The actress on 35 and Ticking, and working in two Hollywoods.
For nearly 20 years, Nicole Ari Parker has starred in memorable and popular roles on both the big (Boogie Nights, Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins) and small screen (Soul Food, Dancing In September). Now the 40-year-old wife of Boris Kodjoe and mother of two is back in the limited release, indie ensemble comedy feature 35 and Ticking, which also stars Tamala Jones, Megan Good and BET Awards 2011 host Kevin Hart.
BET.com spoke to Parker about her new film, Black Hollywood and how she and Boris balance their busy acting careers with family life.
We talked to Jill Marie Jones about 35 and Ticking, and she said her role was a big departure from the other characters she’s portrayed. You had the same experience doing the film, right?
I had such a good time. Nobody really knows but I got a little comedy in me. Everybody just likes to suit me up and give me big words to say. I’ve been really hungry for this kind of part. I’m so grateful that Russ Parr [the director and producer of 35 and Ticking] gave me the opportunity to work with this cast and be lighthearted. I got a chance to not be so serious; to be kind of funny. It was wonderful.
Aside from the comedic aspect, what else attracted you to the film?
It shows the kind of angst [held by] the single girl, the working professional sister who just can’t find "the one." I really loved the script. I love the fact that it showed that men and women could be friends and that this crew had been friends for a long time— I really liked that aspect because you don’t see that very often [in our movies].
35 and Ticking is an independent Black film in limited release in a few cities. But overall the amount of African-American mainstream studio films being made seems to be in a strong decline, especially compared to the 1990s. What do you have to say about the lack of Black films being made?
The only thing we have to do is support. Everybody wants to make money and the studios will take their cues from us. Like, “Oh! Tyler Perry is number one every time he comes out the box—let’s try to make a movie like a Tyler Perry movie.” Unfortunately,we’re still judged by each other’s triumphs and each other’s mistakes. On the flipside, we can make that work for us and make everything a triumph. That’s why it’s so important that with this limited release of 35 and Ticking that people find the city they’re in—D.C, Baltimore and Atlanta. [They] need to go out in numbers and check it out because it secures our futures and we won’t have to keep complaining. Unfortunately, this is the way we have to do it but it’s not such a bad thing, to support each other.
You also just shot a pilot for A&E called Big Mike. What’s it about?
It’s about a heavyset cop named Mike who has an unorthodox was of solving crimes. He’s trying to get his health back and his weight under control. I play Mike’s boss Grace Peterson. It’s like House— a serious drama with an overlay of comedy. I won’t know if it will get picked up till mid June so keep your fingers crossed.
Usually when a husband-and-wife acting team with children are in the business, one person’s career has to take the slower lane to let the other shine or to take care of the family. But you and Boris both work and seem to juggle it all very well. How do you do it?
We just made that commitment and somehow it worked out. So far we haven’t had that problem and have had to say, “No. You can’t take that job because I took this one.” It just turns out that our shows and our films have always been in sync. There was one time when I was doing Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins [with Martin Lawrence] and I had just had Nicholas [their youngest] and Boris was working on tour doing a play. And that was tough. Sophie went with Boris and Nicholas went with me because I was still nursing and I had my mom with me. We make it work, we have family close[by], my mom has helped us so much and our nanny is very close to us. It’s not always easy but we do the dance.
In press coverage of Black actors it seems like there are two Hollywoods; the mainstream crossover world where they seem to report on the same four Black actors and Black Hollywood, where the majority of our actors work, but don’t seem to get the same accolades for their output. Would you agree with that?
Who cares? Why create more angst for ourselves because the invisible “they” don’t see us? Why are we going to drink from a well that has never ever given us water? For years and years and years we’ve been scratching, clawing for this acceptance or validation or attention. And so what? Who cares? Because we go to see our movies, we are satisfied and we know who we are. The more lucrative we are, the more successful we are, the more powerful we are. When the dollars are screaming louder than anything else that’s when all the lights get shined to what’s going on over here in this neighborhood.
Like Tyler Perry’s success?
Tyler Perry is a perfect example of that. They didn’t even say his name right [in the beginning]. They called him "Perry Tyler" in misprints in major news publications. It was horrible. And then all of sudden, number one at the box office. The dollars add up and then somebody looks down at that Hollywood Reporter and they say, “Who is that? Who are they? Where are all these people buying movie tickets coming from?” The ticket buyers have the power and [you should] use your dollars wisely. We can write about it as journalists, we can complain about it as actors and we can fight it as revolutionaries but the dollar is the biggest indicator of our power so use it wisely and it will scream volumes.
35 and Ticking is in theaters now.
(Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)