Before J. Alphonse Nicholson was Lil Murda on the Starz drama P-Valley, he was going back and forth between North Carolina and New York to pursue his dream of acting. The actor comes from a creative background. His mother used to write screenplays for their church while he had a passion for music and wanted to be a music teacher and play in a band as a drummer. It wasn’t until he began attending North Carolina Central University that he decided to take a stab at acting and like they say, the rest is history.
But it wasn’t easy. He dropped out of college to pursue acting and as a young parent, he was constantly away from his son and family. Speaking to xoNecole’s Dana Blair for our xoMan series, J. Alphonse opened up about balancing co-parenting at a young age, hustling, and trying to make acting happen while also keeping his mental together.
“It was hard,” he started. “There was a lot of times I wanted to go back home and get my job back at FedEx. And do whatever other side hustle I had going on. And I missed my son a lot too. That was the hardest part for me, was being away from my son.”
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J. Alphonse and Nafeesha have a blended family sharing a son and daughter. “It was hard. It was hard. And it was one of those things where I had plenty of moments where I wanted to give up, but I think the same things I wanted to go back to – the same thing that I wanted to be there for every day like my son and not having to worry about you know certain things as an artist – it was also the same things that motivate me.”
“My son, I wanted him to have a better life than I had. I didn’t have a horrible life, you know but it was tough. My mom was a single mom. (J. Alphonse’s father passed away when he was 12-years-old). She had to work multiple jobs to make sure she provided for us. That was a constant reminder that I don’t want my son to have to relive some of the hardships I had to [live] and I want to build a life for myself. So that was my constant motivation. And then just, I knew at some point that I was going to be able to make a mark with storytelling, whether it was big or small. So, this opportunity with Lil Murda (his character in P-Valley) came years down the line. And I’m glad that I didn’t give up.”
Lil Murda may be his breakout role but J. Alphonse has acted in other projects such as Just Mercy and he has also performed on Broadway. For those who may be unfamiliar with the Starz series, P-Valley is about a struggling strip club called The Pynk in Chucalissa, Mississippi and J. Alphonse plays an up-and-coming rapper named Lil Murda who keeps his sexual identity hidden in order to make it in the hip hop industry.
“I had a lot of great opportunities prior to that too. I know a lot of people know me for Lil Murda but the Just Mercy’s of the world, the Self Made’s, and all of the theater stages I’ve been able to step on. Broadway. All those things are milestones that you end up stacking up and it’s like, ‘Oh okay, I’m getting somewhere. Like my foundation is building,’” he said.
“So you have to physically see those things. So a lot of times, yeah, I had to brush myself off, cry, you know, call my girlfriend, my then-fiancee, now-wife you know, to really chop these things up and figure out exactly how you want to move throughout life… It was tough but I think I had the right people in my corner.”
Some of those people in his corner include his best friends and of course his wife. The North Carolina native gushed over his wife and shared how she has been his rock while he was struggling to make it in entertainment.
“Shout out to some of my best friends Denzel and Khalil who are like my brothers, I’ve known them since I was 15, and then ultimately shout out to my wife,” he said. “When I met her, I was still going through it. You know, still trying to make things happen. But I feel like her support and love around me and her vision for who we were as a couple motivated me 100 times more to go out and get it.”
J. Alphonse’s relationship with his wife Nafeesha is a true example of a partnership. The musician explained how they have conversations about the vision they see for their family and their lives. He credited his wife for having patience with him and his career while also making her own dreams come true.
“We always discussed it. It’s kinda like one of those things like, I’m a big dreamer, you know? And my wife, she’s a big dreamer as well, but she’s a big doer. Shout out to my wife. She doesn’t have to really talk about the things that she wants to accomplish or the things she’s accomplished already. She’s accomplished a lot of things that people may not know of but she has an understanding of who she is and what she’s been able to do,” he explained.
“And I’m the one who kinda like, ‘I need this crib down there with the jacuzzi,’ and she’s like, ‘You’re gonna get it. Take your time. Pace yourself.’ It works perfect. It’s a perfect balance. For us, we always have these conversations about what we want our life to be. And then you have a show like P-Valley comes around which is kind of like, ‘Oh okay, this is a different thing that has happened that’s come into our life we weren’t expecting, how do you deal with fame, celebrity, and then how do you deal with such a complex character and the things people have to say about me and the things they place on me personally and place on my wife?’”
He continued, “So, we have conversations about those things and keep each other lifted and we talk about the future too. ‘You got this movie coming up, you got this TV show coming up,’ we can’t wait for that. We can’t wait to get our kids into school and you know get them off to college in the next couple of years. All the real-life stuff outside of acting and entrepreneurship that we build on and I would just say that it’s been probably one of the biggest joys of my life having someone to build with on a constant, on a daily basis.”
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Featured image by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for STARZ