Nicole Ari Parker is best known for her seminal role as attorney Teri on Showtime’s “Soul Food” from 2000 to 2004.
Now also known as Nikki Kodjoe, she moved to Atlanta with her husband and fellow actor Boris in 2005. They went bi-coastal for two years, then moved full time to Atlanta in 2007. In 2010, after Boris received a leading role on NBC’s short-lived drama “Undercovers, they moved back to Los Angeles.
She returned to Atlanta last month for the Bonner Bros. International Hair Show in downtown Atlanta to introduce her new Save Your Do GymWrap, a special wrap to save black women’s hair while they work out.
“Last year, I was sitting in my kitchen trying to figure out a way not to make an excuse between health and my hair,” Parker said. “I’d get my hair done on Saturday, then would have to wait until the next Thursday to exercise so I could hold on to my blow out.”
She worked with 17 prototypes with business partners before creating what is now GymWrap. “It allows moisture to be absorbed,” she said, “and heat to escape.” It retails at saveyourdo.com for $24.95, she said and comes in four colors: black, gray, pink and green. There are three styles depending on your workout intensity.
She’d like to do an infomercial, then push to retail at some point. Ten percent of revenues go to her charity Sophie’s Voice Foundation for Spina Bifida research. (Her daughter Sophie has Spina Bifida.)
Parker is also getting back into acting whole hog for the first time in years, hitting Broadway in the spring as Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire” oppposite Blair Underwood. “I want busloads of my Atlanta people to make their way to Broadway,” she said. “It’s going to be the hardest job of my life but it’s a dream come true. I’m starving for a challenge!”
After her degree at NYU two decades ago, she thought she was going to do Broadway but went the film and TV route instead. “I made a living, thank God,” she said. “But Broadway has always been my biggest acting dream. It maximizes all your instruments: your voice, your body, your intelligence, your passion for the work. There’s nothing that compares to a live audience.”
The fact she is black adds an interesting element to the classic Tennessee Williams play. “He is such a classic American playwright,” she said. “The story becomes universal. And because it’s in the South, there’s a richness and texture of the play that lends itself to any American. It translates seamlessly.”
Blanche is “a tortured soul,” she said. “When you’re married with kids, I don’t have the luxury to be tortured. I have to keep my head level.”
She last did stage work in an Atlanta production of “For Colored Girls” with Jasmine Guy three years ago. She’s also buds with Atlantan Dolvett Quince, who is now a coach on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.”
She said she took time off from her acting career to raise her daughter and son in Atlanta. (They are now five and six years old, respectively.) “We gave our children a solid foundation during their formative years,” she said “They had a nice quality of life here. It was important to strengthen our bond as married people. We jumped right in. We’re going strong.”
Her husband Boris, post-”Undercovers,” has done a couple of films, including the next “Resident Evil” film.
Parker accepts that her role on “Soul Food” still follows her where-ever she goes, but she takes it in good spirits. “I arrived at the airport and someone said, ‘Hey Teri! How’s Damon?’ It doesn’t go away!”
She’s done a few small films in recent years but nothing high profile. She admits the challenges staying relevant in Hollywood. “It’s not easy to go without work for a long time,” she said. “It’s hard to be a grown up and still waiting by the phone like I was 20.”
But she has no regrets. “You have to know in your heart” if you choose to step away, she said. “Now I’m ready to take on something like Broadway. My kids will finish school and live with me in the summer. I have a great great husband in Boris. We both completely understand this business.”
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk