Actor J. Alphonse Nicholson has become a household name thanks to his role in the breakout Starz hit P-Valley. In the show, he plays the character Lil Murda, a DL rapper struggling with his sexuality. The role resonates with many and has become a topic of conversation amongst black people who still have their reservations towards the LGBTQIA+ community. For Nicholson, who identifies as heterosexual, the role was less about sexuality and more about understanding love and complicated emotions.
Lil Murda’s character is involved with P-Valley’s nonbinary breakout star Uncle Clifford. The characters share a very fraught dynamic, ripe with tension and a clear attraction towards each other. This is explored heavily throughout the show’s well-reviewed first season as they explore their dynamic, and he wrestles with his identity. This is further driven home by several intimate scenes on screen between Murda and Clifford.
For Nicholson to submit to this role, he admits it was a process. The actor wanted to bring truth and honesty to Lil Murda and did a great job. He began by unpacking the normalized homophobia he experienced growing up in Greensboro, North Carolina. He said he knew people living in shame and fear and realized the role was an opportunity to help them heal and see themselves on screen. He recalled friends and family members who formed gay relationships in jail and struggled with their truth once they came home.
Most people do not realize that he is actually straight and married with kids. Nicholson’s wife played a huge role in helping him take on the role because she encouraged him and pointed out the benefits of bringing this character to life. They saw it as a chance to be better allies and represent and understand gay black men in America.
Nicholson says he met writer and creator Katori Hall in New York while he was starring in a play. J. Alphonse and Hall connected, and seven months later, she brought him in to audition for Lil Murda. Nicholson says he had had same-sex interaction on the stage before but was not sure how comfortable he was about doing it on television for a much larger audience. He says Katori was in his corner from early on and really pushed him to take the role and make it his own.
J. Alphonse says Nicco Annan also made things very comfortable for him because he brought a lot of professionalism to their interactions. Nicholson says this allowed him to slip into the role of Lil Murda way easier. “I met Nico, an amazing scene partner, just so professional, and so he made it very easy for me to get comfortable and slip into the skin of a Little Murder although you know that I had my hesitations and I’m nervous this is not my walk in life, but I am familiar with love.”
When discussing taking on a role that is not his “walk in life,” J. Alphonse says he found a connection with the character and feelings of isolation. “When you sit in things that are familiar and honest, you become truthful about the story,” he told Broccoli City TV earlier this month. He says an an actor, you have to tap into the things you are familiar with, and he did what he would do with any other character. “Breath and believe,” he said. “I was hoping somebody would be changed from the role. Somebody would see it and say, ‘that’s me.’”
J. Alphonse Nicholson says he get DM’s all the time now from people, leaving messages and kind words. When asked if fans have connected with the character, he says a lot of people reach out and thank him for bringing Lil Murda to life. “It’s heartwarming, and it’s dope as a storyteller, because that’s what you want to do.”
J. Alphonse says that one of the most real moments for him was seeing a straight-presenting tattooed man coming out on Facebook. The man admitted that his outing could put his safety at risk and alienate him from those in his community, but he wanted to be free. Nicholson realized at that moment how important the character of Lil Murda was and the kind of people he was giving hope to. “I never wanted to be a caricature. I never wanted to offend anyone; I just wanted to be truthful and honest in this guy and the way that I saw him and the way.”J. Alphonse Nicholson is listed on several sites as engaged but is believed to already be married to partner Nafeesha after calling her Mrs. Nicholson on their Valentine’s Day post. The actor also has husband and father in his twitter bio. The couple shares one child.