Nia Long on ‘Boyz n the Hood’ and Why She Almost Turned it Down

Love, family, violence, and grief. The 1991 film, Boyz n the Hood, is John Singleton’s moving portrait of life in South Central Los Angeles. Audiences and critics applauded the raw emotion portrayed by the actors, and after making the film, many of the budding stars skyrocketed to success. One such actress, Nia Long, recently dropped by People TV to promote her latest film, The Banker. While there, she dished on some of her most high-profile projects and confessed that she nearly turned down her breakthrough role in Boyz n the Hood.

Nia Long
Nia Long | Greg Campbell/Getty Images for AppleTV+

The ‘Boyz n the Hood’ legacy

Boyz n the Hood was writer/director John Singleton’s first film, and to say that the young artist nailed it would be an understatement. The story takes place in an all black neighborhood plagued with gang violence. Still, due to the story’s emotional weight and the actors’ authentic performances, it resonates with audiences from all walks of life. Not only does Boyz n the Hood cross cultural and socioeconomic boundaries in cinema, but it also holds a fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes with 96% on the Tomatometer.

Apart from Singleton’s stellar writing and directing, Boyz n the Hood benefits from a rock star cast, including Ice Cube in a role that Singleton crafted for him. Angel Bassett, Morris Chestnut, Laurence Fishburne, Cuba Gooding Jr., Regina King, and Long round out the cast.

Nia Long’s big break

Boyz in the Hood was a snapshot of the inner-city life that reflected the lives of many of the young actors in the principal roles. When Long stopped by People TV, she explained why she nearly passed on the role that propelled her to stardom. She said this in her interview:

When I got the script, and they said, “there’s a movie being made called Boyz in the Hood,” I immediately thought, oh, so some white guy is about to try to make a movie about the life that I’ve lived. I don’t even want to have anything to do with it because I’m very protective about my culture and where I’m from.

And they were like “No, no. He’s black.”

I was like, “Well, where is he from? What part of town?”

People TV

Long goes on to explain that upon meeting Singleton, she was sold on taking part in the film because he understood the culture and experience. Long’s decision to accept the role of Brandi would change the trajectory of her career.

From ‘Boyz n the Hood’ to ‘The Banker’

After Boyz n the Hood, Long made her mark in television with her memorable role on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air as Will Smith’s fiancé, Lisa. Over the years, Long has also popped up in long-term roles on series, including Third Watch, House of Lies, Dear White People, Empire and NCIS: Los Angeles.

On top of her work in television, Long has enjoyed an impressive career in cinema. Over the last 30 years, she has made a string of hit movies. The actress reunited with her Boyz n the Hood co-star in three more films, including the comedy smash, Friday. Some of her other notable big-screen roles were in Love Jones, Soul Food, Boiler Room, The Best Man, and The Best Man Holiday.

Most recently, Long appeared in The Banker opposite Anthony Mackie and Samuel L. Jackson. The film tells the true story of two black entrepreneurs during the civil rights movement. The Banker hit theaters on March 6 and will be available on Apple TV+ on March 20. With at least three other projects in development, fans can expect to see more stellar work from Long in the near future.

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