Worked With:

Taye Diggs

Jordan Peele

Melissa McCarthy

Damon Gupton

Amy Smart

Don Cheadle

Danny Glover

Nia Long Biography

Home > Actresses > L > Long, Nia > Biography

Birth Name: Nia Long
Born: 10/30/1970
Birth Place: Brooklyn, New York, USA

Born Oct. 30, 1970 in Brooklyn, NY, Nitara Carlynn Long made her screen debut in a 1986 episode of "227" (NBC, 1985-1990) and in "The B.R.A.T. Patrol" installment of "The Disney Sunday Movie" (ABC, 1986-88). It would be four years later, however, before she made her film debut in the horror flick "Buried Alive" (1990), but Long would earn much more acclaim for her fantastic work in John Singleton's "Boyz in the Hood" (1991) as Brandi, the ambitious girlfriend of Tre (Cuba Gooding, Jr.). Her success in the film buoyed her to a two-year stint on "Guiding Light" (CBS, 1952-2009) as well as an Image Award-nominated recurring role on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (NBC, 1990-96) as the levelheaded, long-running love interest of Will (Will Smith). She and Smith joined forces on the big screen for the hit "Made in America" (1993), the story of a young woman (Long) in search of her biological father (Ted Danson), only to discover to her and her mother's (Whoopi Goldberg) surprise, he is white. Long notched another success as the female lead of Ice Cube's immensely popular comedy "Friday" (1995) and earned a series regular role on the drama "Live Shot" (UPN, 1995-96).

After a fun guest spot as a babysitter on Brandy's sitcom "Moesha" (UPN, 1996-2001), Long booked strong roles in three of the era's most influential African-American films: "Love Jones" (1997), "Soul Food" (1997) and "Hav Plenty" (1997). Billed as "a hip 'When Harry Met Sally,'" the likably low-key "Love Jones" cast Long as a photographer navigating her relationship with a poet (Larenz Tate), earning her another Image Award nomination. "Soul Food" was a hugely influential ensemble family drama, featuring Long as the fragile but determined Bird, an entrepreneur attempting to help her ex-con husband (Mekhi Phifer) get a fresh start. So popular was the film that it was spun off into a television series (Showtime, 2000-04). A charming little-indie-that-could, "Hav Plenty" told a quirky, middle-class African-American love story, and featured Long in a delightful ending-credits cameo as the Hollywood version of the titular Hav (Chenoa Maxwell).

After supporting roles in the thrillers "In too Deep" (1999) and "Stigmata" (1999), Long landed the romantic leads in the Jamie Foxx comedy "Held Up" (1999) and in "The Best Man" (1999), the latter of which followed the ripple effect caused when a writer's (Taye Diggs) debut novel hurts the feelings of the real-life figures his characters are based on, especially his ex-girlfriend (Long), who decides to lovingly turn the tables. For her work, Long won Best Actress honors from the Image Awards as well as from the Black Reel Awards. She went on to essay finely nuanced character work in the gay-themed "The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy" (2000), the Wall Street thriller "Boiler Room" (2000) and the lesbian-themed anthology "If These Walls Could Talk 2" (HBO, 2000), for which she earned another Image Award nomination.

Long's biggest box office success came with the broader-than-a-barn-door comedy "Big Momma's House" (2000), where she played a woman attempting to flee from her criminal ex-boyfriend (Terrence Howard) by seeking refuge in the titular abode, little realizing that her grandmother, "Big Momma," has been replaced by an FBI agent in comic drag (Martin Lawrence). Gleefully silly and more than a little stupid, the film received scathing reviews but became an enormous box office smash, spawning a hit franchise that saw Long's return in "Big Momma's House 2" (2006). Doing her best to provide the film with a grounding in real human emotion, but capable of killer comic timing herself, Long earned another Image Award nomination and won the Black Star Award for Star of the Year.

After recurring on "Judging Amy" (CBS, 1999-2005), the actress joined the cast of the New York City-set drama "Third Watch" (NBC, 1999-2005) as Sasha Monroe, a cop who is later revealed to be an undercover Internal Affairs Bureau detective. Long's powerful portrayal of a woman caught between conflicting loyalties and attempting to salvage her relationship with colleague Ty Davis (Coby Bell), impressed critics and fans alike, and she won two Best Actress Image Awards. She was nominated for a BET Comedy Award as well as a Black Reel Award for her work in the remake of "Alfie" (2004) as Lonette, the girlfriend of the titular Lothario's (Jude Law) buddy (Omar Epps), whose dalliance with Alfie has long-term consequences for all three of them. Reuniting again with Ice Cube, she played his would-be girlfriend in the road trip family comedy "Are We There Yet?" (2005), which became a box office smash and spawned the successful sequel "Are We Done Yet?" (2007). Nevertheless, Long became a series regular on the corporate drama "Big Shots" (ABC, 2007-08), voiced daughter Roberta for a season on "The Cleveland Show" (Fox, 2009- ) and played a religious mother in "Mooz-lum" (2011).

By Jonathan Riggs