Sanaa Lathan: Being A Black Actress In Hollywood Prepares You For Something
Sanaa Lathan is making her directorial debut this week with the Paramount+ Authentic film On The Come Up, however the very last thing she feels is nerves. In truth, as she labored on the undertaking based mostly on the e-book by Angie Thomas a few younger lady who aspires to be a rap star, Lathan says she was repeatedly requested “are you nervous?” and her reply was all the time no. As a substitute, she remembers, “I used to be ready.”
“I knew that I needed to be ready, so I wasn’t nervous,” the actress who additionally stars within the upcoming NBC collection The Greatest Man, says. “I used to be simply in form of bliss and pleasure all through this complete expertise. Being a Black actress in Hollywood once I was developing, that prepares you for something. You are able to do that — and for 20 years–you are able to do something.”
Lathan has confirmed these phrases true for the reason that late ’90s when she first drew consideration with roles in Blade, The Greatest Man, Love & Basketball, Disappearing Acts, and Brown Sugar. The daughter of actress Eleanor McCoy and director and producer Stan Lathan, the Yale graduate says she turned to her father for assist as she stepped behind the digicam for her first directing function.
“Dad, he was so tickled that this chance got here for me, and he was only a nice cheerleader,” she says. “He was like, ‘You bought it. You are able to do it. I do know you will have a imaginative and prescient.’ And he was only a actually nice sounding board by way of the method.”
Lathan additionally obtained just a few pointers from Gina Prince-Bythewood, who directed her in Love & Basketball, and whom she considers an ideal pal. “She actually helped me as a result of I didn’t know the way a director would go about getting the job. There’s a complete course of: We now have to pitch and it’s important to make a deck. So she form of helped me with that and was very encouraging.”
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As soon as her pitch landed Lathan the gig, she then started taking a deep dive into every of the characters within the script, ultimately deciding she’d wish to act within the undertaking as nicely. Within the movie, Lathan tackles the layered function of Jay, the mom of the principle character Bri Jackson, performed by Jamila C. Grey.
“As I obtained to know Jay, I resonated along with her,” Lathan explains. “I actually beloved that we’re seeing a lady who was in deep habit after which we meet her on the opposite aspect of it, and but she’s nonetheless struggling. She doesn’t have a job. She has numerous guilt and disgrace along with her little lady that she deserted her. And I beloved that that storyline was simply as legitimate as a B-storyline, to see this girl making an attempt to tug herself up.”
It was her connection to Bri, nonetheless, that first made Lathan throw her directing hat within the ring, she shares.
“I actually responded to Bri’s journey of moving into her energy and coming into her genuine voice. I noticed numerous my very own youthful self in her. I grew up in a household of artists, Black artists, within the 70s. It was a battle for them. And infrequently, I used to be round numerous habit. I had trauma in my life and one of many first methods of me coping with that was by way of performing.
“At 15 years outdated, I went downtown to this theater group and have become a part of it. It was a theater group for Black teenagers and it was the primary time that I used to be like, oh, performing might be therapeutic. It might channel all of this angst and anger and trauma. It gave me a life and it gave me hope, identical to rapping does with Bri, so I actually related along with her.”
With greater than 20 years of performing beneath her belt– and an Emmy nomination for Excellent Visitor Actress in a Drama Sequence for her recurring function as Lisa Arthur in Succession —Lathan continues to be open relating to the characters she portrays on display. “I by no means say, ‘I need to play this function.’ At the least, I haven’t up to now. For me, I come from the theater, and I’ve executed so many performs and performed so many alternative characters. The enjoyable of it’s stretching outdoors of your consolation zone, it’s difficult your self. So I say, ‘I need to play any function that I haven’t executed earlier than that pushes me, that scares me a bit.’ That’s my mantra with that.
As for stepping behind the scenes once more within the close to future, she says of her expertise with On The Come Up, “I discovered that the directing hat fits me.”
On The Come Up will premiere on Paramount+ and in choose theaters September 23.