Nicole Ari Parker The “Imagine That” Interview with Kam Williams
Nicole Ari Parker is the better half of Boris Kodjoe, the hunky star of such films as Brown Sugar and Madea’s Family Reunion. Married in May of 2005, the attractive power couple have two children, Nicholas, 2, and Sophie, 4, who was born with Spina Bifada, a birth defect involving an incomplete spinal cord. Nicole and Boris have created a foundation called Sophie’s Voice [http://www.sophiesvoicefoundation.org/] to bring attention to the affliction and to raise money for an expensive experimental surgical procedure for their daughter and 20 other children. Here, the Baltimore-bred beauty talks both about Sophie and about her latest film, Imagine That, a family comedy where she plays the wife of Eddie Murphy. KW: Thanks so much for the time, Nicole. I really appreciate it.
NAP: Oh, thank you!
KW: What interested you in Imagine That?
NAP: In two words: Eddie Murphy.
KW: This was your first time working with Eddie. What was that like?
NAP: Just being around him was a big deal, because he was such a huge star when I was a teenager. So, being offered a chance to work with him, let alone play his wife, was an opportunity I had to jump on. It was also great to witness him working, and to see how he gets his “funny” across on the screen. And it was at a tough time, because we were filming during the writers’ strike, a time when there was a lot of turmoil and commotion in Hollywood.
KW: Did Eddie have to do a lot of ad-libbing during the filming because of the writers’ strike?
NAP: He actually had to do more ad-libbing off-camera because of the strikers disrupting the set. But we still had a great time.
KW: And how did little Yara Shahidi, who plays your daughter, handle her pivotal role in the film?
NAP: Well, she was a natural. She felt very comfortable. I attribute a lot of that to her mom, who was on set with her the whole time, and who had a very calming presence. She really kept her daughter safe, so she was just free to be her really beautiful self, and that really came across on camera.
KW: Is this more of a kiddie movie or a family movie?
NAP: That’s the great thing, it’s right on the edge there because Thomas Haden Church’s character keeps the adults happy, while Yara just makes everyone relate, especially parents and little kids. So, it’s for everybody.
KW: Tell me a little bit about how you approached playing your character.
NAP: Eddie’s character starts off as a deadbeat dad, and I have to walk a line between being positive and not letting him get away with slacking off on his parental responsibilities. I just try to find the realness in a character, because I’m a mom, and I know that a lot of moms out there are dealing with stuff, and that keeping both parents on the same page can be tough. I was just trying to take as lighthearted yet real approach to the character as I could.
KW: I told my readers that I’d be interviewing you, so I have some questions sent in by some of your fans. Reverend Florine Thompson asks: What is your greatest challenge in being a mom to a special needs child? NAP: Wow! Well, once you get into the practical rhythm of taking care of your child, you realize what a blessing it is in a way, because you see how capable you are of meeting great challenges. But I think the hardest part is to not worry about the future, and to just believe that she’ll be okay when she’s not under the care and love of mommy and daddy. That’s really the hardest part, to not fill the house with worry and fear.
KW: Another fan, Laz Lyles, asks how things are going with your charity, Sophie’s Voice?
NAP: My husband and I started it not to reinvent the wheel so much but to make sure that we’re keeping our finger on the pulse of financing surgical studies that can improve the quality of life of children who already have Spina Bifada, and also to educate more people about prevention, and to make sure research efforts towards prevention get funded. So, we just picked up the ball on a couple of things that we thought needed attention.
KW: Reverend Thompson also asks: What is your greatest source of strength and hope in facing the daily challenges of life? NAP: I just reach deep down inside and try to find that place of peace. Nervous feelings, worry feelings and upset feelings are just feelings, not facts, and I try to remind myself of that. I constantly reach to that place of peace that’s inside of me and inside of everyone, and try to live and make decisions from that place. And I also ask for guidance, and I’m usually gently, intuitively nudged in the right direction, thank God.
KW: Reverend Thompson and Rudy Lewis asked a similar question: If you had a chance to meet and be mentored by one person today who would that be and why? NAP: That’s a really good question. Gosh, you’re catching me off guard, Kam. I don’t know… I need to think about it.
KW: That’s okay, but be ready with an answer for that question next interview. Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
NAP: No, they basically ask me everything, Kam. [LOL]
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
NAP: Oh, yes.
KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good belly laugh? NAP: [Chuckles] With my husband, yesterday, on the phone. I’m such a woman, sometimes, and he’s such a man. Out of exasperation, he went along with my point of view about something, but it was horrible acting, and I just had to laugh so hard. He cheers me up with that bad acting.
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music are you listening to?
NAP: I just finished dancing in my bedroom to Ne-Yo’s “Miss Independent.”
KW: The Laz Alonso question: How can your fans help you?
NAP: They’ve done so much for me already that I feel like I owe them.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
NAP: I see a fighter.
KW: What is your favorite recipe?
NAP: I make a mean butter pound cake from scratch, and a killer cornbread stuffing.
KW: How do you feel about Barack Obama’s becoming President of the United States?
NAP: My heart is just open for my children’s future because of what he’s doing for the world. I’m overwhelmed with joy and ecstasy.
KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
NAP: Always, always, always be prepared.
KW: I’m on the NAACP Image Awards Nominating Committee, so I know that you’ve been nominated 7 times, but you’ve never won. You’ve done such great work over the years; we’ve got to make sure you win one next time.
