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Nia Long Discusses "Are We There Yet?"

By

Nia Long Are We There Yet

Nia Long in "Are We There Yet?"

© Columbia Pictures
When it came to casting his onscreen love interest in the family movie, "Are We There Yet?," Ice Cube suggested Nia Long ("Third Watch"). Ice Cube and Long had worked together more than a decade ago on "Boyz n the Hood" and Ice Cube believed the two would have chemistry on screen.

Once "Are We There Yet?" director Brian Levant saw Long and Ice Cube together, he completely understood why Ice Cube had suggested Long for the role. For his part, Ice Cube couldn't be happier to be reunited with Nia Long. "First off, Nia is a hell of an actress. That was obvious the first time we worked together and so was our rapport. She's cool people and so right to play a working mother," says Ice Cube.

In "Are We There Yet?," Nia Long plays Suzanne, a single mother with two overly protective kids. Bound and determined to not let anyone replace their father, the kids (played by Aleisha Allen and Philip Bolden) come up with trick after trick to try and stop any eligible bachelor from getting too close to their mom. Ice Cube plays Nick Persons, the owner of a sports memorabilia store who has worked his way into Suzanne's life. When she's suddenly called out of town on business, Nick volunteers to chaperone the kids from their home in Portland, Oregon to Suzanne's job site in Vancouver. Too late, Nick discovers he's volunteered himself for the road trip from hell.

INTERVIEW WITH NIA LONG ('Suzanne'):

How was working with Ice Cube again?
It was good. We did an interview together just before this and I can’t believe it’s actually been 15 years since “Boyz n the Hood.” We were just saying you don’t realize how much impact you’ve had on Hollywood and filmmaking, especially when you talk about the sort of beginning of black films that have become now classics.

I’m really proud of him because he’s sort of taking the leadership position and he’s really capitalizing on his opportunities. Obviously, I got a job because of the position that he’s in, and the fact that we’d worked together before. And he’s just like real easy to be around. There’s no ego and there’s no diva-ness and he loves kids. Or divo – isn’t that like a new word now? There’s just none of that. It’s all positive and it’s all good. I was happy to be a part of this, I really was. It was nice to work with him after all those years.

Your character puts up with a lot from her kids. It’s kind of hard to believe a single, working mom would tolerate so much. How did you deal with that aspect of this character?
I know it, especially not a black mama. Black mamas? Come on! I mean, I started time out [with my son] when he was two. But time out does not work, I don’t care what Dr. Phil says. It does not work (laughing).

I think when you seriously take a look at the storyline, these are two children that are desperately trying to get their parents back together and so they’re pulling whatever tricks [they can]. They’re desperate. They’re doing whatever they think can be done. They’re making the attempt to keep this guy away from their mom. And kids will be kids. I know I was bad when my mom wasn’t around, you know? It’s kind of the nature of children.

Would you tolerate your son behaving like these kids?
...My son – he’s hysterical. He just turned four and he knows everything. “Mommy, no. You need to do it like this. Mom, I like your hair. That lipstick’s really pretty.” Everything he just is very [clear about]. I have a very physical boy, like a 'boy' boy who I’m there doing my make-up and he comes and jumps on my back. He’s just very physical and you don’t want to break their spirit. You want to give them that room to be bad. You want to give them that room to, “If you jump off the side of a bathtub and the floor’s wet, you’re going to slip and you might break something.” But to constantly be there to tell him, “No, no, no, no,” you’ve got to give them room to make their own mistakes. That’s the only way adults learn. But he also knows that when I mean no, I mean no.

Your character makes a decision to let her kids go with a stranger on this road trip. What do you think about that decision?
That was major for me and I had lots of long discussions with [director Brian Levant] about that because I’m a single mom. I thought I would have to be really, really, really, really comfortable – especially with a guy – to leave my son. The one thing is that they’re obviously older in the film than my own child. And I said, “But how are we going to justify this?” I think what really helped is that whole montage of him picking me up, dropping me off, picking me up, so that it let you know that we had spent time together. I thought that was a really great way to sort of show that he was dependable. He was there when she needed him.

I think every mom has been in the situation where she just feels completely desperate. She’s really like, “Okay, what can I do to… I’m in a situation and I need help so what can I do?” So married, single, whatever, every mom’s been there.

PAGE 2: Nia Long on Being a Mom and Acting

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