Sana Lathan talks about Battle Rap, ‘On The Come Up’ and her directorial debut

Sanaa Lathan is It’s no surprise to be captivated by the camera. Her roles in “Love & Basketball”, “Brown Sugar” and a number of films and TV shows spanning widely 25The working year is proof of that.

But in her latest project, “On the Come Up”, we can see things through Lathan’s lens for what they are She is making her directorial debut and also starring as Jay, the mother of rising teen rapper Bree.

Lathan was keen to take on the project, which is based on Angie Thomas’ YA novel of the same name. So much so, that she said it reminds us of how she felt when she landed her first starring role.

“It was between me and the other three directors,” Lathan told HuffPost. “But when I finally got the director’s role, I cried like I did when I got the Love & Basketball movie.”

In the movie, 16-year-old Brie hopes to follow in her late father’s footsteps by using rap as a platform to make a name for herself. Brie has a complicated relationship with her mother, Jay, stemming from Jay’s heroin addiction. Although Jay has recovered from her addiction, life begins to take a turn when financial pressures, police brutality and the possibility of losing her daughter reach her doorstep.

Lathan said she knew the script was good as soon as she started reading it. The women in the story captured her heart almost immediately.

“I’ve been captivated by Bree. I’ve seen a lot of my younger self in Bree. I’ve seen a lot of the women I know and love in Jay and Pooh. And I loved the whole idea of ​​the coming-of-age story about a little girl in the rap world.”

“I haven’t really seen that. And rap is a whole genre of hip-hop that’s great to me and is still very much alive to this day. And there were a lot of elements that made me excited to say it.”

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Although wearing two hats for the film was a challenge, Lathan was by no means aware of what went into directing. Her father is award-winning director Stan Lathan. Dreams of being behind the camera started early for her, and she studied cinema while attending the Yale Graduate School of Drama.

Recognizing that she probably had more shooting experience than a lot of filmmakers, she started directing directors about seven years ago. It was then that Lathan realized she had a lot to offer. So I started studying with the Director of Photography. During the pandemic, she directed her first movie — a short that was never released, starring her dog in her home.

“I just showed it to my agent, who was a friend of mine. I didn’t show him to introduce me. And he just started submissive to me. Next thing I knew, I had the opportunity to make an offer for On the Come Up,” she said.

Lathan said filming “On the Come Up” wasn’t easy. She relied on her father andlove and basketball” boss Jenna Prince-Bethwood For advice, especially when it comes to the business and financial aspect. Her father saw some initial cuts and attended the premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in early September.

“I am thrilled to see him so happy,” she said. “I think it’s just as horrific as I am at the fact that I’m on this journey right now.”

Lathan realized that the perfect storm of the coronavirus pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, Time Up, the rise of live broadcasts, and a demand for greater representation in Hollywood had paved the way for her to finally step into a long-awaited dream. According to Lathan, “On the Come Up” couldn’t be more perfect for her directorial debut.

“One of the most beautiful things about this movie is what is familiar to me, is that women are the backbone of many families. The community of women lifts generations, and this is a kind of tribute to that family,” she said. “My grandmothers, aunts and cousins ​​raised us all, and this is very common. And I want women to realize that and feel that they are being seen in that regard. As well as Bri’s journey into her power, by discovering her authentic voice. This is a message that men, women, and old , and youth, and every race, it can be kept by all.”

Lathan plans, of course, to continue acting while reuniting with the original cast of “Best Man” on the spin-off series that will premiere later this year on Peacock. But she also plans to continue directing for at least the next few years, if not longer.

“I just want to keep telling the stories that challenge me as an actress and director,” she said. “I want to hone my vision as a director, hone my skills, and keep telling these stories, and I hope people connect.”

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