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August 2008
THE FAMILY THAT PREYS | An Interview with Sanaa Lathan

An Interview with Sanaa Lathan
by Wilson Morales

September 8, 2008

With the exception of ‘Out of Time’, most of the roles that Sanaa Lathan has played been of the good girl. Even when she did ‘Alien Vs. Predator’, you just knew that she would be there to save the day because she was the heroine of the film. For actresses, there aren’t that many parts in Hollywood other than the ubiquitous girlfriend/ wife of the male lead role. I do admit that Sanaa has had a good share of parts that separates her from her colleagues when you think of ‘Love and Basketball’, ‘Disappearing Acts’, ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Out of Town’, but she’s never had a part that was totally a 360 turn as the one that Tyler Perry has given her for his latest film, ‘The Family That Preys’, which is the story of two families from different walks of life who learn to work together. With Alfre Woodward playing her mother again for the third time and Taraji P. Henson playing her sister, Sanaa had a ball of a time playing someone completely opposite of what’s she used.

In speaking with blackfilm.com, Lathan talked about her role, working with Woodard again, and her upcoming projects, which includes the animated show with Nia Long.

What interested you in this part?

Sanaa Lathan: It was somebody I had never played before. For me, I love to play all different types of people and this was definitely different for me; and so I was drawn to that, and the character and working with Tyler. I think what he’s doing is phenomenal.

Other than ‘Out of Town’, how did it feel to play like this?

SL: A bitch?


SL: It was fun. It’s fun to play those roles. You can do and say things and people are like, ‘No, she didn’t’ The thing about being an actress is that you’re supposed to not judge your character and for me, the approach was to committing to all the things she wanted and going ahead with it. I wasn’t thinking in mind that she’s a bitch until I saw it.

Actors love to play parts that are totally the opposite from the roles they are used to playing.

SL: Absolutely. She’s stretched in different ways and challenging. Yeah. Absolutely.

This is the third time you have worked with Alfre Woodward as a daughter and mother, and in this film, I believe the relationship is much deeper than the ones displayed in ‘Love and Basketball’ and in ‘Something New’. How was it working this time around?

SL: It was great. I love Alfre. She is this wonderful woman, wonderful actress, and so smart. She’s great to watch, great to work with and I feel privileged to be able to work with her.

How has it been different each time you’ve worked with her?

SL: Well, each of the relationships have been so different. In ‘Love & Basketball’, the mother couldn’t understand why my character wanted to be a basketball player instead of being a simple normal girl, and in ‘Something New’, she couldn’t understand my relationship with a white person; and in this film she just doesn’t understand her motives. Each one is different because of the character and the storyline.

Because of the way you portrayed the role of the character, did you give yourself a backstory as to why you are with Rockmund from the beginning?

SL:I came up with my storyline like maybe he was the star athlete in college and got injured and went into construction. She wasn’t prepared for this. She thought he would make it in the pros. I really feel that they loved each other, but it got skewed early.

In most of Tyler’s film, including this one, money is the root of evil. Why do you think your character falls for that trap?

SL: There is a moment where you see that she has major childhood wounds. You can never really explain why someone is the way they are. They are just that way, and that’s how I played it. She really lusted after power and money and she was never going to be satisfied until she got to a certain level and didn’t care who got in her way.

Were you ever at a point where someone’s gift to you blinded you to what’s really important in life?

SL: Not yet.

There relationship between the sisters, you and Taraji’s character, is so distant. Why do you think that’s the case?

SL: They are just two different people. My sisters in real life couldn’t be more different. They look different, act different, and they laugh different and they have the same dad. People come out different and the competition and jealousy and think it’s just adds to sibling rivalry.

The two of you played best friends in ‘Something New’, so how was it working with Taraji again?

SL: It was so great. I love Taraji. She is so talented and we had such a great time. On and off the set we really hung out and had dinners and went shopping and we’re really like sisters now.

How was working with Tyler on the film as a director?

SL: He was wonderful. He’s very open to input and improv and constantly writing. Even when shooting, he’ll say something like, ‘Let’s do it this way or go in this direction’. I loved it and had a really great time.

It’s interesting that with the affairs and relationships between different characters in the film, the issue of race was never brought up. Was this something you brought up with Tyler?

SL: No. This thing that is good about this film is that those people who could be anybody from any race, creed, or country. This is a universal story that deals with family issues such as love, money, aging, and friendship. It’s really not about race and that’s what I loved. It doesn’t deal with that because it doesn’t have to.

I’m assuming that most of the cast knows each other from events and places and films worked on, but Cole Hauser may be the odd man out from knowing everyone until the film started. How was it working with him?

SL: He just fit right in. He’s such a good actor. The great thing about this group of people is that doesn’t always work this way and everybody was really cool and everybody developed friendships and got along. We had a good time.

We haven’t seen her on the big screen in some time, so it was great to see Robin Givens again. How was working with her?

SL: I had a ball working with her. She really commits 100% to her characters and she’s really sweet and humble and I liked her.

If there was one scene you enjoyed taping, what would it be?

SL: I had fun doing the mall scene. It was fun arguing with Taraji.

Is there a message within this film?

SL: I think that there are many messages and people will get what they are supposed to get. That’s not my job. My job is to put the story out there and people will get what they get.

Can you talk about your next project, ‘Wonderful World’ with Matthew Broderick? From Simon Baker in ‘Something New’ to Cole Hauser in this film to Matthew Broderick in your next film, ‘Wonderful World’. I’m sure folks want to know where are the brothers? LOL

SL: I know. Isn’t that funny? Each movie is totally different. It just worked out that way. It’s not by any choice of mine. Those are the scripts that came to me at this point of my career. Who know why this happens. ‘Wonderful World’ is about a guy who loses his way in life and become very cynical and his journey back to himself and back to having a little hope in life and I play a Senegalese woman who comes and becomes roommates with him and it’s a real beautiful film and I’m excited about it.

You also have ‘The Cleveland Show’ coming up as well.

SL: Yes. It’s an animated show for Fox that I’m doing with Nia Long. Most people are familiar with ‘The Family Guy’, a big animated show on Fox and Cleveland is part of that show as the family guy’s neighbor. He now has his own. It’s a spinoff from that show. I play Cleveland’s wife and Nia plays my 15 year old daughter. We are doing the voices for the animated series.

Why should anyone see ‘The Family That Preys’?

SL: Great performances. Juicy plots. It gives you something to laugh about, cry about, and plenty to discuss.


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