Nia Long on Beating Jada Pinkett Smith for Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Part: 'She Got the Husband'
"The joke that I have with Jada is that I got the job but she got the husband," said Nia Long of playing Will Smith's love interest
Nia Long stopped by PeopleTV’s Couch Surfing on Thursday, when she recalled beating Jada for the role of Will’s girlfriend on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
“First they cast Jada to play his girlfriend,” Long said of joining the iconic sitcom in 1994. “They cast Jada and they were like, ‘Jada’s too short.’ I’m only about two inches taller than her, that does not make a difference.”
Long went on to star as Will’s girlfriend (and twice fiancée) Lisa Wilkes in season 5 of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
And despite Jada losing out on the role, Long said there was no hard feelings between the two stars.
“The joke that I have with Jada is that I got the job but she got the husband,” said Long, 49. “That’s like our running joke.”
Will, 51, and Jada, 48, first met in 1994 when the actress audition for the role of Lisa. The two immediately felt a connection and started dating less than a year later.
Jada has been open about her marriage to the Bad Boys for Life actor on her Facebook Watch show Red Table Talk, which she hosts with her mother Adrienne Banfield-Jones and Willow.
In June, Jada told PEOPLE she and her husband “have come to such a beautiful place” since they married.
“I feel like we have a stronger bond than we even had in the beginning,” she said.
And part of what has made their bond so strong is being open about their relationship struggles with their fans. In August, Jada told Stephen Colbert on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert that they both wanted “to kind of get rid of the idea that people in the public eye have perfect relationships.”
“We were kind of sick of living up to that,” she said. “We were real sick of it. And then second of all, really having myself and Will come and talk about our relationship — sometimes you see just women do it alone or you just see a guy do it.”
She continued, “Us coming together and taking responsibility for both of our parts and also Will being the successful guy that he is and being willing to share what his pitfalls were in the relationship and in his family, you can’t imagine how many other successful men called and said, ‘Wow, my wife has been saying the same thing for years. Because you said it, it opened my eyes and because you said it, I’m willing to listen.’”