Multi Image Award winning African American actress Nia Long won her first award for playing Jordan Armstrong in Malcolm D. Lee's “The Best Man” (1999), from which she also netted a Black Reel Award. She took home her last two awards for portraying Officer Sasha Monroe in the NBC series “Third Watch” (2003-2005). She gained additional Image nominations for her work in the TV sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (1994-1995, as Lisa Wilkes), the TV film “If These Walls Could Talk 2” (2000, as Karen) and the films “Love Jones” (1997, as Nina Mosley) and “Big Momma's House” (2000, as Sherry Pierce). She also earned a Black Film nomination at the 1998 Acapulco Film Festival for “Love Jones” and a Blockbuster Entertainment nomination for “Big Momma's House.” She collected a Black Reel nomination for her supporting role of Abbie Halpert in “Boiler Room” (2000) and nominations at the BET Comedy and Black Reel Awards for playing Lonette in “Alfie” (2004). The recipient of Black Star Award for Star of the Year at the 2000 Acapulco Black Film Festival worked with Ice Cube in the films “Boyz n the Hood” (1991), Friday” (1995), “Are We There Yet” (2005) and “Are We Done Yet” (2007). Long's film credits also include “Made in America” (1993), “Soul Food” (1997), “In Too Deep” (1999), “Stigmata” (1999), “The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy” (2000), “BAADASSSSS” (2003) and “Big Momma's House 2” (2006). The thespian also played regular roles in “Big Shots” (2007-2008) and “The “Cleveland Show” (2009-2010, as the voice of Roberta Tubbs) and a recurring role in “Judging Amy” (2001-2002).
Long was once romantically linked to NBA player Chris Webber (born on March 1, 1973) and restaurant owner Peter Thomas (born in 1961). She and fellow actor Massai Z. Dorsey were engaged to be married in June 2001 but their relationship ended before they married. The pair shares one son named Massai Zhivago Dorsey II (born in 2000). Long, who is of Trinidadian origin, was named one of People Magazine's “50 Most Beautiful People in the World” in 2000 and was included in the magazine's annual list of “100 Most Beautiful People in the World, Beauty at Every Age” in May 2007. She also ranked No. 3 on the Black Men Magazine list of “10 Sexiest Women of the Year” in 2000.
Childhood and Family:
Nia Long was born Nitara Carlynn Long on October 30, 1970, in Brooklyn, New York, to Doughtry Long, a high school teacher, and Talita Long, an art teacher. Her parents divorced in 1974 and she and her mother relocated to Iowa City, Iowa, where her mom studied fine arts. They moved to a Los Angeles neighborhood when Nia was seven. When they first arrived in Los Angeles, her mother faced problems gaining employment. As a result, she supported the family by taking on various odd jobs despite being equipped with two master's degrees. Nia was educated at the Roman Catholic school St. Mary's Academy for a while and took ballet, tap, jazz, gymnastics, guitar and acting classes. She graduated from Westchester High School in Los Angeles in 1989 and went on to attend Santa Monica College in Santa Monica, CA.
On November 26, 2000, Nia gave birth to Massai Zhivago Dorsey II, her son with Massai Dorsey.
The Best Man
At an early age, Nia Long knew she wanted to act and studied under acting coach Betty Bridges for 15 years. Her first television work came at age 16 when she landed an unaccredited part in the NBC series “227” episode “Slam Dunken.” Later that same year, she made her TV movie debut in the ABC family film “The B.R.A.T. Patrol,” where she played the supporting role of Darla Perkins. The film starred Sean Astin as Leonard Kinsey and Tim Thomerson as Major Dan Hackett. Long also appeared in Bell Biv Devoe's music videos “Poison” and “Do Me” (1990) before branching out to the big screen with a supporting role in “Edgar Allan Poe's Buried Alive” (1990), which starred Robert Vaughn, John Carradine and Donald Pleasence.
In 1991, Long portrayed the girlfriend of Cuba Gooding Jr. in the well received film “Boyz n the Hood” (1991) for director/writer John Singleton. The film also starred Ice Cube, Laurence Fishburne and Morris Chestnut. On television Long landed the role of Katherine Speakes in the CBS soap opera “The Guiding Light” from 1991 to 1993 and guest starred as Claudia in the Will Smith series “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (1991). In 1993, she was cast as Whoopi Goldberg's daughter, Zora Matthews, in the commercially successful comedy film “Made in America,” helmed by Richard Benjamin. Costars of the film included Ted Danson, Will Smith and Jennifer Tilly. The same year, she portrayed Stacey Evans in an episode of the Queen Latifah comedy series “Living Single” called “Love Takes a Holiday.”
Long returned to the NBC family sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” when she joined the show as a recurring player in November 1994. She played the role of Lisa Wilkes, Will Smith's love interest, a role she won after beating out Jada Pinkett (Smith's future wife) in auditions. She appeared in 15 episodes during the 1994 and 1995 season. For her good acting, she was nominated for a 1996 Image for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
In 1995, Long worked with Antonia Jones and Eddie Velez in the short lived drama series “Live Shot” (UPN, 1995-1996) and costarred in the comedy film “Friday,” which was co-written, narrated by, and starred her “Boyz n the Hood” costar Ice Cube. The “Friday” cast also included Chris Tucker, Faizon Love, Tommy Lister, Jr., Anna Maria Horsford, Bernie Mac and John Witherspoon.
Following guest appearances in “ER” (as Christy Wilson) and “Moesha” (both 1996), she gained acclaim for her portrayal of photographer Nina Mosley in “Love Jones” (1997), the film debut of writer/director Theodore Witcher. She picked up a Black Film nomination for Best Actress at the 1998 Acapulco Black Film Festival and a 1998 Image nomination in the category of Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture. She also performed the song “Nina's Poem (I am Looking at Music)” for the original soundtrack “Love Jones: The Music,” which peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard 200 and No. 3 on the Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart.
