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January 2008
An Interview with Nicole Ari Parker

An Interview with Nicole Ari Parker

By Wilson Morales

February 4, 2008

After the series Soul Food ended after 5 seasons, and 74 episodes, which by way makes it the longest running drama with a predominantly African-American cast in the history of American prime-time television, some may wonder what how each of the cast would move on. Well, while most of them went on to do film projects, Nicole Ari and co-star and husband Boris Kodoe produced two wonderful kids. Two kids are hard to raise when you are not working, and with some good prospects shooting her way, Nicole decided to take one of them to task. Coming up for her is role opposite some of the bst comedians today in ‘Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins’, which stars Martin Lawrence, MoNique, Cedric the Entertainer, and Mike Epps.

Martin Lawrence stars as talk-show sensation Dr. RJ Stevens, who has shirked his simple Southern past and the awkward boy he used to be to dispense “you can do it” advice to millions of adoring fans. With a reality-series star (Joy Bryant) on his arm and loads of cash in his pocket, there’s nothing he feels he hasn’t achieved.

When his parents request that he come home for their 50th wedding anniversary, RJ packs up his 10-year-old son and spoiled princess of a fiancée and heads back to his sleepy Southern hometown. Ready to impress his down home kin with how much he’s changed, RJ will prove he’s not the walking disaster they used to pick on. At least, that’s the plan…

But as his crazy, lovable family reminds RJ of the kid he once was and the egotistical adult he has become, this superstar will take a hard look at the life he is living. Roscoe Junior might’ve felt teased, second-best and laughed at as a child, but the love from home could be turning Dr. RJ into The Better Man.

In speaking with blackfilm.com, Parker talks about being a film with comedians, juggling family life and film, and a willingness to do TV work again.

How would you describe your character?

Nicole Ari Parker: Well, Lucinda is sort of the straight guy in the film. No comedic element. She’s pretty much the childhood sweetheart of Martin’s character, RJ. It’s been hard for me to not jump in with jokes because being in a scene with Mike Epps and MoNique is just so much fun and everyone is joking on each other. My character is straight ahead kind of girl.

How’s working with all these comedians in the film?

NAP: They are relentless. It makes coming to work really easy. I’ve had a really good time. My friend Chris Spenser, who’s also a comedian, says that I’m a closet comedian. I don’t think that I could hang with the big boys or the big girl, but I may have a joke or two.

How did you go about and prepare for the role?

NAP: You could only prepare so much when you are dealing with such talented comedians. A lot of great moments come out of just being open on the set. Malcolm has been really wonderful in letting everyone flow. He brings back to the script because he wrote the script; so it’s his baby. He’s allowed everyone to do their thing and it has some wonderful moments. I think it’s going to be great.

How challenging was it to get back in the world of acting after giving birth to two kids?

NAP: Being a mom is way harder because there is no cut. It’s been a learning curve, but the rewards are ten times bigger. To have these two little faces that you are responsible for is a tremendous blessing. I have a wonderful husband who is very supportive. His whole life is about being a father. His life goal has always included being a father. I’m very lucky to have a partner in parenting.

How are you able to juggle raising 2 kids while working at the same time?

NAP: Well, when I first found out I was pregnant with my first child, I have a 2 yr-old Sophie, and a younger one Sophie, we think that we are superwoman and that we can handle anything, but then we going calling for our mom for help. The reality does set in that you have to shift your priorities around, and the longer hours on a movie set is not necessarily condusive to a new baby or two year old. I had to play with it to see how it was going to work; and with this film, Nicolas came with me and my mom helped me out. It’s not good for a two year old, because Sophie is used to having me around and reading to her, so she stayed with daddy instead of bring her to the set and keeping her there for 14 hours and getting up at 5 in the morning. It’s much easier with a little baby than it is with a bigger baby. It’s a little dance you have to do and shift around the rules. At first we said that we wouldn’t work at the same time. We’ll both go to each other’s movie set, but as soon as Boris got a job offer, he was like, ‘Babe, we need the money, let’s go!’. He got a job as I was doing this, so we dance around and made it work.

What do you think people will think of this film?

NAP: I think people will say it’s one of Martin’s best movies. They are going to say that it’s a phenomenal cast. It never lets you down. It was great from the beginning to the end. They are also going to say, ‘Wow, Nicole Ari Parker looks good!’

What is your process as an artist?

NAP: Living truthfully in the imaginary circle. It works everytime.

Is there anything else you would like to do?

NAP: There is so much I want to do. I want to go back to the stage. I want to go back to New York. I think that I have a good story in me, like an ‘Erin Brockovich’ vehicle. I’m talking to writers all the time. It’s hard because if you don’t take an active role in your success, you can plateau. I really admire Halle Berry because she’s so come far but people don’t realize that she’s done it all by herself. She’s self-generated, no one is giving her anything. She hits the pavement and hooks up this producer with this writer. She hustles and has really has made things happen for herself. I think people need to realize that about her. Actresses need to know that. It’s all set up for you to wait. You go to the audition and you wait. You make this phone call and then you wait. It’s not really how it happens.

Will you consider going back to doing TV work?

NAP: Oh yeah, definitely. I think television really reaches to people, even more so than theater. Theater costs more that $60 a ticket, over $100 if it’s a Broadway production. The masses watch television and I want to be a part of the information that gets to our children and our families. I want to contribute to what we watch on television, so I would definitely do more television.

WELCOME HOME ROSCOE JENKINS opens on February 8, 2008


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