Nia Long Recounts 'Charlie's Angels' Rejection for Franchise Producer Drew Barrymore

The 'Best Man' actress revealed she had been rejected from the film due to her 'sophisticated' eyebrows and age.

In another world, Nia Long was part of the iconic trio in the Charlie's Angels franchise. But in this world, the Best Man actress was rejected from the role due to her "sophisticated" eyebrows and age.

The subject was brought up during a recent interview with Yahoo! Entertainment. Long cleared up an internet rumor that she passed on a starring role in Charlie's Angels to make Martin Lawrence's Big Momma's House instead, explaining that the decision wasn't exactly her choice. 

"Charlie's Angels did not want me because they said I looked too sophisticated and too old next to Drew Barrymore," Long told the outlet. Barrymore, 47, is five years younger than Long, 52. 

Lucy Liu, who was eventually cast in the role, is two years older than Long.

Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

"But listen, I thought Lucy Liu was great in that role," Long added of the missed opportunity. "When I went back and looked at it, I was like, 'Whoa, she's really doing some stunts.' I don't know if I was quite ready for that... You can't do everything, and every opportunity isn't for you. And as much as it would've been fun to play that character, I think Big Momma's House was probably more fun for me."

Barrymore, who produced the film with her partner, Nancy Juvonen, under their production company, Flower Films, took the time to address the reveal during Long's appearance on her talk show, which airs on Friday. In a sneak peek at the episode, the actors both note that they're people who "can't sweep anything under the carpet" before Long recounts the audition rejection for the host.

"I go and I audition and, first of all, I was so excited to meet you...and it went really well," she recalls. "So, I go and I audition, then you go home and you wait and you hope to get the response, which is, 'You're going to get the job.' I didn't get the job. It's OK, it happens. But the feedback was, 'My eyebrows were too sophisticated and I looked too old next to Drew.' And I was like, 'What?' It just was an odd way of saying you didn't get the job."

She continues, "Now that I'm older and wiser and we've been in this business for a long time, I think what was happening during that time is there were all these conversations about diversity, but people weren't really pulling the trigger. I don't think this has anything to do with you or your partner or your film company, I think this is just a result of the fear of really putting a Black woman into a film that never cast anyone Black. It was a first time for them."

"There was this initiative to cast more Black women, have more Black women on set, but Hollywood wasn't quite doing it," Long adds. "Because I remember during that time, I actually auditioned for so many roles that weren't written [for] Black [actors], to the point where I was exhausted. It was almost like, 'Bring the Black girls in [and] bring the Black actors in so we can say that we did it, but we're not going to necessarily pull the trigger.'"

"So, what I will say now is things have changed a little. I thank God for producers like you because I know you're aware and you're sensitive to it because you're having the conversation," she says to Barrymore.

Barrymore reveals that she and Juvonen "almost felt nervous and bad" when they realized two-thirds of the Angels were white.

"We were like, 'Oh god, that doesn't feel right for us,'" she shares. "And the original Charlie's Angels were all white women... I mean, there was no diversity there. Let's call that out. And we felt the exact opposite, and this was in 1999 when those conversations were not being had and it was really her and I who championed the fact that like, OK, we love our Angels so far, but now what?"

She explains that when they presented themselves as producers for the film, all the pitches for the main trio were diverse, and "that was just something that felt right in our guts at the time. And, it's bewildering to me that someone would say those things."

"I'm 101 percent positive that it came from a studio exec that has no concept of understanding the importance of diversity, let alone what you stand for because you've been in this game, Drew, for a very long time," Long assures her. "And I know your heart and I see your show and I know who you are. So this was never anything I took personally at all. But I'm glad we're having the conversation because Black women and white women -- women period -- we need to talk, we need to stay in communication. Because at the end of the day, it's hard for all women in this industry. I don't care who you are."

"It's harder for [Black women], there [are] less roles, there's less diversity, but if we don't talk to each other, we [can't] have a show and create something with each other," she adds. "We have to keep the dialogue going, so, I appreciate you being brave enough to have this conversation."

Despite that rejection ages ago, Long has had a lot to celebrate career-wise. She reunited with her Best Man co-stars for an acclaimed limited series on Peacock that is nominated for an NAACP Image Award, celebrated the release of her feature film, Missing, and is prepping for the premiere of her Netflix film, You People

You People debuts Jan. 27 on Netflix.


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