Nicole Ari Parker Discusses Life, Career Choices and “HeadShop”

                                                  Image courtesy of Kim Bass

Getting and maintaining traction in the fashion industry is a circuitous journey that takes talent, perseverance, hard work, providence, and nerves of steel. Acting has similar requirements. And success and good fortune have eluded talented thespians who would have become household names if only the fickle of fingers of fate were pointed in their direction.Nicole Ari Parker is one of those fortunate actors who has been blessed by providence. Well known for her role in the Showtime series “Soul Food,” Nicole Ari Parker for the past two decades has successfully portrayed characters that run the gamut of emotion, sensitivity, humor, and pathos.

Equally known for her roles in television, as well as film, Nicole Ari Parker continues to hit her stride in the upcoming independent film “HeadShop.” Conceived and directed by Kim Bass, “HeadShop” examines issues of gentrification, class, cultural appropriation, and community.

Scheduled for release in early 2018, Nicole Ari Parker chatted with Fashion Reverie about her love of acting, her career trajectory, and her role in “HeadShop.”

                                              Image courtesy of Kim Bass

Fashion Reverie: Now you started out as a ballet dancer, why the shift to acting?Nicole Ari Parker: Well, I studied ballet mostly as a kid and I was more serious about becoming a classically trained actress. My mom had me involved in lots of things as a child, and theatre and acting kind of stood out over the other creative pursuits.

FR: Where did this love of acting come from? 

Nicole Ari Parker: I was just full of drama as a kid. I am an only child and I had a vivid imagination and read a lot of books. I would turn the stories I read in books into plays. I would also write my own plays and produce them. I just had a natural affinity for the stage; it is truly my first love.

I am from Baltimore and my parents had sacrificed so much to put me through private school that lead me to going to New York University (NYU) a year early at the age of 17. I went to NYU as an English and drama major that I thought would be more stable than majoring in theatre. I wanted to do something that would make my parents proud of me.

In my second semester I auditioned for the Tisch School of the Arts—that is a part of NYU—and I called my Dad and asked him if I could change majors. He said if I did, I had to be diligent and not give up. So, here I am!!

FR: Your range as an actress is phenomenal from “Boogie Nights” to “Subway Stories” to “Soul Food’ to “Brown” Sugar,” and “200 Cigarettes” to “Almost Christmas.” The depth and width of your roles have gone from comedy to drama, and back again. That said; what do like best comedy or dramatic roles?

Nicole Ari Parker: The older I get, the funnier I have become. Life teaches you so much. My heart is always on the stage and with more dramatic roles. There is a whole world of opportunity out there to tell more stories, and we need more people of color writing those stores (both funny and serious), so that there is more range and a diversity of voices.

                                           “Headshop” cast images courtesy of shadowandact.com

FR: You have done a lot of big studios films and well as independent films, what do you like best, independent or big studio?

Nicole Ari Parker: I like work that is more character driven whether it is from a big studio or it is independent film. I jumped at the change to work on the character I play in Kim Bass’ “HeadShop” when the role fell in my lap.

FR: Why did “HeadShop” excite you?

Nicole Ari Parker: Kim is a visionary and that is a rare opportunity in this industry to work with someone who is a visionary. When you are creative person in this industry, you have to take a lot of jobs to pay the bills that don’t challenge you as an artist. You have to take guest starring roles in television and other mediums that are not always challenging.

I have played some sort of executive on television now for over ten years. You get pigeon holed and then you get a script that is just beautiful on the page and saturated with color and nuance and all the sensibilities that excites you as a creative person. Add to that, Kim Bass, a director of color, and “HeadShop” as a film is a dream come true.

FR: Without giving too much away, could you talk about your character Dr. LaTrice Monroe?

Nicole Ari Parker: She is a therapist in San Francisco in private practice. She breaks up with her long-term boyfriend, and reconsiders the direction of her life. She drives into her old neighborhood in Oakland, and decides to open up a practice in Oakland, meeting a coterie of characters that change her life in unexpected ways.

FR: What appealed to you about this character?

Nicole Ari Parker: Kim wrote this character with a keen sense of where a lot of professional women are in their lives. They have sacrificed so much to get ahead and now they are at a crossroad. And it is right in this moment of that success that these women are looking for a deeper connection. And that crossroad is what appealed to me about the LaTrice Monroe character, because she is at that critical moment in her life.

                                                  “Headshop’ set images courtesy of Kim Bass

FR: There are some gentrification storylines in the film. How does your character relate and play that out in the film?

Nicole Ari Parker: Kim layers a whole lot of themes that are affecting communities right now in real time in this film. Things that are going on with small business owners; issues around gentrification; misconceptions of cultures, all these things are packed into this sweet film.

FR: Now you worked with Michael Jai White in ”Black Dynamite,” and Kimberly Elise in the “Loretta Claiborne Story” what was it like working with both again?

Nicole Ari Parker: This was my third time working with Kimberly Elise and it was awesome working with some of my former co-stars again. Come on, I am working with Marla Gibbs and Loretta Devine, what couldn’t be better than that?

It was a real pleasure. I also worked with Evan Ross, Deon Cole from “Blackish,” it was good times on the set. Kimberly and I laughed so hard and had so much fun.

FR: What was the shooting schedule like, and how long did it take to shoot the film?

Nicole Ari Parker: We shot the entire film in under a month with really long hours and a six-day schedule. We shot mostly in San Francisco with exterior shots done in Oakland.

FR: Fashion Reverie is an online fashion magazine, so our viewers would like to know, who are your favorite designers?

Nicole Ari Parker: I love Byron Lars and CD Greene.

FR: Which designers would you like to wear that you haven’t worn, yet?

Nicole Ari Parker: I love Monique Lhuillier, Oscar de la Renta who I’ve worn before, but I would like to keep wearing him. I also would love to wear Michelle Blanchard. I have a real eclectic taste, so I am open to a lot of designers.

                                                     Image courtesy of people.com

FR: What’s next for you? 

Nicole Ari Parker: I have a movie out on TV One with my husband Boris Kodjoe called “Dowsized” about a couple that had a baby when they were still teenagers and now they are in their early 40s, and everything is different. I just wrapped filming a thriller with Forrest Whitaker. And I am just very busy and happy with my life.

—William S. Gooch

 

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