Sanaa Lathan is back on the big screen as part of the cast of the highly anticipated psycho thriller Contagion. From Catfish and Black Bean Sauce, Love & Basketball to Alien vs. Predator, her repertoire is as versatile as her talent. Lathan chatted with BET recently about her role in Contagion, thoughts on Black women in roles of servitude and her next bone chilling project.
Contagion is a complex thriller about the pandemonium brought on by a fatal worldwide epidemic. Although she does not hold a major role, it is a pivotal one. She plays the wife of Lawrence Fishburne’s character, an officer of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, who contributes to the global panic that ensues once the virus is unleashed. Lathan said she particularly enjoyed being a part of the film because it gave her the opportunity to work “with people who really get it.” Speaking about director Steven Soderbergh she told BET, “[he] knew what he was doing when he made [Lathan and Fishburne's] characters Black. He’s such a smart guy and he’s aware of film history. We had a conversation on set and he said, “I wasn’t interested in this being another ‘white man save the world’ movie.” So Steven knew that he wanted Laurence really early on. I love him for that.”
Lathan also expressed a desire to star in more romantic comedies in the future, but not a rehashing of the films she’s known for. She’s ready to take it to the next level: “I’d love to do another romantic comedy again, but it would have to be different from the Love and Basketballs, the Something News and the Brown Sugars. It would have to be a different story, a different character pushing me in different directions. I’m very picky about it being something that doesn’t repeat — I’m always trying to elevate from what I’ve already done.”
Giving her perspective on recent controversy about the popular film The Help, Sanaa related it to her own experience playing a maid herself in the off-Broadway play Meet Vera Stark, which explored the notion of playing a servant vs. being one. In response to whether domestic roles are a step back for Black women, Lathan said, “I feel like it’s getting better. I’m definitely a ‘glass half–full’ person, so I look for those examples of it getting better. I thought that the way The Help was executed was beautiful and I was thoroughly entertained. It was empowering to those women. I’m rooting for Viola Davis. I think she did an amazing job in it and I was deeply moved by her performance. There’s a possibility that Meet Vera Stark may go to Broadway next year. And if it does, I just want everyone to come out and see, because it’s such a tour-de-force role.”
Lastly, Sanaa Lathan gave a glimpse into her upcoming role in what she calls a “horror ghost” story titled Vipaka. The film, set in New Orleans, also stars Anthony Mackie, Mike Epps and Forest Whitaker. “I play Anthony Mackie’s wife. It’s kind of like a love triangle between my character, Anthony’s and Mike Epps’ character, who plays his brother. Mike Epps is doing a really dark, complicated edgy role. People are gonna be so blown away by him in this movie. Forest Whitaker plays a mysterious person who comes into all of our lives and makes us reveal secrets we have from each other and ourselves. So it’s like a horror film but it’s also a psychological thriller. I had a blast working with Anthony, Mike and Forest — that was a treat for me.
Sanaa promises Vipaka to be something new and refreshing in Black cinema. “There’s definitely some freaky s— in it. It will keep people on the edge of their seats. You’ll be jumping and screaming, but it’s also really deep and really layered. I’m not interested in doing a straight horror film. I’m excited because there are good moments in Vipaka that I don’t think people have seen Black people do on screen lately.”
One more reason Ms. Lathan is a fan favorite. This is a gifted actress who knows how to think outside of the box.