Nia Long is a woman with a noticeable love for the world of glamour and big city lights, yet she remains poised and touchable in spite of her status. At this point in her career, Long doesn’t need to prove that she has staying power; just ask those in Hollywood who’ve bared witness to her 20-years-plus as a gem of an actor. Snatching roles and shutting haters down with her veteran status, she brings an impeccable A-game to any role she plays—Long values her craft.
Folks wondered if she took a break from acting after they didn’t see her for some time, but she’s quick to let everyone know that her roles are being chosen wisely and that she deeply values being a mom. The Brooklyn native’s work includes Boyz N the Hood, Made in America, Love Jones, The Best Man and Are We There Yet? She has grown with her following, and barrages of male fans confess to having Nia Long pictures sprawled across their bedroom walls.
Long’s portrayal of Safiyah in her latest project, Mooz-lum, is one of her best performances. She brings to life a character of Muslim faith who’s fighting to protect her son Tariq, played by Evan Ross.
Congratulations on your new movie, Mooz-lum. How did this project come about for you?
I read the script for Mooz-lum and loved it from the first read. It’s always tricky when you’re working with a first-time director because you never really know what to expect, but Qasim Basir is a great guy. He was extremely open to my suggestions. He’s definitely someone to watch.
You’ve played so many different characters— what is unique about Safiyah compared to other roles you’ve played in prior movies?
She’s a Muslim woman—that’s very different on so many levels. I never played a woman who was that specific. When I emulate someone’s life, I have to be on-point. Safiyah is strong, yet loving. She’s traditional, but not afraid to grow. Her children are most important in her life. She’s also a loving woman.
Safiyah makes a tough decision in the movie regarding her marriage and family. As a mom, where does your strength come from when needing to make difficult choices with your son?
If it’s a new job or me leaving town, I think about how the decision will affect my son first. But, of course, I’m an artist and I still have to work. It’s a very interesting thing, though somehow it always works out. Just when you think you can’t handle the challenge, something will happen that will shift your life into divine order. I really mean that. On the other hand, if something doesn’t feel right, I don’t do it. It has to be worth my time.
The film comes out Black History Month. Tell us why Black History Month is important for you and your family.
Black History Month is a reminder of how blessed I truly believe I am. Slavery was not that long ago, and to be able to now have a Black president around the same time I’m raising a 10-year-old Black boy is mind-boggling. All of our ancestors, civil rights leaders, great speakers, people who lost their lives before us in order for us to have the life we have right now—we’re prayerful people. I believe when you are at a point of desperation in your life, the natural thing to do is to get on your knees and ask for mercy, which is what our ancestors did. We need to do that today. It’s important that we acknowledge Black History and teach our children something new about their history each day.
A press release came out in September and said you were up for a role in a Aretha Franklin biopic playing Erma Franklin, Aretha’s sister. Is there any truth to that?
I don’t know anything about that, but I’m flattered. I love Aretha Franklin; she’s an icon all around the world. I would love to be a part of her story as Erma Franklin. But I don’t have a contract or script in front of me.
When are you at your best?
When I just finished working out, my house is clean, my laundry is done, and my boyfriend is lying next to me. [Laughs]
What is your favorite Black film and why?
One of my favorite films is Lady Sings the Blues. I love She’s Gotta Have It by Spike Lee. That film opened the door for so many people of color and gave them an opportunity to enter the business. I’m a huge Spike Lee fan! I’ve never worked with him, but I respect that he’s a filmmaker who creates films his way. It doesn’t matter if you love him or hate him, you will walk away thinking after viewing one of his films.
Mooz-lum is in theaters this Friday.
Image: Mychal Watts/PictureGroup