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Nia Long on longevity, J. Cole, and ‘Straight Outta Compton’

Larry King NowApr 29 '16

Nia Long – actor and hip hop muse – opens up about sustaining success as a fortysomething black woman in Hollywood, how her start on ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ inspired a recent career choice, and why rappers love to talk about her. Plus, the NAACP Image Award winner on why she wouldn't watch ‘The People v. O.J. Simpson.’


*Posted Online on Ora.TV on April 29th 2016:

“They are a comedic duo and they are funny and their comedic nuances are special. They’re smart, they’re silly, they’re all of the things that come with being a good comedic pair.” — Nia Long on Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele

“No, but you know what? When I got the script I thought the same thing and I just was like flipping through pages and I’m like, ‘There’s nothing in here about Keanu Reeves.’ So, no. Keanu Reeves has nothing to do with Keanu.”

“I didn’t see it. You know why? I’m really good friends with Arnelle Simpson and we’ve been friends since we were young girls and I felt- I just didn’t want to go through that story again because I love her so much and I knew it would evoke some sort of emotion for me.” — Nia Long on why she did not watch the hit drama series, ‘American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson’

“Let me tell you something about Ice Cube. So I was deathly intimidated by Ice Cube for so many years but once I saw ‘Straight out of Compton,’ I had so much compassion for him because he was actually writing the film, ‘Friday,’ in the movie, ‘Straight out of Compton.’ And so I was in ‘Friday’ with him so it was like a little bit of history within this new, new- old story and I realized in that moment that we really can’t be so quick to judge people because he had been taken advantage of for so many years and here he is telling his story. So, for Ice Cube, I would say ‘respect.’" — Nia Long on how she would describe rapper, Ice Cube.

“I think the thing with me and hip hop music- here’s the deal. So I grew up in a time where Puffy Combs was you know, running night clubs in New York City and ‘Boyz n the Hood’ was out and Heavy D and my beloved brother who I miss madly. You had Biggie Smalls, you had Tupac, and there was ‘Boyz n the Hood’ so this was an era where we were all sort of growing up in this business and kind of changed the game a little bit and gave urban music, rap music, black films. We had a space to actually do our thing and I think that the rappers just kind of are feeling me along a little bit. I don’t know. I don’t know. I think it’s just kind of part of the acknowledgment.” — Nia Long on why she thinks she’s frequently mentioned in rap songs today.

“He’s really not too young. He just doesn’t know it (laughs).” — Nia Long on her reference in J. Cole’s ‘No Role Modelz’

“I think it’s self-described because it is the obvious, but I also think…I think in this country we always have to put labels on things and categorize things and it’s a way to make fearful people more comfortable. And I think that we’re living in a time where people are very afraid of a lot of things and so the entertainment business is not separate of that and racism is real. We still live in a country where people like to create the lines of black and white.” — Nia Long on using the label ‘black comedy’

“I think it’s an old conversation. I think it’s a topic that hasn’t changed. It saddens me that we aren’t in a place where we can just make good art and we aren’t in a place where I can be cast as the leading woman and my description does not have to say African American or black…I think we’re still afraid. First of all, nothing good ever comes from separatism. When you start to separate and create gaps between people and cultures and projects and movies, you automatically create a space to be judged. And for me, that is fear based. I think it’s fear based.” — Nia Long on racial and gender inequality in Hollywood.

“Well here’s the thing. I’m 45, I’m black, and I’m a woman - so those are three really hard things to deal with…I’m always working but I work really hard to get sometimes crumbs. I feel blessed and lucky to have the career that I have but there are times— I’ve been beat up in this business. It hasn’t been roses and fairy tales. It’s been a tough road and you have to stick to what you believe in. You have to be strong. You have to be able to say no and I cannot afford to operate out of fear.” — Nia Long on aging in Hollywood.

“Well, I think Jada Pinkett Smith— I love her. I’ve known her for years. I think that what she said was a wake up call for everyone. I don’t think she was trying to make a statement of being sort of a disgruntled actor that her husband didn’t get a nomination. I think she was voicing her opinion about something and she left it free for everybody to take the position that they wanted to take. Personally, I don’t think boycotting is gonna solve anything because we should celebrate all actors and all good work, but I do think that Hollywood needs to wake up and acknowledge that there are far fewer opportunities for African American black people, minorities in this business. I do think we need to realize and acknowledge that there is a huge pay difference between men and women and I think Patricia Arquette said it best in her Oscar speech. That margin is unbelievable.” — Nia Long on the Oscars boycott and the Hollywood pay gap.

“I was the only little African-American girl with a big, big juicy afro in a school with about 250 kids and that was my first experience where I actually realized that I was different - where I was chased home and there were racist slurs. I didn’t know what the word ‘nigger’ was until I lived in Iowa and grew up there.” — Nia Long on growing up with racism

“Absolutely not. Absolutely not. It was a beautiful film. F. Gary Gray who directed it, is a friend of mine, he also shot ‘Friday.’ I thought he did a seamless job. I thought it was perfect.” — Nia Long on the film ‘Straight out of Compton’ and the lack of recognition it received

“I’ve met them twice. I feel very lucky to have been to the White House. I was involved in some of the you know, sort of spreading the word of — I worked with the campaign for creating funds for college, healthcare, women’s rights, talked a lot about those topics sort of early on in the administration and you know I became a part — I was an advocate for him. I still am.” — Nia Long on working with the Obama campaign.

“Bernie is an idealist, but I don’t know that he really understands the plight of the people. I like Hillary. I don’t know…It’s definitely not Donald…Donald Trump- I just feel like this country will implode if he becomes president.” — Nia Long on the presidential election.