Still in 1997, Long made a cameo performance as Trudy in the independent comedy “Hav Plenty,” which was screened at the Sundance Film Festival in January 1998, and played Bird in the successful film “Soul Food,” which was written and directed by George Tillman, Jr. and co-produced by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds. “Soul Food” featured an ensemble cast that included Vanessa L. Williams, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Beach, Mekhi Phifer, Jeffrey D. Sams, Gina Ravera and Brandon Hammond. Long also began a production company in 1997. The actress next starred as Jaqueline in the Forest Whitaker directed TV film “Black Jaq” (1998) and teamed up with Ernie Hudson, Donnie Wahlberg and Tony Todd in the thriller “Butter” (1998) for director/writer Peter Gathings Bunche.
In 1999, Long starred as Jordan Armstrong in Malcolm D. Lee's “The Best Man,” opposite Taye Diggs, Monica Calhoun, Morris Chestnut and Sanaa Lathan. The film earned generally positive reviews from critics and was a significant success at the box office. It also collected a number of awards. For her good acting, Long won a Black Reel for Theatrical - Best Actress and an Image for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture. Also in 1999, she portrayed Myra in Michael Rymer's thriller “In Too Deep,” opposite Omar Epps, LL Cool J, Stanley Tucci and Pam Grier, Donna Chadway in the controversial film “Stigmata,” which was directed by Rupert Wainwright and starred Patricia Arquette and Gabriel Byrne, Rae in the comedy “Held Up,” costarring Jamie Foxx, and Nimi Da Silva in the indie comedy “The Secret Laughter of Women,” opposite Colin Firth.
Entering the new millennium, Long worked with Ben Weber, Timothy Olyphant, Matt McGrath, Zach Braff, Dean Cain, Chris Payne Gilbert, John Mahoney, Mary McCormack and Justin Theroux in Greg Berlanti's “The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy” (2000, as Leslie), was cast as the girlfriend of Giovanni Ribisi, Abbie Halpert, in director/writer Ben Younger's “Boiler Room” (2000), for which she received a Black Reel nomination for Theatrical - Best Supporting Actress, and portrayed Karen in the “If These Walls Could Talk 2” segment “1972” (2000, TV), where she nabbed an Image nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special. In the box office hit “Big Momma's House” (2000), starring Martin Lawrence and helmed by Raja Gosnell, she played Terrence Howard's former girlfriend Sherry Pierce and was nominated for a 2001Image for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture and a Blockbuster Entertainment for Favorite Actress - Comedy. From 2001 to 2002, Long played the recurring role of Andrea Solomon in several episodes of the CBS dramatic series “Judging Amy,” starring Amy Brenneman as Judge Amy Gray-Cassidy.
After leaving “Judging Amy,” Long costarred with Beau Bridges in the made for television horror movie “Sightings: Heartland Ghost” (2002) before landing a regular role on the 1999 NBC series “Third Watch.” She portrayed Officer Sasha Monroe from April 2003 to May 6, 2005, and won consecutive Image Awards in 2004 and 2005 for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series for her acting in the series. Long also supported Mario Van Peebles and Joy Bryant in the biographical film “How to Get the Man's Foot Outta Your Ass” (2003), appeared in the documentary film “The N Word” (2004, directed by Todd Williams) and offered a memorable supporting portrayal of Lonette in a remake of “Alfie” (2004), which starred Jude Law. Under the direction of Charles Shyer, she garnered a 2005 BET Comedy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Theatrical Film and a 2005 Black Reel nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She was reunited with Ice Cube for the Brian Levant adventure comedy “Are We There Yet” (2005).
In 2006, Long reprised her role of Sherri Pierce in the sequel “Big Momma's House 2,” which was directed by John Whitesell. Despite being panned by many critics, the film performed well at the box office by grossing over $138 million against its budget of $40 million. The same year, she played Cassie in an episode of “Everwood” and guest starred on talk shows like “Late Night with Conan O'Brien,” “Martha,” “Last Call with Carson Daly” and “That's What I'm Talking About.” In January 2007 Long landed a three episode role on the David E. Kelley drama series “Boston Legal.” Later that year, she portrayed Sandra Bullock's best buddy in the thriller “Premonition” (2007, directed by Mennan Yapo and written by Bill Kelly) and starred as the wife of Ice Cube, Suzanna Persons, in the comedy film “Are We Done Yet” (2007, directed by Steve Carr).
Long was next cast with Michael Vartan, Dylan McDermott, Christopher Titus and Joshua Malina in the dramatic series “Big Shots,” which ran on ABC from September 2007 to January 2008. In the series she played Katie Graham. She was then featured in the film “Gospel Hill” (2008), which was directed and produced by Giancarlo Esposito, who also starred in the film.
Long provided the voice of Roberta Tubbs on 13 episodes of the animated television comedy series “The Cleveland Show,” a spin off of “Family Guy.” The show premiered on Fox on September 27, 2009. She was also among the celebrities interviewed in the documentary “Good Hair” (2009), which starred, was produced and narrated by comedian Chris Rock.
Long will play Safiyah in the dramatic film “Mooz-lum,” opposite Danny Glover. The film is directed and written by Qasim Basir and should be released in 2010.
Image: Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series, “Third Watch,” 2005
Image: Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series, “Third Watch,” 2004
Acapulco Black Film Festival: Black Star Award, Star of the Year, 2000
Black Reel: Theatrical - Best Actress, “The Best Man,” 2000
Image: Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture, “The Best Man,” 2000