Word on the street (and all over social media) is that Nicole Ari Parker is giving her all — and then some — as the ever-tortured Southern belle Blanche DuBois in Broadway’s revamp of A Streetcar Named Desire. I’m beyond thrilled that she’s making her Broadway debut in such a classic role, and although I’ve not yet seen the play — can’t wait! — I’m surprised that folks seem… well, surprised that she’s so gifted.
I’m a bit of a “stan” when it comes to Nicole; have been for years. When Soul Food, the TV series, premiered in 2000, everybody knew not to ring my phone on Wednesday nights. From episode one, I was captivated by the lives of the Joseph sisters, but really, I was watching Nicole Ari Parker become Teri. By the time her then co-star and now-husband, Boris Kodjoe, officially signed on for the drama, I was completely consumed. I mean, their onscreen romance was just so, so dreamy.
Okay, okay, back to Nicole.
Soul Food definitely made her a household name, but what many people hadn’t noticed was that she’d been delivering powerful performances for years. She’s the type of actress who truly embodies her characters. She makes you believe, whether she’s playing a jealous wife (Brown Sugar), a conflicted television writer (Dancing in September), a dedicated wife/mother (Remember the Titans, Imagine That) or a burgeoning adult-film star (Boogie Nights). Her acting is so nuanced, and just like the ballet dancer who pirouettes to the wings, Nicole is on-point for every single beat.
While she’s in the midst of making her Broadway dream a reality, she’s not forgotten the path upon which she’s traveled to get there. She’s even got a few words for those who are coming up behind her. “Because I’ve waited 20 years for this, I can sincerely look into the eyes of a young actress and tell her, ‘Don’t ever give up, sweetheart, don’t ever give up,’” she said when I interviewed her recently. “When I [graduated from] NYU, I thought for sure that I’d be on Broadway within a year. As an actor, you go where the work is, so I got a TV job and movie job and then, more movies came. That took me away from my first love, but now, here I am.”
After weeks of previews, Nicole – alongside cast mates Blair Underwood, Daphne Rubin-Vega and Wood Harris – took her first bow at the Broadhurst Theater on Sunday night. So is she ready to roll up her sleeves and slip into that Southern drawl for each of those eight shows, every week? “I am, I really am,” she told me, with excitement. “I love the theater, I love being on stage, I love the live audience. I also love dressing up and all of the make-believe. I’m fully present and I plan on doing my very best.”