Nia Long teamed back up with her good friend Omar Epps on camera for the first time in 16 years for Netflix’s thriller “Fatal Affair,” but the film’s star and producer admitted she wished the movie was as Black behind the scenes as it is on camera.
“Fatal Affair” follows the story of Long’s character, a wife and mother who is stalked by a dangerous old friend (Epps) after a brief affair. During a recent interview with Insider, Long revealed that the film’s original script was written for a mainly white cast, but was changed to a Black thriller when Netflix purchased it.
“The reality is this film came from a production company and they brought the film to Netflix and they are exactly what you said,” she responded to the interviewer, who pointed out that the film’s director and crew were “all white.” “So when Netflix decided to do the film, it was their idea to make this a Black lead film, and I was on board with that idea.”
The project marks the actress’s first time stepping into the producer role, which opened her eyes to not only new processes but also behind-the-scenes diversity issues that she can help change.
“In all honesty, I was disappointed that there were maybe three people on the crew that were Black, but that really is the production company’s responsibility, not the network,” said Long. “By the time I arrived, they were a happy family that had done several films together. My next production will be different. Because I think if I’m going to be effective in that area I have to shine a light on those things as well. Because it really does affect the way things are understood and communicated.”
Once the decision to change the cast of the film to all-Black was made, writer Rasheeda Garner was hired as the film’s co-screenwriter to help adapt the script in an authentic way. “She was brought on when I was hired to play the lead, and her job was to adjust the script for an African-American woman to play the lead,” Long told the website.
“I understand and respect our director [Peter Sullivan], who is a white man,” Long noted. “He wanted to be respectful of my voice, and I appreciate that. And that’s why he hired Rasheeda. So although it gave her an opportunity, I want more. I want more for her, I want more for myself, I want more for Black female writers and directors in this business to not be used to fix something but to be used to tell our stories in a really authentic way.”
Long takes personal responsibility for recruiting her longtime friend Omar Epps for the project. The two hadn’t appeared in a film together since the 2004 comedy “Alfie.” “I called my best friend and was like, ‘Look, guy, you’re my brother. We’re part of the ’90s culture creators, come on over.’ At the end of the day, when you need your friends you got to be able to call on them. We sat down and talked, he read the script, and we also collaborated creatively, and in the end we decided this would be a fun ride for both of us,” she said.
Long also recently shared her sympathetic thoughts on her former “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” co-star Will Smith’s relationship with wife Jada Pinkett Smith following their now-infamous Red Table Talk about August Alsina.
“I feel bad for Will and Jada right now, because they’ve been extremely vulnerable with their personal story. And it takes a lot of courage to do that,” she told Entertainment Tonight.
“I think any key to any relationship is give your partner the room to be who he needs to be, who she needs to be, and if it means you’re taking a break to do that? Take the break!” she explained.
It sounds like there is nothing but love and understanding coming from the “Soul Food” actress, who thinks that “everybody has to define their relationship for themselves.” “Everyone has a different understanding, a different agreement. And you have to do what works for your particular family.”