Veteran actress Nia Long has been working in the entertainment industry for 30 years. She began her career on the soap opera Guiding Light and transitioned into a film with John Singleton’s acclaimed 1991 film, Boyz N the Hood. Long would go on to star in everything from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to The Best Man.
Most recently Long starred in the Apple TV film, The Banker and the Netflix thriller, Fatal Affair. Still, despite Long’s extensive resume, the 49-year-old has encountered racism, sexism, and ageism in the industry. In fact, in 2000, she was up for a role in the McG directed Charlie’s Angels. However, she was not cast for a horrible reason.
‘Charlie’s Angels’ was a standout movie for its time
Well before Bridesmaids, Bad Moms, and Ocean’s 8, having an all-female cast in an action or comedy film was a rarity. Charlie’s Angels, based on the TV show from the 1970s aimed to do something different. The film was a mix of action and comedy and starred Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu.
The film follows Natalie Cook (Diaz), Dylan Sanders (Barrymore), and Alex Munday ( Liu), three “angels” who worked as private investigators for a millionaire named Charlie.
Though Charlie’s Angles got mixed-reviews from critics due to its lack of originality, it was a major box office success. The film ended up being the 12th highest-grossing movie of 2000 and it even spawned a sequel, 2003’s Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.
Thandie Newtown turned down a role in ‘Charlie’s Angles’
Originally, the role of Alex Munday was written for Thandie Newton. However, the Westworld actress was horrified by the sexist comments of direct McG and the racist rhetoric of studio head Amy Pascal. Newton told Vulture,
One of the biggest movies I didn’t end up doing was because the director said to me, ‘I can’t wait for this. The first shot is going to be … You’re going to think it’s like yellow lines down a road, and you pull back and you realize it’s the stitching, because the denim is so tight on your ass it’s going to look like tarmac.’ I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t think we’re going to go down this road together.
Newton’s meeting with Pascal didn’t go much better. “I had a meeting with her, and she said, ‘Look, I don’t mean to be politically incorrect, but the character as written and you playing the role, I just feel like we’ve got to make sure that it’s believable,'” Newton said. “I was like, ‘What do you mean? What changes would you have to make?’ ‘ She’s like, ‘Maybe there could be a scene where you’re in a bar and she gets up on a table and starts shaking her booty.’ She’s basically reeling off these stereotypes of how to be more convincing as a Black character.”
Ultimately, Newton turned down the role.
This is why Nia Long wasn’t cast in ‘Charlie’s Angels’
Long also had a horrible experience. She was told by her agent that she did not snag the role of Alex Munday because she looked “too old” opposite Barrymore. Long was 28 at the time. The Soul Food actress told Insider,
I was like, “What? I love Drew Barrymore, I think she’s amazing, but I think that was just a nice way to say you’re a little too Black. Personally, that’s what I think. Because if you notice there were no brown skin [actors]. I mean, honestly, I would have been the blackest thing in the film. The feedback that I received from my agent was, ‘She just looked too old and sophisticated to be next to Drew Barrymore. And I’m thinking to myself, it’s an actor’s choice to walk in the room how they want to look, but it’s a director’s vision to help create and curate a character. So if you couldn’t see beyond the fact that I had on a blazer and a pair of jeans then that was clearly not the job and opportunity for me. So, no problem, I’ll keep it moving.
The role ultimately went to Liu who is two years older than Long.