HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 07: Nia Long attends Peacock's "The Best Man: The Final Chapters" premiere event at Hollywood Athletic Club on December 07, 2022 in Hollywood, California.

Nia Long has made an imprint on Black cinema ever since she started in the ’90s. Long started her career on the longstanding soap opera Guiding Light. She was on the show from 1991 to 1994. In that period, she got her first big break as Brandi on Boyz n the Hood. The film was the feature directorial debut of John Singleton. It starred Cuba Gooding Jr, Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut, and more. The latter actors she would work with again in her film career. While the film was her breakout role, she almost didn’t take it. She explained in an interview with People TV back in 2020, why she almost turned down the role.

“When I first got the script, I immediately thought, ‘Some white guy’s gonna try to make a movie about the life that I’ve lived. I don’t even want to have anything to do with it,” she told the publication.

The actress said that she is very protective of her culture so when she found out that Singleton was Black and how the story in Boyz n the Hood was authentic to his childhood, she was motivated to be a part of the film.

The film is a coming-of-age story about teens in South Central Los Angeles. Long plays the part of Brandi, Gooding Jr.’s love interest in the film.

Nia Long’s First Lead Role

While Long played many supporting roles at the beginning of her career like most young actors, she finally made her way into a lead role with Love Jones. The film was released in 1997. She played opposite Larenz Tate in the romantic drama where she portrayed Nina Mosely, a budding photographer.

Her most recent roles have been The Best Man: The Final Chapters, You People, Missing, Fatal Affair, and Look Both Ways. Take a look at Long’s eight best films ranked:

  • 8. Friday (1995)

    Nia played Debbie in Friday and proved that she was just as tough as the guys. Her role wasn’t large but one of the pivotal scenes with her character was when she stood up to Deebo, who everyone in the neighborhood was seemingly afraid of (while they’d never admit it publicly). The film stars Ice Cube, Chris Tucker, Tom Lister Jr., John Witherspoon, Regina King, Anna Maria Horsford, and more. You can watch Friday on Amazon Prime Video and Max (formerly known as HBO).

  • 7. Boyz n the Hood (1991)

    Nia got her big break as Brandi in John Singleton’s Boyz n the Hood. The film is based in Singleton’s home city of Compton, Calif. and was his directorial debut. Brandi is Tre’s (Cuba Gooding Jr.) love interest in the film. The film also stars Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne, Morris Chestnut, Ice Cube, and more. Singleton was nominated for two Oscars for the film. You can watch Boyz n the Hood on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, and YouTube.

  • 6. Are We There Yet? Film Series (2005, 2007)

    Nia plays Suzanne King in Are We There Yet? King gets hit on by Nick Persons (Ice Cube) who later finds out she has two kids whose dad just bailed on them. Determined to impress King, he finds himself volunteering to accompany them on a road trip. The comedic film got a sequel titled Are We Done Yet? two years after the original’s release date. The film also stars Aleisha Allen, Philip Bolden, and Tracy Morgan. You can watch Are We There Yet? on Max (formerly known as HBO), Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

  • 5. Soul Food (1997)

    The film Soul Food is about keeping traditions alive. After the death of their mother, sisters who constantly bicker over the little things are trying to keep their Sunday dinner traditions of soul food, bringing everyone together. Nia plays Bird, the youngest daughter who married an ex-con.
    The film stars Vanessa Williams, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Beach, Mekhi Phifer, Mel Jackson, Jeffrey D. Sams, Irma P. Hall, and more. You can watch Soul Food on Amazon Prime Video.

  • 4. Big Momma's House Film Series (2000, 2006)

    In Big Mommas House, Nia portrayed Sherry Pierce, a central point in the FBI operation to catch an ex-con. Pierce is the ex-girlfriend of the ex-con that the undercover FBI is trying to catch. Lo and behold, the FBI agent is dressed as Big Momma (played by Martin Lawrence) and falls in love with Pierce. Big Momma goes on another adventure in Big Momma’s House 2, which was released in 2006. The film also stars Paul Giamatti, Terrance Howard, Jascha Washington, Anthony Anderson, and more. You can stream Big Momma’s House on Disney+.

  • 3. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1991 - 1995)

    While Nia was first introduced as Claudia Prescott in season two, she would return for 15 more episodes as Will Smith’s girlfriend Lisa Wilkes in season five. The series was the first time Nia was a regular for most of an entire season and helped prove her comedic timing and acting abilities. The additional series starred James Avery, Alfonso Ribeiro, Tatyana Ali, Karyn Parsons, Joseph Marcell, Janet Hubert, Daphne Reid, Ross Bagley, and DJ Jazzy Jeff. A reboot of the series was announced in 2022 which is simply titled as Bel-Air. You can stream The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air on Hulu, Paramount+, Max (formerly known as HBO Max).

  • 2. The Best Man Series (1999, 2013, 2022)

    College friends who turned into family and reunite for the wedding of Lance Sullivan (Morris Chestnut) and Mia Morgan (Monica Calhoun). Sullivan finds out that Harper Stewart (Taye Diggs), his best friend and best man has written his best-selling novel based on his future wife’s past escapades as well as the group’s dynamic and hell breaks loose. Nia plays the role of Jordan Armstrong who is drawn to Stewart although he is in a relationship with Robin (Sanaa Lathan). The series has a sequel and a tv series that displayed the friendships into their adulthood. The film and series tv series also stars Terrance Howard, Melissa De Sousa, and Regina Hall.

  • 1. Love Jones (1997)

    Love Jones is a cult classic. Early into Nia’s career she was cast as Nina Mosely, a budding photographer who meets Darius Lovehall, a poet who is infatuated with Mosely the moment he meets her. While Mosely is Lovehall’s love interest, her character is not just a pretty face to be admired. Mosely is layered and she has her own hopes and desires, which Nia portrayed in a captivating way. Nia proved that she could command a co-leading role with this film. Love Jones also stars Isaiah Washington, Lisa Nicole Carson, Bill Bellamy, Khalil Kain, and more. You can stream Love Jones on Max (formerly known as HBO Max), Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, and YouTube.

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