Nicole Ari Parker is the better half of Boris Kodjoe, the hunky star of such films as Brown Sugar and Madea’s Family Reunion. Married in May of 2005, the attractive power couple have two children, Nicholas, 2, and Sophie, 4, who was born with Spina Bifada, a birth defect involving an incomplete spinal cord. Nicole and Boris have created a foundation called Sophie’s Voice [http://www.sophiesvoicefoundation.org/] to bring attention to the affliction and to raise money for an expensive experimental surgical procedure for their daughter and 20 other children.
Here, the Baltimore-bred beauty talks both about Sophie and about her latest film, Imagine That, a family comedy where she plays the wife of Eddie Murphy.
KW: Thanks so much for the time, Nicole. I really appreciate it.
NAP: Oh, thank you!
KW: What interested you in Imagine That?
NAP: In two words: Eddie Murphy.
KW: This was your first time working with Eddie. What was that like?
NAP: Just being around him was a big deal, because he was such a huge star when I was a teenager. So, being offered a chance to work with him, let alone play his wife, was an opportunity I had to jump on. It was also great to witness him working, and to see how he gets his “funny” across on the screen. And it was at a tough time, because we were filming during the writers’ strike, a time when there was a lot of turmoil and commotion in Hollywood.
KW: Did Eddie have to do a lot of ad-libbing during the filming because of the writers’ strike?
NAP: He actually had to do more ad-libbing off-camera because of the strikers disrupting the set. But we still had a great time.
KW: And how did little Yara Shahidi, who plays your daughter, handle her pivotal role in the film?
NAP: Well, she was a natural. She felt very comfortable. I attribute a lot of that to her mom, who was on set with her the whole time, and who had a very calming presence. She really kept her daughter safe, so she was just free to be her really beautiful self, and that really came across on camera.
KW: Is this more of a kiddie movie or a family movie?
NAP: That’s the great thing, it’s right on the edge there because Thomas Haden Church’s character keeps the adults happy, while Yara just makes everyone relate, especially parents and little kids. So, it’s for everybody.
KW: Tell me a little bit about how you approached playing your character?
NAP: Eddie’s character starts off as a deadbeat dad, and I have to walk a line between being positive and not letting him get away with slacking off on his parental responsibilities. I just try to find the realness in a character, because I’m a mom, and I know that a lot of moms out there are dealing with stuff, and that keeping both parents on the same page can be tough. I was just trying to take as lighthearted yet real approach to the character as I could.
KW: I told my readers that I’d be interviewing you, so I have some questions sent in by some of your fans. Reverend Florine Thompson asks: What is your greatest challenge in being a mom to a special needs child?
NAP: Wow! Well, once you get into the practical rhythm of taking care of your child, you realize what a blessing it is in a way, because you see how capable you are of meeting great challenges. But I think the hardest part is to not worry about the future, and to just believe that she’ll be okay when she’s not under the care and love of mommy and daddy. That’s really the hardest part, to not fill the house with worry and fear.
KW: Another fan, Laz Lyles, asks how things are going with your charity, Sophie’s Voice?
NAP: My husband and I started it not to reinvent the wheel so much but to make sure that we’re keeping our finger on the pulse of financing surgical studies that can improve the quality of life of children who already have Spina Bifada, and also to educate more people about prevention, and to make sure research efforts towards prevention get funded. So, we just picked up the ball on a couple of things that we thought needed attention.
KW: Reverend Thompson also asks: What is your greatest source of strength and hope in facing the daily challenges of life?
NAP: I just reach deep down inside and try to find that place of peace. Nervous feelings, worry feelings and upset feelings are just feelings, not facts, and I try to remind myself of that. I constantly reach to that place of peace that’s inside of me and inside of everyone, and try to live and make decisions from that place. And I also ask for guidance, and I’m usually gently, intuitively nudged in the right direction, thank God.
KW: Reverend Thompson and Rudy Lewis asked a similar question: If you had a chance to meet and be mentored by one person today who would that be and why?
NAP: That’s a really good question. Gosh, you’re catching me off guard, Kam. I don’t know… I need to think about it.
KW: That’s okay, but be ready with an answer for that question next interview. Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
NAP: No, they basically ask me everything, Kam. [LOL]
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
NAP: Oh, yes.
KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good belly laugh?
NAP: [Chuckles] With my husband, yesterday, on the phone. I’m such a woman, sometimes, and he’s such a man. Out of exasperation, he went along with my point of view about something, but it was horrible acting, and I just had to laugh so hard. He cheers me up with that bad acting.
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music are you listening to?
NAP: I just finished dancing in my bedroom to Ne-Yo’s “Miss Independent.”
KW: The Laz Alonso question: How can your fans help you?
NAP: They’ve done so much for me already that I feel like I owe them.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
NAP: I see a fighter.
KW: What is your favorite recipe?
NAP: I make a mean butter pound cake from scratch, and a killer cornbread stuffing.
KW: How do you feel about Barack Obama’s becoming President of the United States?
NAP: My heart is just open for my children’s future because of what he’s doing for the world. I’m overwhelmed with joy and ecstasy.
KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
NAP: Always, always, always be prepared.
KW: I’m on the NAACP Image Awards Nominating Committee, so I know that you’ve been nominated 7 times, but you’ve never won. You’ve done such great work over the years; we’ve got to make sure you win one next time.
NAP: Kam, oh man, that would be great! Thank you.
KW: Well, thanks again, Nicole. Good luck with Imagine That. Please Give Boris my regards, and tell him I’d like to interview him again when his new movie with Bruce Willis comes out in the fall.
NAP: Will do. Thank you.
To see a trailer for Imagine That, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70U393tWjrw