In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.
Nia Long’s big break came in 1995 with Friday, playing Debbie across from the film’s writer and star, Ice Cube. Since then, she’s been part of the popular Best Man franchise, which is developing its third installment, and a series regular on shows as diverse as Third Watch, Judging Amy, and House Of Lies. Now she’s starring in We tv’s The Divide, a drama directed by Tony Goldwyn about a high-profile death-row appeal case in Philadelphia. Long sat down with us to answer our 11 questions, and told us about the right way to slice turkey along the way.
1. Who would be your pop-culture best friend?
Nia Long: [Without hesitation.] Rihanna. We’re both from Barbados—my family is Jamaican—and I just love a hot little island girl. [Laughs.]
The A.V. Club: Would you say that’s Rihanna on one particular album or on the whole?
NL: Just who she is. She’s fearless, she does it her way, she’s sexy, she’s beautiful; I live my life vicariously through her. She has no kids and no husband. Just amazing. Free as a bird. I remember those days.
AVC: Have you told her you want to be her best friend?
NL: Well, I met her before she became a superstar. We were at the Kids’ Choice Awards and she came and sat down and talked to me and it was just cute. Now she’s a woman and she’s all grown up and can do no wrong in my book.
2. How would your enemies describe you?
NL: [Sighs. Laughs.] Probably mean, bossy, bitchy.
AVC: Why do you say those?
NL: Because I have no time for nonsense. I think I’m misunderstood, because I’m, really, a little ADD when it comes to certain things. I’m like: [Voice raises.] “Okay that’s enough about that, I’m moving on!” It feels like I’m on edge a bit, but I’m not. I’m just on to the next—I don’t want to waste time.
I feel so blessed and lucky to be still standing in this business and to have projects to talk about. Thank God. Being an actor, you’re always being judged both personally and professionally, so you learn to build up that wall. Sometimes people don’t like it and [Uses shrill voice.] too bad!
3. What was your first big grown-up purchase?
NL: [Laughs.] I—what was the first thing I bought? Well—back then this seemed like a big purchase. I bought myself a BMW. It was so cute. I was shooting Friday at the time, and Chris Tucker and I saw each other on the freeway, on the way to the set. I was going [Waves, imitates honking.] “Toot, toot!” in my car. He had a busted window with a pizza box over it because he couldn’t afford to fix the window! We get to work and he goes, “When I grow up, I want to be just like you.”
Cut to—all the money he made. Two years ago, we go out to dinner and he picked me up in—ready?—a Phantom Rolls-Royce, which—I couldn’t even figure out how to get the damn car door opened. I said to him: “Oh, you want to be like me? I think the tables have turned.”
AVC: Do you still have the BMW?
NL: I don’t. I actually drive a Prius right now. I love it. I love it so much. I had a Range Rover and I was like: “This is a fiasco. All I’m doing is driving my dirty kids around with orange juice in the back and pretzels and ice cream.” I just decided, you know what… I’m growing up. This is why I channel Rihanna every day. [Laughs.] So I don’t lose myself in grown-up-hood.
4. What is your go-to karaoke song?
NL: [Sighs.] I don’t really like karaoke. We went to this karaoke party over at Serena Williams’ house and she was really good. I’m really intimidated ever since I saw her perform. She gets totally dressed up, like full on.
AVC: Like in costume?
NL: Yeah. And she’s really good—she’s got, like, dance steps and everything. So I don’t really do karaoke, but I’d say something by Donna Summer.
AVC: Most performers, in general, love any chance to be on stage and take a microphone.
NL: I don’t. And that’s what I was saying—people misunderstand me. I’m a little shy. I’m good one-on-one, if I feel a connection. I’m not really good in groups. But one-on-one, I feel like it’s good because then we’re just peers and there’s nobody else around.
AVC: So probably theater was not great for you?
NL: No! I was just having that conversation with Marin [Marin Ireland, Long’s The Divide co-star] about how I really want to do it, but I’m terrified. I’m waiting for the day that I can actually pull it together. I do know that I could do it. But here’s the thing about me: If I’m afraid of it, it means I have to do it.
AVC: The next time we sit down, it’s going to be like, “So… how was your theater debut?
5. Who could you take in a fight?
NL: Who could I take in a fight?
AVC: Are you going to say Rihanna again?
NL: No. I think Rihanna would get me. [Laughs.] She’s a little taller. My fighting days are kind of over.
6. Do you have anyone’s autograph?
NL: My son has the entire Spurs organization’s. My boyfriend is a coach for the Spurs and they just won the championship, so he has all of that. Spurs paraphernalia everywhere.
7. What was the worst job you ever had?
NL: I worked as an assistant at a pre-school and my job description was to help with children, help with art projects, help with lunch time, and I would always end up cleaning the bathrooms. Needless to say, my bathroom is always clean. [Laughs.] I’m a very good cleaner.
AVC: In terms of cleaning bathrooms, any pro tips?
NL: Wear gloves.
8. What did your parents want you to be?
NL: My mother has supported me through every single moment of my life and has never voiced her opinion about what I should and shouldn’t do. I hope I can be that type of mom to my boys. I doubt it, but I hope so. [Laughs.]
9. What game show would you be really good at?
NL: I actually was on—what show was it that Steve Harvey hosts? Family Feud. I did that when I was on Guiding Light. We played against another soap, and we won. I was good.
AVC: Do you have any future game show aspirations—like Hollywood Game Night?
NL: They asked me to do it and I said no. I’m not that girl. I don’t like to be put on the spot. And also my vocabulary is very small these days because I’ve been talking to a 2-year-old for the last year. So when he’s about 6 and I feel like I’m back to being myself, I’ll do the show.
10. If a deli named a sandwich after you, what would it be?
NL: [Without hesitation.] I would have—I’m such a foodie, I’m so excited about this—a lightly toasted baguette with slices of pear, Fontina cheese, turkey, balsamic drizzle, and a little bell pepper and basil.
AVC: Do you make this yourself? Is this your dream sandwich?
NL: No, I just like the combination because when I think of myself, I’m sweet, but I’m salty. So if I were to make a sandwich that reflects who I really am, it’d be sweet, but salty. And it’d be a little spicy.
AVC: That sounds like a really good sandwich, by the way.
NL: You can also add Gouda cheese, too. It has more of a bite.
AVC: Fontina is milder, right?
NL: Yeah. Put those on your cheese list. It depends on what mood I’m in. Let’s put those options together. Happy Nia gets Fontina. And thinly sliced. No chunky turkey—I like it shaven.
11. What’s the worst living situation you’ve ever had?
NL: I lived below my grandfather in his brownstone, and he had roaches. And he didn’t think it was a big deal because it’s Brooklyn and they lived there. And he was like, “You have to make friends with the roaches, you don’t try to kill the roaches.” It was a misunderstanding between generations. We’ll put it that way.
AVC: And here you are cleaning bathrooms.
NL: It has not been an easy road. I don’t care what anyone tells you.
And the last question is from Derek Waters: What do you think happened to Eddie Murphy?
NL: Eddie is a friend and he is amazing and he is a beautiful genius. Eddie Murphy is fantastic.
AVC: It certainly seems like the perception of his career has changed. Why do you think that is?
NL: I don’t really see it that way. He can come and do whatever he wants to do. He has the choice and freedom and he isn’t living by anyone else’s rules and when he’s ready to do something that he wants to share with the world, he will do it. Trust me. I’ve been to his house; Eddie Murphy is just fine.
What question do you want to ask the next person?
NL: Ask ‘em what their favorite Now and Later flavor is. The candy.
AVC: What’s yours?
NL: Strawberry. Watermelon, sorry.