Long, Nia 1970–
Nia Long 1970–
Displaying a sexuality and diversity that has allowed her to play characters ranging from girls who grew up in poverty-stricken urban areas to up-and-coming yuppies, Nia Long made her mark as an actress at age 21 with her first role in the feature film, Boyz Nthe Hood. Since that time she has received favorable reviews for both humorous and dramatic roles on the big screen and on television.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Long moved at age four to the Midwest when her mother, Talita Long, entered a master’s program in printmaking at the University of Iowa. While living there she got an early education in the significance of being black, especially since she was the only black child in her school. As she recalled in People, “…one day this boy pushed me off my bike and called me nigger. It was the first time I knew I was different.” After the incident, Long’s mother contacted the police and made her go over to the home of the attacker. This experience and other tough-love measures dished out by her mother made Long a hard-edged kid who refused to accept any abuse from her peers.
A few years after moving to Iowa, Long was uprooted to South Central Los Angeles because her mother wanted to be with a boyfriend who had moved there. Her mother supported the family by driving a city bus, selling beer at the Los Angeles Coliseum, and teaching art part-time in a local school and at a prison. She also urged her daughter from junior high school on to pursue acting. The journey to adulthood was not a smooth one, however. Before graduating from Westchester High School in Los Angeles in 1989, Nia Long was often involved with a tough crowd. “My first boyfriend was into crack, and some deal went bad, and he got killed,” she admitted to People.
After attending Santa Monica City College for two years, Long quit her studies to give her full attention to acting. Success came quickly, as she landed a role in John Singleton’s highly praised Boyz N The Hood, which was filmed near her own neighborhood. Long could easily relate to the story, which dealt with high school kids growing up in the tough neighborhoods of Los Angeles where gangs ruled the streets and violence was a
At a Glance…
Born October 30, 1970, in Brooklyn, NY; daughter of Talita Long (a printmaker and teacher). Education: Attended Santa Monica City College, Santa Monica, CA.
Career: Actress, Landed first film role in Boyz N The Hood, 1991; appeared in The BRAT Patrol; had featured role on The Guiding Light, 1992-94; had role in Made in America, 1993; played Will Smith’s girlfriend on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, 1994-95; Soul Food, 1997; played female lead in Love Jones, 1997.
Honors/awards: Received two Image Award nominations, 1993, 1997.
Addresses: Home —West Hollywood, California.
constant threat. In the film she portrayed the girlfriend of a boy who is trying to become a man in his drug and gang-infested neighborhood.
From there Long made an unusual transition, from the big screen to the grind of a television soap opera. Returning to New York City, she got the role of character Kathryn Speakes on CBS-TV’s The Guiding Light and stayed with the series for three years. Long became highly regarded among soap opera stars, receiving an NAACP Image Award nomination for her performance in the series in 1993. (Image Awards are bestowed each year on black performers who have made outstanding contributions to their craft.) During this period Long also was reunited with her father, a poet and English teacher who was living in Trenton, New Jersey, at the time.
While her role on The Guiding Light helped her nurture her acting talent, Long was sometimes critical of how the program dealt with blacks. “Most of the shows that have Black people have Black story lines,” she told Essence. “Why can’t we just have story lines, period? It’s like a lot of the people who work on these shows think it’s the 1950’s or something. The producers shouldn’t put so much emphasis on our being Black unless they’re going to get it right. We have cultural differences and they don’t show those, A lot of the time I have to rewrite my lines because the writers have my character sounding so corny.”
After her stint on The Guiding Light, Long returned to the West Coast in hopes of landing more film roles. She faced a grueling five weeks of auditioning for a role she eventually landed 1993’s Made in America. This role demonstrated that Long could also do comedy, and it paid off thanks to Will Smith being one of the co-stars. Smith was then the star of NBC’s The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and he was so impressed with Long’s talent that he chose her to play the role of his girlfriend on the series during the 1994-95 season.
