Mooz-lum/ Nia Long Interview
An Interview with Nia Long
by Wilson Morales
February 8, 2011
From ‘Boyz n the Hood’, ‘The Best Man’, ‘Big Momma’s House,’ ‘Are We There Yet?,’ and the TV series ‘Third Watch,’ actress Nia Long has racked up an impressive list of hits over her 20 years in the business.
While working on films and TV, Long is also the proud mom of a 12 year-old son, Massai Zhivago Dorsey II. Raising him in a stable environment has led her to take on more television work such as appearing on ‘Everwood’ in 2005 and 2006, ‘Boston Legal’ during its 2006-2007 season, and ‘Big Shots’ from 2007-2008. In 2009, she provided the voice of Roberta on the animated sitcom series, ‘The Cleveland Show,’ before being replaced by Reagan Gomez.
In 2009, she appeared in Chris Rock‘s documentary, ‘Good Hair.’
In her first big screen role since 2007′s ‘Are We Done Yet?,’ the Brooklyn native plays a Muslim mom struggling to keep her family together post 9/11 in the independent film ‘Mooz-lum.’
Written and directed by newcomer Qasim Basir, the film also stars Evan Ross, Roger Guenveur Smith, Danny Glover, Dorian Missick, and Summer Bishil.
Pulled between his strict Muslim upbringing by his father and the normal social life he’s never had, Tariq Mahdi (played by Evan Ross) enters college in a state of confusion. New relationships with Muslims and non-Muslims alike challenge his already shaken ideals, and the estrangement with his mother and sister troubles him. With the help of new friends, family and mentors, he begins to find himself and open up to an Islam he hasn’t been exposed to. But when the attacks of 9/11 happen without warning, he is forced to face his past and make the biggest decisions of his life.
Blackvoices.com caught up with Long as she talked about her role in the film, choosing film roles, and the hollywood system regarding this year’s lack of black Oscar nominees. Here are excerpts from the interview.
What’s your role in ‘Mooz-lum?’
Nia Long: I play Safiyah, the mother of Tariq. She’s a Muslim African American woman, obviously. She’s a very contemporary, soulful, passionate woman who I think her main focus is on her children.
It’s been a while since you did a feature film. The last film you appeared in was the Chris Rock documentary ‘Good Hair.’ Why did you take on this independent film?
NL: Honestly, when I pick my roles, I pick them based on the content and what moves me and what I feel like is a project that’s going to be meaningful. When you don’t see me in something it’s usually because either I wasn’t right for it or it just wasn’t of interest to me. And to be quite frank, there hasn’t really been a lot going on. It’s a very difficult time.
The subject matter here is powerful. Did you do any research into the Muslim community and were there challenges you faced?
NL: I absolutely did. I spent a lot of time with the director’s mother who really talked to me about their life and then also about the faith and sort of what she went through as his mom.
How’s working with Q (Basir), who’s a new director on the scene, and you’re someone who’s worked a lot of years with different people? What did you both bring to the table?
NL: Making a movie is so collaborative. You just have to be open to the process because everyone has a different way of doing things. As an actor who’s there to support a first time director you want to really hear what they’re trying to say or you want to hear what they really want because that’s my job, to deliver what the director wants. With that being said I think that any actor who’s vested in the project is going to come up with things and ways to enhance the character or build upon what the director has already requested. That works for pretty much every project that I’ve worked on.
How was working with Roger (Guenveur Smith) and Evan Ross?
NL: Awesome. Evan is a doll and Roger is amazing. He’s such a real actor. When you have that theater background and you’ve been in all those iconic films like Roger has, he really makes it easy. He made my job very easy.
This film will lead to debate once people have seen it. What do you want people to walk with after they’ve seen the movie?
NL: A knowledge and a new perception…look, there are two things. There’s the story which is great. And then there’s all of the worldly issues that this film touches on. So I think if anything we need to understand that 9/11 was an attack on America and not an attack on Muslim Americans. All Americans were devastated by this. So it’s not about once group of people being a bad group of people. It’s about that we have good and bad in every group, every religion, every race. That’s the world that we live in, unfortunately. I think that’s important, that we start to see beyond what happened and to understand that it’s a part of our history. But it’s unfair to suggest that all Muslims are terrorists or that all Muslims are bad people or that all Muslims have some sort of vendetta against America which is not true.
What were your thoughts about the lack of minorities represented in this year’s Academy Awards?
NL: I mean, isn’t this the same thing that we say ever year? Maybe last year Black people were popular [laughs]. I don’t know how to explain that. I know that it’s annoying. I know that it’s unfair. I know that we’re still dealing with some of the very same issues that our parents were dealing with. The bottom line is that we don’t run Hollywood. Black people don’t run Hollywood. And it’s that simple. That’s why we have to continue to tell our stories and make movies that we believe in and not just make the big, fancy shiny movies with the big budgets, but do a very small film that’s going to help get our voice out there. I’d rather be a part of the crusade any day. I’d rather be the underdog any day.
I recently caught you in an episode of NBC’s ‘Chase.’ I didn’t know that you were on the show.
NL: You know what was so funny is that they asked me to come and do an arch on the show and I was like, ‘Yeah, great! No problem.
What’s next for you?
NL: I have a development deal with ABC and I’m developing a show with them, producing and developing a show with them and I have no idea what the show is yet. But I’m excited about it. It’s going to be great.
Are you appearing with Martin Lawrence in ‘Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son?’
NL: Oh, no, no. I think my ‘Big Momma’ days are over.