NAP: Kam, oh man, that would be great! Thank you.
KW: Well, thanks again, Nicole. Good luck with Imagine That. Please Give Boris my regards, and tell him I’d like to interview him again when his new movie with Bruce Willis comes out in the fall.
The Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins Interview with Kam Williams
Nicole Ari Parker
The Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins Interview with Kam Williams Headline: Welcoming Nicole Nicole Ari Parker's really arrived in 2000 when she played Denzel Washington's wife in Remember the Titans. Since then, she's appeared in Brown Sugar and King's Ransom on the big screen, while enjoying recurring roles on a couple of TV series, Soul Food and Second Time Around.In 2001, the Baltimore-bred beauty eloped with actor Joseph Falasca, though their union would last just eight months. Four years later, Nicole married her Soul Food co-star, Boris Kodjoe, and they already have a couple of kids, Sophie and Nicolas. Here, she talks about her latest movie, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, an ensemble comedy about a Hollywood talk-show host who finds himself cut down to size when he returns to his Georgia roots for his parents' 50th anniversary. Directed by Malcolm Lee, the film features Martin Lawrence in the title role. KW: How are you and Boris balancing raising children with your acting careers? NP: Before we had kids, we would dream about having two kids, and we would say that we weren't both going to work at the same time. And we had this whole ideal game plan which we've totally thrown out the window. We both got work, and we both just jumped right in. We took the kids with us. They're young enough right now that we can do that. To answer your question, we're winging it.
KW: What interested you in playing Lucinda? NP: Honestly, for me, it was a lot of fun to play the sweetheart, because, as you know, for a long time, I wasn't a sweetheart on television. But I did marry a sweetheart. [Chuckles] Here, I got the opportunity to be the nice girl. And for me, that was a blessing.
KW: Tel me a little about your character. NP: Well, I think the Lucinda aspect of the movie just adds another layer to the Clyde (Cedric the Entertainer) and R.J. (Martin Lawrence) battle, because I was another thing that they had competed over from childhood. Clyde always liked me, and kind of pushed that in R.J.'s face. R.J. never really spoke up about it, and this is one opportunity where I've come back into R.J.'s life. We haven't seen each other in a really long time, and we catch up about what we've been doing. He's gone off to become this huge star, and I've still had a simple life. We just meet up again, and I show up with Clyde, and that sets the stage for more competition. It just feeds the whole fuel.
KW: How was it working with Martin Lawrence? NP: Really good. A lot of big stars, they don't want to stay for the coverage when the other actors are shooting. But he stands by the camera and feeds us his lines, every time, like he was still doing a performance on his close-up. It's been really amazing to have all that support . It's been a really wonderful experience.
KW: What was it like being on a set with so many comedians? NP: It was interesting to watch because everybody has their own style. Everyone had their own magic. I have so much respect for what they do, and for how they kept their own thing going within the family theme of the movie. But for my character, for me being the straight man in the film, you start to get a little delirious between takes and think that you're funny and a comedian, too, because you're surrounded by Mike Epps, Ced, Mo'Nique and Martin. And so you're thinking, "Yeah, on my close-up, I'm going to say something funny, too." But it was amazing to watch them in action. I was blown away. KW: We're they competitive with each other? NP: Yeah, they were totally competitive. But it was the best kind, because they were inspiring each other, and helping each other improve their jokes. They still knew they were making a movie and stayed with the same theme.
KW: How about working with a legend like James Earl Jones? NP: I think I stared at him most of the time. I was just in awe that I was in the same frame with him, given his body of work. I was also in awe of his stature and his strength, because in real-life, he's bigger than his persona, even at his age. His still enormous and has got that charisma. KW: As a serious Shakespearean actor, did he seem uncomfortable around so many comedians?
NP: Not at all. He even had jokes when he was hanging with Mike Epps. At first, I kept hitting Mike under the table, because he was saying things like, "That [N-word]…" or "I told that mother-[expletive]…" I had to remind him, "Mike, James Earl Jones is here today. You don't talk like that in front of James Earl Jones. Have some respect!" But Mike would say, "Oh, James, you know you're a player." And James was a remarkably good sport about it. KW: What is Malcolm Lee like as a director?
NP: Malcolm is very focused, no matter what is going on. No matter how crazy it's getting, he's calm and very secure in the shots he wants to get, even if we're all exhausted. Even if we're in the 14th hour of a 12-hour day, he finds a way to bring the energy back, and get us all rallied up to stand in the rain and keep going. KW: This film is being released in February, Black History Month. What do you see as the significance of Black History Month? NP: I think it's important to find a way to make Black History Month less of a history lesson and more of a way of life. We need to inspire not just the young people, but the older people, too, because after school, the young people are going home to their moms and their dads. So, everybody has to be inspired by who they are, who they can be, and what their purpose is in this world. We have to start with history, but I think we have to bring it right into the moment, and make the best of our lives right now. That's how things can change, and take it out of February, and into the whole year. KW: Jimmy Bayan, realtor to the stars, wants to know where in L.A. you live. NP: We live in Atlanta full-time now. Boris was shooting two films down there, and I'd just had my baby. We'd been staying in hotels for maybe seven months, when I decided to call a real estate agent and look around. And we found our dream house! And that's how we're rolling right now. It's been a bit of an adjustment, but with the kids, it's just so nice to chill and not be so Hollywood all the time. KW: Well, thanks for the interview and best wishes to you and Boris and the kids.
NP: Thank you.
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