Nia Long’s breakout role came in 1991, at age 20, on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” Since then, she’s starred in such big-screen comedies as “The Best Man Holiday” and “Big Momma’s House.” She balances her film career, including a starring turn in Netflix’s current “Roxanne, Roxanne,” with her series regular role on “NCIS: Los Angeles.”
What was your biggest challenge taking on “Roxanne, Roxanne”?
I had to strip away everything. I don’t even think I saw my kids for like three weeks. I was in my apartment, by myself. But it was really subconscious. I didn’t go, “OK, when I get to New York I’m going to cut everyone off.” I really had to live a little bit of the character before I could give her a voice.
What was it like to return to television with “NCIS: L.A.”?
This was a world that I was completely unaware of going in. I had to be a student — sit back, watch and learn. The amount of material that we shoot in a day is unbelievable. Most of the time you get one or two takes, and they’re on to the next thing. So, it was intimidating in the beginning. I have so much respect for any actor who’s on a procedural, one-hour series because it requires a different muscle.
After the success of “Black Panther” and “Wonder Woman,” do you think Hollywood will now support projects about black women?
We’ve always been fantastic, interesting, complicated and powerful. That hasn’t changed. If you can love and appreciate what we’re doing, the stories that we’re telling, and how people are thirsty to hear and see black women on-screen, then I hope producers and studios start to put their money where their mouth is.
You’re a U.N. Foundation Nothing But Nets ambassador. Why is it important to you?
I want my children to understand that yes, you have a nice, comfortable life, and you have everything you need and some of what you want. But I want you to have room in your heart to give back to others. When you see the faces of women who don’t have a [mosquito] net receive a net, it’s like someone just handed them a million dollars. That protects them, their children, their food from malaria, which basically saves their lives.
Thing You Didn’t Know About Nia Long
AGE: 47 BIRTHPLACE: Brooklyn CURRENTLY BINGEING: “She’s Gotta Have It” FAVORITE FOOD: Sushi FAVORITE MUSICIAN: Miles Davis