Emmy-Award nominated actress Niecy Nash returns to Netflix in Prentice Penny’s new family film Uncorked.
Nash plays the matriarch in a family that owns a restaurant in Memphis. Nash spoke with The Knockturnal about her work on the film and reuniting with Prentice Penny.
The Knockturnal: So my first question to you is, when you got the script to the movie, what made you say that you wanted to take on this project?
Niecy Nash: Well the funny thing is, is that before I ever got the script, I said, yes to Prentice Penny [who is] the writer-director. He said, “I have this film” and I knew him from a couple of jobs where our paths intersected, and I was like, ‘you had me at hello!’ And then I read and was like, Oh, my God, I love her. So I’m lucky, I said yes [right away].
The Knockturnal: How is Sylvia similar to you?
Niecy Nash: I would probably have to say we are the same in that we want the best for our children, and by the best, that means to me that we want them to be happy even if it’s doing something we may not have wanted them to do. And I think that our superpower- mine and Sylvia’s- is bringing people together. And she was able to do that in life and in death.
The Knockturnal: Can you talk about meeting Prentice Penny? What was that meeting like?
Niecy Nash: I’ve known Prentice for many years, there was a project that I worked on called “Do Not Disturb”, where he was a writer. That was many years ago on Fox. And then when I played Cedric the Entertainer’s wife on “Soul Man”, he was also a writer there. So our paths have crossed a couple of times. I always thought he was talented and very driven. I’m not surprised where his career has taken him.
The Knockturnal: And so you guys filmed in Memphis. Can you talk a little bit about what that was like filming in Memphis, and the food culture specifically?
Niecy Nash: The people in Memphis are very warm. The barbecue is very delicious and everybody wants you to taste what they make. So I never went to one restaurant where I was not brought something to the table, that I did not order simply because they were like, ‘oh, you have to taste this. You have to try it.’ Great barbecue and amazing people pretty much sums it up.
The Knockturnal: And so you guys in the movie, your character, and Courtney B Vance’s character Louis run a restaurant. Can you talk a little bit about learning about the restaurant industry while working on the film?
Niecy Nash: Well I have to say the interesting thing about that is that my role and responsibility in the restaurant is kind of like the role I already have of being hospitable, trying to make sure everyone has what they need, checking on people who you care about; that was Sylvia’s responsibility, you know. Going in the back and figuring out how to cut the meat and what time you take it out of the oven, that fell on father and son. I was front of the house and they were back of the house.
The Knockturnal: So can you speak a little bit about working with your co-stars, Courtney B Vance and Mamoudou Athie. I noticed watching the movie you guys had a really strong chemistry. Talk about making that chemistry and how you went about building that chemistry on and offset?
Niecy Nash: I mean Courtney is a gentleman, he’s going to pull out your seat for you. He’s gonna make sure you have what you need. It’s very easy to lean into a chemistry with someone who is so professional and such a gentleman. And plus I’ve known him for years and I know his wife. We were able to just instantly find a rhythm that clicked. And with Mamoudou I have children that are near his age, so it was very easy to transfer how I feel and take care of the love for my own son onto him.
The Knockturnal: So in the movie, you have a big theme where we have the parents who, especially your character, want to support their son. But there’s kind of a misunderstanding in knowing what that is, that he really wants to be a sommelier. So in your life, can you describe a situation where maybe your children had a goal or dream that you wanted to support, but you may not have understood exactly what that meant?
Niecy Nash: Well, I’ll back up half a step when I wanted to be an actor. My mother said I was kind-hearted and to go into nursing and that was only because she could not help me in that path because we didn’t know anyone in that path. When my children turned around, especially my second daughter, and said, ‘oh, I want to be an actor’ because I know she’s a [sensitive] spirit. That was the reason why I was like ‘baby, you gotta have thick skin if you want to be in this business.’ I don’t know if it’s for you. Not because I don’t believe you can do it, but because I don’t want you to be hurt. Because it comes with a lot of rejection. So I think at any given time, as a parent, you’re going to have to do the best you can with the resources that are available to you.
The Knockturnal: And also in the movie wine plays a big part in the movie. It’s a big central theme. Talk about the meaning of wine to you in terms of special occasions. How has wine specifically or any specific wine made an occasion for you more special?
Niecy Nash: I think wine makes everything special. It’s such a social drink. Where you can enjoy friends and family and have a nice beverage that accompanies whatever food you’re serving and all those sorts of things. I think that growing up, you don’t really[lean] in until after you go on your first road trip with a boy to Napa. You think it’s cute,’ we’re going to the vineyards’ you know? And then you realize, oh, wait, there’s a method to the madness here. There’s pairings, there’s all sorts of information about when the grapes were harvested all of these things and what happens in this region, in that region. And then you start to say, ‘oh, wow, this is more than just walking in a store and picking up a random bottle.’
The Knockturnal: So have you in your personal life, have you met any sommeliers specifically?
Niecy Nash: No I haven’t, none that looked like me.
The Knockturnal: Interesting, and I think that’s a big thing about the movie that I want to also maybe touch on a little bit too, is when we think of a sommelier, a lot of times we don’t really think of African-American or sommeliers of color. In your opinion, why do you think that is? Why do you think that we don’t maybe see that many sommeliers that look like African Americans or people of color?
Niecy Nash: I think the only reason why you may not see many, is because many have not applied. Not because they can’t do it, it’s just because maybe they haven’t had the access or inclination.
The Knockturnal: And what would you say was the most challenging thing about your role in this film?
Niecy Nash: There was a mutual friend who had recently passed away from cancer. And when I say mutual I mean between myself and one of the other characters on the show. So to play someone who also had cancer, it pulled at the heart-strings.
The Knockturnal: So my last question to you would be, what is the overall message that you want the viewers to get away from by watching this movie?
Niecy Nash: I think that it’s a story about following your truth, even if no one else believes in it. And I think you will find at least one character in this story that you can identify your own family. And go somewhere and figure out your wines. Don’t buy your wine in the blind.
The film hits Netflix this Friday!