Nia Long Goes Back to 'Big Momma's House'

Ed Gordon talks with actor Nia Long about her career, and her role in the new film Big Momma's House 2.

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ED GORDON, host:

The reviews have been uneven, but if Big Momma's House 2 is anything close to the original movie, then stars Martin Lawrence and Nia Long have a big hit on their hands.

I recently talked with Nia Long about the comedy sequel that opens this weekend. We also talked about her childhood in Iowa, an experience she says influenced her career in Hollywood.

Ms. NIA LONG (Actress): I was born in Brooklyn. My family's from Trinidad and my mom, at 22 years old, single mother, we moved to Iowa City, Iowa, and she had a full scholarship there to go to the University of Iowa, and then finally she got her master's there.

I've always been raised to love everyone, to accept everyone for their differences, and to just be open. But at a young, a very young age, I realized what racism was all about.

By the time I was, you know, five years old, I was being chased down the street, being called a nigger. I mean, I went through all that stuff, but I think it toughened me. And it made me really learn how to stick up for myself, which certainly has prepared me for this business. You know.

GORDON: You know, you talk about this business, particularly for African American females.

Ms. LONG: Mm hmmm.

GORDON: African-American males have made a fair niche for themselves, not in totality, but there're a group of them now ...

Ms. LONG: Absolutely.

GORDON: ... who have been able to survive and thrive through the years. But for African American females, for actress, as it is more short-lived, how problematic has that been?

Ms. LONG: I mean, I think it's, the main issue is that studios believe that black women are interchangeable, that I'm the same as Regina King, that Regina's the same as me, that we're sort of all just the same, and that they don't value the individual spark that we all bring to the characters.

There aren't many stories that are sort of driven by the African American woman's journey. And these are things that we have to continue to work on to try to find good stories. But it is what it is.

GORDON: Do you have a favorite character that you've played?

Ms. LONG: I really love Love Jones. I think Love Jones was a little bit before it's time. But when you think about the story showing black love on film, in that way, without it being a comedy, it's a timeless piece.

Ms. LONG: (As Nina Mosley) I'm going away next week to New York.

Sir LARENZ TATE (As Darius Lovehall): Oh yeah, for how long?

Ms. LONG: (As Nina Mosley) I don't know, just like a couple weeks, I don't know. I have a couple contacts and I'm just going to like poke around and see if I can find a gig. And I also have some other unfinished business that I need to take care of.

Mr. TATE: (As Darius Lovehall) Some dude.

Ms. LONG: (As Nina Mosley) Darius, the only reason I'm telling you this is because I really care about you and I'm not trying to play you.

GORDON: Let's talk about the new project and that's Big Momma's House 2. So many people were not surprised, because of Martin's popularity, but the first movie really was a huge, huge success. Did it surprise you at all?

Ms. LONG: I was so into being pregnant that I didn't even pay attention to what was going on. I was like, oh good the movie did well, okay great. Now I can be pregnant and eat ice cream every day.

But the second one is really, very funny. And I always feel like there aren't enough good programs for families, where everyone can go to the movies together and that is what this film is.

Unidentified Actress: Well, how in the hell did these get under your bed?

Ms. LONG: (As Sherry Pierce) I don't know, I don't know, but Malcolm would never cheat on me. Especially not with, this is like four yards of lace. A woman this big, wearing a thong? That can't be comfortable.

GORDON: All right, Nia, this one's in the can. What can we look forward to upcoming from Nia Long?

Ms. LONG: I am headed back to L.A. to direct a video with Yolanda Adams and I'm really excited about that.

GORDON: Oh, wow.

Ms. LONG: The song is called This Too Shall Pass.

GORDON: Is this something that you've always wanted to do, direct?

Ms. LONG: Yes, and I have before. This is, this will be my third video. So I'm trying to get my feet wet and get the feel of it.

GORDON: Mm hmmm.

Ms. LONG: There's a script that I'm developing, writing. And then there are two film projects that we're just kind of waiting to close the deal on that. So I can't speak on it because I don't want to jinx myself. But, it's ...

GORDON: Don't want to do that.

Ms. LONG: It's going to be a good year. It's going to be a good year. I think, for me, what I'm focusing on right now are good supporting roles in bigger films ...

GORDON: Mm hmm.

Ms. LONG: ... until I can find that one project that is going to change the tide, you know. And it takes time to get there and I'm not in a hurry. I feel like ...

GORDON: All right, we're in a hurry to see you whenever we can. And for those who are interested ...

Ms. LONG: You know, I know. Let me ask you this.

GORDON: Because I know you get that all the time.

Ms. LONG: I do, but I'd rather be like a nice glass of ice water ...

GORDON: Mm hmmm.

Ms. LONG: ... than room-temperature lemonade. Do you understand what I mean? Like I'd rather be like ah, there she is ...

GORDON: Yes.

Ms. LONG: ... as opposed to oh God it's her again.

GORDON: Yes.

Ms. LONG: But are there any films that you guys have seen in the last five years where you really feel like, Nia should have played that role?

GORDON: You know I'd have to think about that. I bet I would come up with two or three of them though, Nia. What I hear whenever you're in the room is that people want to see more, you know of you up there.

Ms. LONG: I know.

GORDON: So, and I know you hear that.

Ms. LONG: I know.

GORDON: But for those who want to see that, they can find their way to the theaters very soon. Big Momma's House 2 ...

Ms. LONG: That's right.

GORDON: ... opens with Nia Long and Martin Lawrence.

And, Nia, it's always good to talk to you.

Ms. LONG: Thank you so much, Ed.

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