favorite memento that you’ve kept?

    Oh, you know what I have? I have my vanity from Love Jones. It's actually in storage right now, because I haven't found a place for it.

    What has been the most rewarding and most challenging thing about being an actor?

    The most rewarding thing is I actually really love what I do. I think the most challenging is balancing a career and being present as a mother, and feeling like I'm never quite totally present in one space or another. I'm just kind of winging it sometimes, really, and other times I'm just completely checked out. But being able to do what I love and not feeling the pressure to keep up with anyone, to just do it my way, and understand that this is a long journey that has tons of gifts to keep giving [is really rewarding]. The older I get, the better I feel about myself. I really have the confidence and the voice to represent myself in a way that feels really authentic. You know, you just keep creating and working on other projects, and as you do that, life gets sweeter.

    Lastly, if you could describe The Final Chapters in three words, what would they be?

    Sexy. Crazy. Cool.

    Want more of Nia? Be sure to check her out in The Best Man: The Final Chapters. All eight episodes are currently streaming on Peacock.