The chemistry between Nia Long (as Nina Mosley) and Larenz Tate (as Darius Lovehall) in the 1997 film Love Jones was something fans of the film instantly related to and longed to see more of on the big and small screen. Fast-forward almost 20 years since the original Love Jones was released, and you can appreciate just how groundbreaking this movie actually was for its time. Movies like Brown Sugar, Just Wright, Why Did I Get Married and Think Like A Man all further the Black love dialogue that Love Jones captured so well. VH1 caught up with Chrisette Michele, Raheem DeVaughn, Tony Grant and MC Lyte – cast members of Love Jones: The Musical, which is an adaptation inspired by the original film, to discuss their love of the movie classic, their best relationship advice, and thoughts on Black love.
VH1: What do you think makes the story of Nina and Darius in Love Jones such a powerful and compelling love story?
MC Lyte: It just was comical to watch, but very real for a lot of people. It was a great love story for our time – it was our Mahogany.
Tony Grant: I think that our race as it pertains to love and the way we break down love is a little different from other races. The things that we have to deal with and have had to deal with goes a little bit further, and we’ve had to work a little bit harder in order to make that love compelling because we are such a creative people. We have so many opportunities, yet we have so many distractions that can take us away from the focus. With Love Jones the movie you have this guy, he’s a poet, he’s a writer, he’s a handsome guy, with a history of him having the girls and all of that, and then he runs across this beautiful young lady and he sees something different in her than he’s seen in other women that he’s dealt with.
Chrisette Michele: Twenty years ago I don’t think that black love was shown in the way that Love Jones was able to show it on mass media and so it was kind of an invention of sorts, something that we didn’t get to see on the movie screen often. To bring that sort of look and style and elegance to theater for the African-American community was a big deal at the time.
VH1: What made you fall in love with the movie Love Jones?
MC Lyte: I guess the angst that took place between [Nina and Darius] in the house. Them trying to find a space where they could both be comfortable knowing the level of attraction that existed between those two.
Raheem DeVaughn: I instantly identified with the poetry spot. I dated a poet at one point in my life that I met at a poetry spot, like Darius, and we’re still friends to this day. I went on with my life and so did she, but I kinda had my Darius/Nina moment coming up through the ranks of the poetry/spoken word scene – that’s where I grew up and was discovered.
VH1: What’s your best love advice?
MC Lyte: Sometimes love comes from the most unexpected places. Have a frame for what it is that you want, but also be willing to flow inside of that. Don’t be so stringent upon what someone has to look like, or sound like, or how tall… just throw all of that stuff out of the window and [ask yourself] can you really gel with what’s inside.
Tony Grant: I’m a firm believer that love has a life of it’s own. If you let love live, you can’t go wrong. Don’t try to tame it. Don’t try to control it. You can’t. Just let it does what it does.
Chrisette Michele: I’ve learned so many things over the last few months with just my relationship, and I would say if love is a sparse or as scarce as we say it is, and if there are so few opportunities to fall in love, then when we do hold onto it. I think we live in an age where everybody thinks they deserve everything from everybody, and so nobody’s willing to take the time out to figure things out. Nobody has enough time to have long conversations, to go out for coffee for two hours with the one they love and talk about an issue that came up yesterday. So my advise would be to be quick to forgive and faster to listen, because a lot of times you might find love once but may not find it again. I was lucky enough to find the same person seven years later but I don’t think that happens for everybody.
Raheem DeVaughn: When you date or commit to someone you are in the preliminary stage, but once you hit that year, two-year mark you have to make some defining decisions because either you’re gonna marry that person, or you’re gonna wake up one day and realize that you’re actually in what me and my partners like to call a long-term breakup. A lot of people are out here walking around in long-term breakup relationships because the dude ain’t never gonna marry you, or she don’t want to be married, or ya’ll have different concepts of what a relationship should be, or you love her and she loves you, but you’re not being honest and you’re seeing other women on the side.
VH1: How do you think the musical adaptation of Love Jones advances the conversation around Black love?
MC Lyte: Once I read the script I totally was bought in. It wasn’t a duplication of the movie, but it was just inspired by, so it gave life to new dialogue, musical with lyrical content… it was something for me that just seemed natural. I like the banter between the guys and the ladies… when Darius and Savon are talking about marriage and how difficult it has been, and then also the same type of conversation happening with Nina and Troy.
Tony Grant: There’s dialogue in the play where [Nina] says 'I have to go back and try because this is what my dream was, my vision was,' but [Darius’s] thing was, wait a minute, we went all the way to third base, we went there, that means something to me, whereas in the past it probably didn’t mean anything for him to be with a woman that way. But with this one, it meant something. My grandmother used to say something to me all the time, she’d always say son, when you get older you’re gonna be everything that a woman labels you to be – you’re gonna be a dog, a hoe, a pimp, all these things – but the right one can tame you and bring you out of all of that, the right one. And it’s very, very true. When you meet your soul mate, all of that means nothing. The crazy part about the play and the movie is, it is my life, for real [laughter].
Chrisette Michele: Times have definitely changed from 20 years ago ‘til now, and I think that Black love is a new narrative in 2016 like never before. So truthfully I think that there’s a reoccurrence of the subject of Black love – what it looks like and what it is. I think that the musical gives us a way to express what we think it looks like today. We talk about online dating, the way that people meet people now as opposed to how they met people back then, and so although we keep the lounge scene in the musical, I think that even the way that people meet each other in 2016 is different and how quick relationships develop in 2016 is different. We’re in a fast-paced world, so we had to speed up for the musical how quickly it seems like now, if people fall in love they hold onto it and make a career out of their love faster.
Raheem DeVaughn: At the end of the day, it’s about being honest with yourself – what we really like, what we’re really into, what makes us happy. In love and in life, true happiness requires being selfish.
For more on Love Jones: The Musical go to www.LoveJonestheMusical.com. And look out for the musical soundtrack, co-executive produced by MC Lyte.