In a recent interview, Sanaa Lathan opened up about her experience filming Love & Basketball. The actress talked about the difficulty she had in the basketball movie, coming from a dance background and never having played the sport before. The initial idea was for a real-life basketball player to portray the role, like Ray Allen in He Got Game.
She said to CBS LA, “I was miserable. I can laugh about it now. I got the job and I think Gina [Prince-Bythewood] finally got to the point where she had to hire somebody. It’s almost like she hired me because she couldn’t find somebody else. There wasn’t a lot of joy and there wasn’t a lot of trust in me. It was her baby and it was her first time directing. It was a big deal for her and nobody knew me then really. She gets to the point where she makes this decision with me, but I felt like the default.”
Lathan went on to talk about how she and Prince-Bythewood bonded (they later also teamed up on the Fox event series, Shots Fired) and how she grew into the role.
“I was miserable. I can laugh about it now,” said Lathan. “I had to go through so much to get the part and in all the basketball scenes, [they] surrounded me with real ballplayers. There was a lot of crying behind the scenes for me. The hardest challenge was getting the job, which I think weirdly prepared me for Monica. I had a dance background, but I had never picked up a basketball. Gina and the producers really wanted a basketball player that could act as opposed to an actress they could teach to play basketball. I was very lucky… I did a staged reading of the script when she was still working on the script. She couldn’t get my stage reading out of her head. She wasn’t auditioning a lot of actresses. I would always get to the last step and then they would throw in another basketball player. They were giving the basketball player acting coaches. They would always do a basketball audition for me, which was just the worst. Finally, I demanded that if you want me to continue, you’ll have to get me a basketball coach. They gave me an assistant coach for the LA Sparks and she had me training five hours a day before I got the job.”
Lathan has been on the press trail promoting the first season of Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone, in which she stars in one of the season’s most critically acclaimed episodes. She will also return for the fifth and final season of Showtime’s The Affair, later this year.
Watch the full interview below.
Photo: NBC Universal/Getty