Nia Long says she didn't get Charlie's Angels role because she was 'too Black' and told 'too old'
Long told Insider this week that she didn't get the role of investigator Alex Munday, one of the movie's leads, because she was told she "looked too old" to appear opposite costar Drew Barrymore, who is four years younger than Long. However, the actress said she felt the feedback was code for "too Black."
"I was like, 'What?'" Long said in the interview published Wednesday. "I love Drew Barrymore, I think she's amazing, but I think that was just a nice way to say you're a little too Black. Personally, that's what I think. Because if you notice there were no brown skin [actors]. I mean, honestly, I would have been the blackest thing in the film."
The irony was that the Alex Munday role eventually went to Lucy Liu, who is two years older than Long.
"The feedback that I received from my agent was, 'She just looked too old and sophisticated to be next to Drew Barrymore,'" Long continued. "And I'm thinking to myself, it's an actor's choice to walk in the room how they want to look, but it's a director's vision to help create and curate a character. So if you couldn't see beyond the fact that I had on a blazer and a pair of jeans then that was clearly not the job and opportunity for me. So, no problem, I'll keep it moving."
Recently, Newton opened up to Vulture about passing up the same role after she claimed the director and studio head wanted to depict her character in problematic ways.
Newton said she realized Charlie's Angels was the wrong project for her when director McG pitched her the first shot, which involved a closeup of her character's ass. The Westworld star also recalled how Amy Pascal, then the head of Sony Pictures, wanted her to act stereotypically Black.
"I had a meeting with her, and she said, 'Look, I don’t mean to be politically incorrect, but the character as written and you playing the role, I just feel like we’ve got to make sure that it’s believable,'" Newton said. "I was like, 'What do you mean? What changes would you have to make?' She’s like, 'Well, you know, the character, as written, she’s been to university and is educated.' I’m like, 'I’ve been to university. I went to Cambridge.' She went, “Yeah, but you’re different.”
Newton continued: "She’s like, “Maybe there could be a scene where you’re in a bar and she gets up on a table and starts shaking her booty. She’s basically reeling off these stereotypes of how to be more convincing as a Black character. Everything she said, I was like, 'Nah, I wouldn’t do that.'"
Pascal denied she made those comments in a statement to Vulture, but said she took Newton's "words seriously."
Long, known for appearing in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and films like Boyz n the Hood, went on to star in Big Momma's House, released the same year as Charlie's Angels. The actress also starred in and produced the buzzy Fatal Affair, Netflix's psychological thriller that premiered today.
EW has reached out to representatives for Long, Barrymore, Liu, and Pascal.