Nia Long Talks With Us About Netflix’s ‘Fatal Affair’ Ending, And Whether There’s Room For A Sequel

Netflix’s impressively stacked coffers continued to pour out content last weekend, including Fatal Affair, starring and produced by Nia Long. Before this project, her storied Hollywood career included two movies, 1999’s In Too Deep and 2004’s Alfie, that co-starred Omar Epps. It seemed only fitting that when Long signed onto the Fatal Attraction send-up (as the married Ellie), Epps would be along for the ride. As viewers know, Epps portrays an “old friend,” David, who proves himself to be highly unstable, but not before he tempts Ellie into a passionate encounter. And yes, that means that she cheated on her perfect husband (Stephen Bishop).

Why? Too late to question that one.

Things get melodramatic (and intentionally trashy, like other recent Netflix offerings), and Fatal Affair ended up being the #1 most viewed title on the platform over the weekend. So, one and done? Not quite. No one knows whether David really fell to his watery grave, or if he’ll be back for more homicidal drama. I think he’s still alive? I could be wrong, but I’m not alone in this belief. Fortunately, Nia Long was gracious enough to sit down with us to discuss that ending, along with how this thriller was rewritten with a Black cast, and how Long’s pushing for more representation in the future. Oh, and did we mention that a possible sequel came up?

I shotgunned Fatal Attraction and Fatal Affair back-to-back last week, which was maybe not the smartest move. It’s a little scary to watch them together.

I’ve seen pretty much every thriller ever made, and Fatal Attraction is definitely one of my favorites. I think it’s safe to say that all of these thrillers have a formula that works for them. They’re all very different, and you know, there are comparisons and things that you expect to see and want to see, and that creates the experience. Look, we all need a little bit of escapism now.

At least with a thriller, you’ll feel confident that there’s some sort of definitive ending within a few hours.

Yes, good point. I did not think about it that way, but it’s an excellent point and very true.

Are you aware that there’s a debate out there on social media about whether David is really dead?

You know, it’s funny because I spoke with the studio about that very early on. I was like, “You know, what if he survives? And there’s a Part Two.” They were like, “There’s no way he survives!” But you know, that’s movie magic, anything is possible.

Well, we never saw a body, and you know what that might mean.

It’d be fun to do a second installment, especially because we know that there’s a fan base out there that made the film #1 on Netflix this weekend. I’m so thankful and grateful for that. This business is tough, and actors are not allowed to fail. The expectation is that every time we do something, it has to win, and it has to be perfect. So, there’s a tremendous amount of pressure that I put on myself — it’s self-inflicted for sure — that when you complete something, you put it out there in the world, and you just brace yourself for the judgment. No film is perfect, this film isn’t perfect, but I will tell you that it is definitely entertaining, and it is a fun ride, and people are loving it and supporting it.

I’ve noticed that with a lot of infidelity plots, there’s a comfortable financial situation going on, as with Unfaithful, A Perfect Murder, Tyler Perry’s Temptation, and Anna Karenina. They’re not hurting for money, but do you think that has any reflection upon the characters’ dissatisfaction?

I think everyone seems like they’re doing great because that makes the fall and the payoff bigger? It’s like, “Oh, I’ve got this perfect life, this perfect wife, this perfect husband, and my shit is about to fall apart.” So that’s probably one of those subliminal subplots that helps to build the suspense, so when the characters fall and break, you’re like, “Omigosh! They’re about to lose anything.”

Speaking of a perfect husband, I was surprised about Stephen Bishop’s character being so… patient?

Stephen did a fantastic job of playing a difficult role because, in the end, you still respected him, and that was hard to do, based upon some of the things that happened in the story. So this art is imitating life, and sometimes, life is imitating art, but whatever it is, it’s certainly a ride.

Does that seem realistic to you that Marcus would be super-forgiving of his wife’s infidelity?

