Actress Nicole Ari Parker Gets Candid About Marriage & Motherhood

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Nicole Ari Parker Gives Insight On Her Latest Film, Downsized, Marriage, & Being A Mother

Nicole Ari Parker, also known as, Nicole Ari Parker-Kodjoe, is a polished actress with over twenty years of experience in Hollywood’s playground. The Baltimore, Maryland-bred star made her acting debut in the 1993 film, Other Women’s Children, portraying the character, ‘Marcelle’. Since then, Parker has become a leading lady on the film and TV front, with an admirable record of credits, such as Boogie Nights, Blue Streak—which also starred Martin Lawrence, Remember The Titans,  Brown Sugar, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, Almost Christmas, and, of course, Showtime’s hit series, ‘Soul Food’. Nicole Ari Parker never disappoints. Role after role, she delivers that unfeigned talent that she’s always been known for, effectively bringing those characters to life on the big screen, pushing the envelope, time and time again.

Now, the 46-year-old is back with an all-new film, starring alongside her real-life husband, Boris Kodjoe. Coming to TV One, on September 16th, Downsized focuses on the lives of married couple Michael and Ebony (Parker and Kodjoe). After becoming young parents, which forces them to get married, twenty-five years later, the two soon come to realize that their union is losing its spark. As troubles arise, the couple finds themselves struggling to keep it all together, while managing four children and dominant careers.

Written by Michelle McKissic, Downsized premieres on TV One, this Saturday, September 16th, at 9/8c!

We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Nicole Ari Parker, as she gave us some insight on Downsized, married life, and parenthood…


Parlé Mag: It’s only right for us to kick things off by talking about your latest film, Downsized. Let us know a little bit about the film and your character, ‘Ebony’.
Nicole Ari Parker: Well, the film picks up with two people who got pregnant at fourteen years old—right at eighth grade, going into ninth.


Parlé Mag: Wow—
Nicole Ari Parker: Yeah, I know! Their parents forced them to do the right thing, get married. You know, what they considered ‘the right thing’. These two people spent twenty-five years together. Now, they’re forty; they have four children! They’re reevaluating those vows, that commitment, acknowledging they did it because their parents made them do it, and is this something they want to continue to do? One of them wants to stay, one of them wants to go. That’s how the film starts.


Parlé Mag: Downsized touches on a variety of heavy topics, such as teen pregnancy and marital issues. Being that you are a married woman, were there any parts of this script that you would say you connected with, personally?
Nicole Ari Parker: Well, I think that these characters are very different from Boris and me. We got married when we were really established grown folks, in our thirties. I met him when I was twenty-nine; we were married by the time I was thirty-three, thirty-four. I just feel like we had the experience to bring to the characters, but these characters weren’t necessarily ‘us’. I think, though, that the writer, Michelle McKissic, really put her finger on the pulse of something that goes through all of us, married or single. It’s like when you hit forty, forty is the new possibility! Forty is when you are secure in yourself, you’ve learned a few things about life, you are ready to pursue a dream. I think that when you add children and a spouse to that, it can be a real struggle with a lot of modern relationships. Like, ‘What do I do? I’ve raised my kids, now I want to travel the world!’ You know? But, your spouse doesn’t. So, it’s a real reality, for a lot of people, and I think that was really what drew me to the character.


Parlé Mag: What do you think is the key element to maintaining a healthy relationship or marriage?
Nicole Ari Parker: The key element? I think it’s a little bit of old-fashioned stuff, food and you know what! [laughs]


Parlé Mag: [laughs] Okay!
Nicole Ari Parker: You know what your grandma or auntie told you? “Girl, you better learn how to cook, and you better look nice going to bed!”


Parlé Mag: True that!
Nicole Ari Parker: [laughs] But, I think that, spiritually and emotionally, there’s a lot of work that people look over, and they don’t know what to do. I said in another interview, somebody has to go first. Inevitably, you’re going to go through a rough patch, but somebody has to go first. Somebody has to speak up. Most of us are scared; we don’t want the person to get mad or defensive, or when we try to bring up our feelings, the other person starts fussing. Somebody has to go first, regardless of the fear, and say, “I’m unhappy, or this thing is bothering me, or I wish we were closer, or we need to have more fun.” Out of respect, I think the other person has to learn to hear that, see that, respect that and try to work on it. It’s really that simple! It’s a series of small gestures of respect and love that fuels the passion. And then you look up and ten years have gone by and you’ve actually built something.


Parlé Mag: A lot of people say that when they get married, they tend to lose themselves. So, how have you actually been able to still keep your own independence while, also, maintaining the union?
Nicole Ari Parker: Well, I wouldn’t say ‘I lost myself being married.’ I can tell you that I might’ve lost myself being somebody’s mama!


Parlé Mag: Oh, dear! [laughs]
Nicole Ari Parker: You get no rewards! You give it all to your kids—your time, your love, your patience, your kindness. They get you with the cuteness, every time. They take all of your money! [laughs] But, I have an incredible partner. Boris wanted to be married; he wants that journey. By the time he was ready to find a wife, he was ready to find a wife. He wanted a partner. We had our daughter really fast! So, we didn’t really get to be ‘sexy couple’ for a long time. You know? We got responsible very quickly. I think that motherhood and fatherhood, it makes your priorities get jumped into place, it makes you have to refine your skills and communication and patience. So, I think the biggest struggle, for me, was being a mom and being married, and ‘How do I not lose myself?’ At some point, you have to let it go and become a new person! I’m a better person. It’s a journey. Any moms out there, reading this, would be like, “Yes! I know what you’re talking about!” You just have to be willing to expand your perception of yourself and what you’re capable of. I’m grateful that I’ve figured that out because I feel like I can do anything! I really do. Anything you need, I probably have in my purse!