Long really came into her own in 1997, when she made a splash in two films that demonstrated the range of her talent. In Soul Food she played the daughter of a matriarch whose family gathered every Sunday for a massive feast in her Chicago home. Her big breakthrough was in that year’s Love Jones, in a role that director/writer Theodore Witcher gave to her upon meeting the actress, without an audition. Love Jones dealt with the topsy-turvy romance of two Chicagoans, a photographer (Long) and a poet (Larenz Tate). Rare in its portrayal of black characters in an educated, middle-class context, Love Jones won the Audience Award at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. It received many favorable reviews, especially for the pairing of Long and Tate. “When we put Nia and Larenz together for a test, the chemistry between them jumped off the screen,” remarked the writer/director Witcher in Essence. “The best reason to see the movie is the hot-blooded chemistry between Tate and Long,” noted Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly. Long’s role also earned her another nomination for an Image Award.
Long was especially proud of being a part of Love Jones. “I want the younger audience to get the message that it’s okay to fall in love,” she told Essence about the film. “We’ve lost that sense of vulnerability, that sense of romance.” Still in her twenties, Long has clearly demonstrated her own ability to convey believable romance as an actress, as well as hard-edged drama and comedy.
Boyz N The Hood, 1991.
Made in America, 1993.
Love Jones,1 997.
Soul Food, 1997.
Selected television series
The Guiding Light, 1992-94.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, 1994-95.
Ebony, July 1997, p. 124.
Ebony Man, December 1993, p. 52.
Entertainment Weekly, March 14, 1997, p. 59;
September 5, 1997, p. 80.
Essence, August 1992, p. 70; February 1997, p. 48.
Jet, September 29, 1997, p. 58.
New York Times, March 14, 1997, p. C14.
People Weekly, March 31, 1997, p. 95; October 6, 1997, p. 28.
TV Guide, April 22, 1995, p. 44.
Long, Nia 1970-
Long, Nia 1970-
Some sources cite full name as Nitara Carlynn Long; born October 30, 1970, in Brooklyn, New York, NY; daughter of Doughtry ("Doc," a high school teacher and poet) and Talita (a printmaker, art teacher, salesperson, and bus driver) Long; some sources state that Long is the half sister of Sommore (a comedienne); children: (with Massai Dorsey, in business) Massai Zhivago Dorsey II. Education: Attended Santa Monica City College; studied acting with Betty A. Bridges. Religion: Christian.
Contact—112 South Almont Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90048. Agent—Paradigm, 360 North Crescent Dr., North Building, Beverly Hills, CA 90210; Writers & Artists Agency, 8383 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Los Angeles, CA 90211. Manager—Handprint Entertainment, 1100 Glendon Ave., Suite 1000, Los Angeles, CA 90024.
Image Award nomination, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), 1993, for Guiding Light; Image Award nomination, outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series, 1996, for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air; Image Award nomination, outstanding lead actress in a motion picture, and Black Film Award nomination, best actress, Acapulco Black Film Festival, both 1998, for Love Jones; Image Award, outstanding actress in a motion picture, and Black Reel Award, theatrical—best actress, both 2000, for The Best Man; Black Star Award, star of the year, Acapulco Black Film Festival, 2000; Black Reel Award nomination, theatrical—best supporting actress, 2001, for Boiler Room; Image Award nomination, outstanding actress in a motion picture, and Blockbuster Entertainment Award nomination, favorite actress—comedy, both 2001, for Big Momma's House; Image Award nomination, outstanding actress in a television movie, miniseries, or dramatic special, 2001, for If These Walls Could Talk 2; Image awards, outstanding actress in a drama series, 2004 and 2005, for Third Watch; Black Reel Award nomination, best supporting actress, and BET Comedy Award nomination, outstanding supporting actress in a theatrical film, Black Entertainment Television (BET), both 2005, for Alfie.
Fingers, Buried Alive (also known as Edgar Allan Poe's "Buried Alive" and Lost Girls), 21st Film Corporation, 1990.