I think there are men in the world who are super laid back. This guy’s an architect, he’s artistic, and he’s coming off a really bad accident. So I think there’s a slight disconnect emotionally with the character. I found it to be believable because there are people like that. My man? Wouldn’t respond that way at all. And probably yours wouldn’t either.

Noooo, they tend to not be thrilled about that sort of thing.

But I think we have to say as long as the actions or the behavior is justified, you go with it, and I think he did a beautiful job of balancing a very difficult position where he’s like, “Oh, I have to still love my wife in order to make the movie work, but how do I still love my wife and not have the audience feel like they aren’t going to have any compassion or respect for me in the end?” I feel like he accomplished both.

Again, if there’s a sequel… Marcus could completely change his mind.

Oh my god, right? There could be, I’m gonna have to start talking to the writer about that.

Like with Gone Girl, he could forge a new identity, skip town, and go hide for a while plotting revenge. Or pull strings from afar.

You should write the script and send it to me!

Don’t tempt me. On a more serious note, you have been outspoken about how only a few members of the Fatal Affair crew were Black, and you stated that your “next production would be different.” And your The Banker co-star, Anthony Mackie, found the situation on Black Panther to be “racist” because it’s the only Marvel film that’s had a predominantly Black crew. How can this systemic issue finally be resolved?

I think that producers have to take responsibility for how they are hiring their crews. It starts there, with the studios. It should be mandated that crews in film and television sets are diverse, period. It’s a very simple thing to say that our crew has to be diverse. And not just with Black and white. There are plenty of Hispanic people and Asian people behind the camera who are amazing. We need to mix it up. The film industry has a responsibility to diversify the behind-the-scenes crew as well as the cast in front of the camera. And actors can have a voice in that. As a producer, I hope I have more of a voice in that. I have to take baby steps because you have to pick your battles and pick them appropriately, and as you continue to grow and move forward, you need to show success and gain respect, then you can put your foot down on different issues. I think we have a window of opportunity to say, “This no longer works for us. I want to see young, Black talent behind the camera as well.” It’s not that I don’t support anyone else, but give the right person the job, and give someone Black or of another nationality an opportunity.

Netflix seems to be more willing to provide those opportunities than the traditional movie studios.

I think Netflix is extremely responsible when it comes to diversity. Their Strong Black Leads initiative has opened the door to so many Black artists to come in and develop and star in projects. Fatal Affair was written for a white cast, and we had conversations very early on, like, “Should Ellie be married to a white guy? Or a Black guy?” These were all very real conversations, and ultimately, it was Netflix who said, “We want to make the film feel real for you and your core audience and Black people to see a thriller.” They stood behind me in my way, so I said Omar Epps has to be my guy. They’re putting their money where their mouth is, and I appreciate that, and it’s overdue. I hope that other networks and streaming platforms take heed and follow suit because it’s important, and it shouldn’t even be a conversation. It should just be.


You and Omar still have that chemistry going on.

My favorite thing was that Omar was my shotgun rider, and we got to do this together. We are artists from the 1990s who helped to create a culture. And actors want a challenge. We want to do different things. That’s the beauty of slipping into characters.

And it’s kind of crazy that this is your first domestic thriller movie. How does the set experience differ from a comedy/drama/procedural?

I think when you’re shooting a thriller, there’s always a part of you that’s like, “I don’t know if I believe this. Did that work?” Because you’re shooting out of sequence, so there’s not this chain of events happening. There were moments when I questioned my choice as an actor, and I’d say, “Did that feel real?” Because even if a situation seems absurd, you still want to play into the realness of the moment, and that’s what makes other people believe what you’re doing. And that’s the toughest part of a thriller because there are moments when it almost feels like you’re overacting just to put that exclamation point on a scene and build that intensity.

If you’re looking to try other new things, do you have any superhero dreams?

Oh, I’m dying to be in a superhero movie. Maybe I’ll try and play opposite Anthony Mackie in his next superhero series because he’s always seeming to have these superpowers, so that’s my guy, my buddy. As long as I can wear an afro, I’m down!

‘Fatal Affair’ is currently streaming on Netflix.