Parlé Mag: Really? [laughs]
Nicole Ari Parker: Even if it’s cute and I’m on the red carpet, I have the miniature travel size for whatever you need!


Parlé Mag: Well, you have to stay prepared! You have to.
Nicole Ari Parker: That’s right!


Parlé Mag: So, I think one of the coolest things about this film is the fact that your husband, Boris, is actually portraying the role of your husband in the film, as well. You’ve worked together, in the past, on many projects, too. How is it, being able to do what you love with the one love?
Nicole Ari Parker: We met working together, so it’s really easy to do. This was an opportunity for us to do it again. We really enjoy it!

Nicole Ari Parker
Pictured L to R: Boris Kodjoe (as Michael, Sr.), Racquel Bianca John (as Michelle), Nicole Ari Parker (as Ebony), Alix Lapri (as Madison) and Isaiah John (as Mike, Jr.)


Parlé Mag: Going back to what I said about Downsized touching on heavier topics, how do you think or hope this film will impact younger viewers?
Nicole Ari Parker: I think there’s something in this film for everyone! We have a twenty-five-year-old daughter, in the film; we had her when we were fourteen. For any twenty-five-year-old, struggling with finding themselves and doing what their parents want them to do, there’s that storyline in there. The middle child, struggling with being lost in the shuffle. There’s a lot in this film for viewers of any age. 


Parlé Mag: As you mentioned, you have kids of your own. What’s one thing that you and Boris want to instill in your children when it comes to family and relationship dynamics?
Nicole Ari Parker: Oh, there are so many things! What everyone wants, really—to raise a kind, smart, confident, young person. A young person who has a global awareness and realizes that there’s so much out there—and so much that people have sacrificed to make sure they have access to, and for them to go for it and be kind, along the way.


Parlé Mag: Agreed! Switching back to the topic of marriage, nowadays, marriage isn’t as valued as it once was before. Why do you think that is?
Nicole Ari Parker: Every culture is different; everybody marries for different reasons. Even today, people get married for different reasons. I, personally, think marriage isn’t for everybody. It isn’t a blanket statement that I would force onto my children, but I am trying to create an example for them—not by what I say, but how Boris and I treat each other, that when you decide to do it, it can be a beautiful thing.


Parlé Mag: What advice would you give newly-married couples?
Nicole Ari Parker: Enjoy yourself! Go out, cook for each other, dance, travel—travel is a big one. Boris and I traveled so much, and it’s so much fun. You really learn about each other. You’re both in these new scenarios; they’re unforgettable, and you’ll remember them forever. Life is very practical and very real; we have to pay bills, when you have kids early on in your marriage, everybody’s got to buckle down and talk about partnership and what you’re going to do, if you want to buy a house. There are some very real things, but if you’re lucky enough to be in a relationship with somebody you love and trust, you have to remember that y’all came first, and you have to take care of each other. You know, I used to always say, ‘The minute I found my husband, I made him my boyfriend.’ I was typical. I slowly let the little nightgown go away, and I was in the flannel pajamas by year three. [laughs] I just remembered that I used to be happy when he walked through the door. Men don’t communicate the same way we do, sometimes. So, I think it’s important to remember the things that they do respond to—affection, kindness. I’ve learned to be more patient, not to be defensive, not to go right to fussing. In the end, I’m right, but I don’t need to say that I’m right from the jump. 

Nicole Ari Parker


Parlé Mag: Exactly! They’ll see it in the end, just not at the moment. [laughs]
Nicole Ari Parker: I don’t need to come out with all of my guns blazing! [laughs] So, yeah, I’m telling you all of this because, you know, we’re fifteen years, twelve years in. Fifteen years together, twelve years married.


Parlé Mag: That’s a blessing.
Nicole Ari Parker: I’ve learned a lot! We were culturally different; he’s German and African, for real! And, I’m from Baltimore, for real!


Parlé Mag: Definitely a big adjustment!
Nicole Ari Parker: Definitely! But, just like in the film, somebody spoke up, and they try to meet in the middle. Everybody tune in on Saturday and see what happens!


Parlé Mag: As a seasoned actress, what’s something that you always try to factor in when choosing roles?
Nicole Ari Parker: That’s such a great question! Sometimes, it’s for the kids’ tuition. [laughs] Sometimes, it’s, ‘Does it allow me to stay close to home?’ Because a lot of jobs shoot in Vancouver, shoot in Arizona—they shoot in different places. But, also, what I look for, in my personal space—creative space, is, ‘Can I explore something that I haven’t been able to explore? Can I reveal something? Can I express something that might uplift someone, or change a perspective, or open a point of view?’ So, that’s why I kind of took this role. I’ve never played the hairdresser, with four kids, who wants to be on her own. I’m always playing a therapist or a lawyer, who’s looking for a companion. So, this was a really great opportunity to tell that story.


Parlé Mag: Awesome! Well, we definitely can’t wait to see it! Of course, we can already tell that it’s going to be a great film. Moving forward, let us in on some other projects that you have going on.
Nicole Ari Parker: Yes! I just wrapped two films. They’re coming out next year. One is called HeadShop; I play the lead in that. I have a great cast—Kimberly Elise, Marla Gibbs, Loretta Devine, Deon Cole—from Black-ish, Evan Ross. It’s great! It’s going to come out next year. I was in a film with Forest Whitaker, a big action-thriller. It’s coming out in 2018, as well.


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