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Nicole Arie Parker and Boris Kodjoe defy the old adage—‘refuse to get your honey where you make your money.’  The husband and wife actors have proven that love is not about WHERE you find it, but the WHO you find it with.  The ultra-sexy duo met on the set of Soul Food and have taken television and the big screen by storm ever since.

Their latest film Downsized is no different and delivers a riveting and relatable account of teens who were forced to marry after becoming pregnant at 14.  Written by Michelle McKissic and directed by Rhonda Baraka, Ebony (Nicole Arie Parker) and Michael (Boris Kodjoe) question the foundation of their lives together and must decide if what they’ve built is really love or the decision of their parents.

SHEEN caught up with the incredibly beautiful Nicole who shared a genuinely transparent conversation about marriage, womanhood, being back on the screen with Boris and her next projects.  One thing’s for sure — Nicole is winning.

This film had so many levels to it.  What was your initial connection to this story given your real-life family and marriage is the complete opposite?

Well it was an opportunity to work with Rhonda Baraka. She and I and Boris have been circling around doing other projects together and I love her writing. But this was an opportunity to work with her as a director so that was my first interest; along with the fact that working with Boris again after so many years, we just jumped at the chance.  People are always like how can you work with your husband. Well that’s how we met—at the job (laughing). The irony is that because our relationship developed in a professional environment and we know how to manage that, with all the things like needing personal time, discussing something about our family and at the same time being ready for camera and being on point. So our work is really good. The script was just such a great story and a take on the modern woman—I think.

We never really get to explore the woman needing space. That’s not really talked about. So here is this script about a woman who became a mother very, very young. She’s 14 years old and wanted to the right thing. She has a lot of natural drive and ambition and she makes something of herself but she hits a wall with her marriage and her family. And now with grown children in the film, I think that it was nice to play a woman who struggled with that. Women are not supposed to struggle with wanting space with your kids and your husband. It’s usually the husband that needs the space.  And I just thought not only was it cool to explore that, but it was cool to find a way to the solution.  They find a way to resolve the problem together.

When you get married and have kids like Boris and I are, you become four people. It’s me, him and them. So every decision I make, every thought I think, every grocery I buy, I have to consider four people. And people do not think about that.
A 40-year old now-a-days still has hopes and dreams.  Her life isn’t going to coast at this point. She’s either just now finding her stride, writing her first book, getting her beauty shop off the ground. The 40-year old can also take off. You have a great life.  You get confident.  You have all of your life lessons, you’ve been through some things and now you’re ready. Then you have all of these other real solid responsibilities and it’s hard to balance all of those things.  I’m lucky enough to have a real partner. Boris is an incredible father and an incredible husband.  I also have an incredible nanny who’s been with us since my kids were babies. But I also know that there are still some logistical things that I have to be there for my kids, so I can’t necessarily be away for a long time.

One of my biggest dreams was to be on broad way, but my entire family made that possible for me to be in New York with the practicing, rehearsing and being on stage. That was a huge decision.  So I know what this woman (Ebony) is going through in Downsized. I had a very possible attachment to this character. The writer, Michelle McKissic hit the nail on the head.

We love the portrayal of a black family who had strong parents who were married with values. That’s something that we do not see enough of today. Thank you for being willing to share these images on prime TV.

Oh yes.  And I really, really loved Boris in this film.  When we had screenings this year at the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) in Miami, a lot of men stood up to acknowledge his portrayal of Michael and how the choices that men make, and how making the right ones, doesn’t necessarily sacrifice the joy that you’re searching for.

Why do you think the writer chose to carry the story where you all continued to have children even though you were forced to marry?
I don’t know what she was thinking and why she added three more children. Lord help us (laughing). Because two are kicking my butt in real life okay.  So the fact that we had four, we discussed it briefly.  Having strong parents who insisted that these two grow up and do the right thing does activate a certain sense of ambition and responsibility. So I can imagine even though they finished high school and some college, it made sense that these two became successful in whatever they did. She started her shop and by the time her kids are grown, she owns a thriving salon. And she’s a celebrity hairstylist.

So this is something that responsibility will do to you. She didn’t have the luxury to fall back. So I think that they were making money and they were successful. Michael’s writing career was great and being ex-military; I think they naturally felt like they could handle the children over the years. But I also think that even now, Ebony was thinking more about the relationship with her husband. She’s like I’ve raised my kids. I’ve done the right thing, I want some real love in my life. I want someone to love me and not be told that he has to. I want someone to take me out and not feel obligated. All of the private and quiet things a woman goes through, especially in the deterioration of a marriage — like intimacy.  Not necessarily sex, but just the little things like holding hands, taking a walk, laughing at a joke and watching a movie. These things get lost and you gotta either bring them back or most people now are capable of walking away. I just love that this move is about all of those options being on the table and they discuss it and figure out what to do. It also shows how it affects everyone in the family.

You talked about being able to identify with Ebony in this role. Do you feel you’ve lived your true purpose?
I feel that I am so lucky to have Boris as a partner. I’m just going to be real with you.  Everyone just thinks that I am lucky because he’s so fine (laughing). And I always say that they don’t know the half of it. There is nothing like a good teammate.  I think that it makes everything possible. However, I live in Hollywood. I miss New York. I’m from Baltimore and I miss the east coast like you cannot even imagine. My kids are in school here, their friends are here, our industry is here.  So I have to swallow that a little bit, but like Ebony and Michael in the film, we discuss it as part of our plans for the future.

That maybe when the kids graduate, let’s get a place back in the city.  I am a city girl and I like to hit the pavement the walking.  I like to go see art films, go to the theater, have breakfast at the café and go to museums.  I’m just an urban woman. In LA, it’s the cars, the business and sometimes I miss that (home), but I’m able to vocalize it and that gives me the patience and the confidence that I will get back there one day. And even though he doesn’t want to move to New York tomorrow, he’s willing to hear me out and I am grateful for that.

What are you hoping people walk away with from watching this film?
I think that’s a great question and I’d hope that everyone gains the courage because we all go through it. And I hope that everyone watching this film has the courage to put the cards on the table and say this is what I am going through and how can we resolve this as a team. Because I don’t want to just walk out.  I don’t want to just leave and slam the door or start over. We put too much into this. And that’s what’s so beautiful, they put 25 years into this, and to consider the notion that we could have 25 more, then I think that Downsized did what it was meant to do.

What is next for Nicole?
I have so many things in the oven.  I’ve got the ‘Gym Wrap’ exploding at Walmart, Sally’s and online. I just completed a film with Director Kim Bass and it’s called Headshop.  That comes out in 2018. I just completed a film with Forest Whitaker called How It Ends. I’ve got an incredible project in the works with my husband. Our talk show didn’t get picked up, but everyone loved our in-the-car episodes so we are going to bring that back. So keep your eyes and ears open.

Downsized premiers tonight September 16, 2017 on TV ONE at 9PM ET.

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