Brandi, Boyz N the Hood (also known as Boys in the Hood), Columbia, 1991.
Zora Mathews, Made in America, Warner Bros., 1993.
Debbie, Friday, New Line Cinema, 1995.
Bird, Soul Food, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1997.
Nina Mosley, Love Jones, New Line Cinema, 1997.
Trudy, Hav Plenty, Miramax, 1997.
Nimi Da Silva ("Big Eyes"), The Secret Laughter of Women, HandMade Films, 1998.
Donna Chadway, Stigmata, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1999.
Jordan Armstrong, The Best Man, Universal, 1999.
Myra, In Too Deep, Miramax, 1999.
Rae, Held Up, Trimark Pictures, 1999.
Abbie Halpert, Boiler Room (also known as Money Game), New Line Cinema, 2000.
Leslie, The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy, Sony Pictures Classics, 2000.
Sherry, Big Momma's House (also known as Big Mamas Haus), Twentieth Century-Fox, 2000.
Lonette, Alfie, Paramount, 2004.
Sandra, How to Get the Man's Foot outta Your Ass (also known as Baadasssss!, Badass, and Gettin' the Man's Foot outta Your Baadasssss!), 2003, Sony Pictures Classics, 2004.
Suzanne Kingston, Are We There Yet?, Columbia, 2005.
Sherry, Big Momma's House 2, Twentieth Century-Fox, 2006.
Annie, Premonition, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2007.
Suzanne Persons, Are We Done Yet?, Columbia, 2007.
Television Appearances; Series:
Katherine "Kat" Speakes, Guiding Light (also known as The Guiding Light), CBS, 1991-94.
Lisa Wilkes, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, NBC, 1994-96.
Ramona Greer, Live Shot, UPN, 1995-96.
Andrea Solomon, a recurring role, Judging Amy, CBS, 2001-2002.
Officer Sasha Monroe, Third Watch, NBC, 2003-2005.
Katie Graham, Big Shots (also known as Bedrooms and Boardrooms, Big Dicks, Perfect Gentlemen, and Untitled Jon Feldman Project), ABC, 2007-2008.
Voice of Roberta, Cleveland (animated; also known as The Cleveland Show), Fox, beginning 2009.
Television Appearances; Miniseries:
Herself, "Los Angeles: Black Hollywood," America beyond the Color Line (documentary; also known as America beyond the Color Line with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.), KCET (PBS affiliate), 2004.
Television Appearances; Movies:
Darla Perkins, "The B.R.A.T. Patrol," The Disney Sunday Movie (also known as Disneyland, Disneylandia, Disney's Wonderful World, The Magical World of Disney, Walt Disney, Walt Disney Presents, Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, and The Wonderful World of Disney), ABC, 1986.
Carmen Jones, Butter (also known as Never 2 Big), HBO, 1998.
Karen, "1972," If These Walls Could Talk 2, HBO, 2000.
Lou Adler, Sightings: Heartland Ghost (also known as Heartland Ghost), Showtime, 2001.
Television Appearances; Specials:
Judge, MTV's "Spring Break '95," MTV, 1995.
Herself, The N Word (documentary; also known as The N-Word: Divided We Stand), TRIO, 2004.
Herself, BBQ Pool Party (also known as 50 Cent's "BBQ Pool Party"), Black Entertainment Television (BET), 2005.
Herself, 25 Strong: The BET Silver Anniversary Special, Black Entertainment Television (BET), 2005.
Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:
The 18th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, CBS, 1991.
Presenter, The 21st Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, ABC, 1994.
The 26th Annual NAACP Image Awards, NBC, 1994.
Presenter, The 29th Annual NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 1998.
12th Annual Soul Train Music Awards, syndicated, 1998.
The 31st Annual NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 2000.
The 32nd NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 2001.
2000 Blockbuster Entertainment Awards, Fox, 2001.
2004 Hispanic Heritage Awards, 2004.
Second Annual VH1 Hip-Hop Honors, VH1, 2005.
