It’s hard to forget the passion (and poetry) between Darius Lovehall (Larenz Tate) and Nina Moseley (Nia Long) in the 90s romantic comedy Love Jones. The film, released on March 14, 1997, was written by 24-year-old director Theodore Witcher, who based it on his own dating experiences living in Chicago. Though the movie didn’t do well by Hollywood standards — it made a little over $12 million at the box office — it quickly became a cult classic thanks to its stellar soundtrack, which included now-classic tracks by Maxwell and Lauryn Hill, and, of course, word of mouth.
On the movie’s 15th anniversary, leads Tate and Long, and co-star Isaiah Washington (who played Darius’ married friend Savon Garrison) recount their fondest memories of working on the classic love story.
First impressions of the Love Jones script:
NIA LONG: I was like, “I love this, and I want to do it.” There was no question. There was also the excitement of, “Oh my gosh, my first leading role.” And I think it shaped the rest of my career.
LARENZ TATE: My initial thoughts were: “I’m digging this character.” And, being from Chicago, I found things in the movie that reflected what I knew. I also liked the idea of [Darius] being smart, and intelligent. The guy’s a writer. He’s creative. He’s artistic. I hadn’t done that. The script spoke to me.
ISAIAH WASHINGTON: I use a measurement – if I come to page 13 of the script, usually it’s been a very powerful read and I know I want to be a part of it. I remember not being able to finish the Love Jones script. I got on the phone and said I have to talk to [director] Theodore Witcher and I have to do this project.
On the film’s impact:
LONG: I think Love Jones showed Black love in a way that we hadn’t seen on film in a very long time, specifically our generation of young people. It wasn’t the typical romantic comedy where it was about the jokes. I think the comedy was appreciated through the real-life situations. I also think it was pretty – the way it was shot, the lighting, the vibe of the movie was just very sexy and very cutting-edge. I think the film came out before its time, and I feel really lucky to be a part of something that has continued to resonate with people through all these years.
TATE: I realized the impact when I would be walking somewhere and someone would be like, “Love Jones!” I still meet women who say, “That’s in my DVD collection.” I would talk to Nia, and she’d say, “That movie makes people go crazy.” I also knew it was serious when brothers would come and say “Love Jones, man, that movie really helped me.” It’s gotten so big that people do poetry Love Jones celebrations every single year, like Trekkies celebrate Star Trek.
WASHINGTON: I think, based on the soundtrack, everyone wanted to see this movie with us in it… There was no film like that. We hadn’t had Best Man yet or Jumping the Broom. Those films couldn’t have happened without Love Jones. I feel good about that. We opened the door to a film where African-Americans were on screen and they weren’t killing each other.
Their favorite scenes:
LONG: The scene in the rain where Darius and Nina have their last kiss. It was so cold outside. I didn’t expect for the rain to be that cold, because it was movie rain. But then it really rained. So we had a combination of warm and cold rain. I went back into my trailer and I literally wrapped myself with plastic bags to try to stay warm. There was a big argument about that scene because everyone was like, “Black women don’t like to get their hair wet, and this is unrealistic.” That’s not true. We can be in the moment. We’re not that concerned about our hair.
WASHINGTON: The scene when my wife (played by actress Cerall Duncan) comes home and Savon looks up to God, grabs his wife and holds his son, and realizes that there’s a 50/50 chance that this relationship probably wasn’t going to make it. And it was a gift from God that these two powerful personalities decided that, you know what, we choose to stay together.
On the possibility of a sequel:
LONG: There’s talk about it. Larenz and I, if we do it, we’re going to do it right, and we’re gonna do it together. It’s a classic film and it has to be handled as such. And if these two characters can grow in a realistic way and we can do the film in a way that still gives people the feeling of “Wow, there’s still movies about Black love.”