The Third Annual Vibe Awards, UPN, 2005.
2005 Black Movie Awards, TNT, 2005.
Presenter, 38th NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 2007.
Cohost, BET J Awards, Black Entertainment Television (BET), 2008.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
(Uncredited) Girl, "Slam Dunk," 227, NBC, 1986.
Claudia, "She Ain't Heavy," The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, NBC, 1991.
Stacey Evans, "Love Takes a Holiday," Living Single (also known as My Girls), Fox, 1993.
Herself, The Jon Stewart Show, syndicated, 1995.
Babysitter, "A Concerted Effort: Parts 1 & 2," Moesha, UPN, 1996.
Christy Wilson, "Baby Shower," ER (also known as Emergency Room), NBC, 1996.
Herself, The Daily Show (also known as A Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Global Edition, Jon Stewart, Ha-Daily Show, and I satira tou Jon Stewart), Comedy Central, 1999.
Herself, The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn (also known as The Late Late Show), CBS, 1999.
Guest, Late Show with David Letterman (also known as The Late Show, Late Show Backstage, and Letterman), CBS, 2000.
Guest star, "Are We There Yet?; The Interpreter; The Pacifier; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," Coming Attractions, E! Entertainment Television, 2004.
Herself, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, NBC, 2004, 2005, 2006.
Herself, The Tony Danza Show, syndicated, 2005.
Cassie, "Truth," Everwood (also known as Our New Life in Everwood), The WB, 2006.
Herself, "Riches, Pitches and Britches," That's What I'm Talking About, TV Land, 2006.
Herself, Last Call with Carson Daly, NBC, 2006.
Herself, Martha, syndicated, 2006.
Vanessa Walker, "Dumping Bella," Boston Legal (also known as Fleet Street, The Practice: Fleet Street, and The Untitled Practice), ABC, 2007.
Vanessa Walker, "Nuts," Boston Legal (also known as Fleet Street, The Practice: Fleet Street, and The Untitled Practice), ABC, 2007.
Herself, eTalk Daily (also known as eTalk and e-Talk Daily), CTV (Canada), multiple episodes in 2007.
Herself, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (also known as The Late Late Show), CBS, multiple episodes in 2007.
Television Appearances; Pilots:
Ramona Greer, "Day One," Live Shot, UPN, 1995.
Jacqueline "Jaq" Blackman (title role), Black Jaq, ABC, 1998.
Katie Graham, Big Shots (also known as Bedrooms and Boardrooms, Big Dicks, Perfect Gentlemen, and Untitled Jon Feldman Project), ABC, 2007.
Voice of Roberta, Cleveland (animated; also known as The Cleveland Show), Fox, 2009.
Appeared in Back to You.
Radio Appearances; Episodic:
Appeared in radio programs, including interviews broadcast by National Public Radio (NPR).
Herself, Friendly Fire: Making an Urban Legend (also known as Boyz N the Hood: Friendly Fire—Making an Urban Legend), Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment, 2003.
Suzanne, Road Trippin': The Making of "Are We There Yet?," Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2005.
Bell Biv DeVoe, "Poison," 1989.
Bell Biv DeVoe, "Do Me!," 1990.
Chico DeBarge, "Iggin' Me," 1997.
Ashanti, "Baby" (first version), 2002.
Music Video Director:
(With Irv Gotti) Ashanti, "Baby" (first version), 2002.
Entertainment Weekly, November 12, 2004, p. 94.
Essence, April, 2000, pp. 92-94, 162-66; April, 2002, pp. 76-80; December, 2004, pp. 144-49; February, 2007, pp. 156-59; December, 2007, pp. 186-92.
Jet, June 19, 2000, p. 32; January 8, 2001, p. 37.
Movieline's Hollywood Life, November, 2004, p. 14.
Parade, January 16, 2005, p. 22.
People Weekly, March 31, 1997, p. 95; May 8, 2000, p. 124.