Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Sanaa Lathan on Why She Almost Quit ‘Love & Basketball’ Role

Sanaa Lathan (Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images North America)

*Sanaa Lathan has revealed that she almost turned down the role of Monica in 2000’s “Love & Basketball.”

During an interview on Jemele Hill’s Jemele Hill is Unbothered podcast, the actress noted that she never played the sport, which she found quite challenging to pull off for the role. 

Here’s what she said, as reported by MadameNoire:

For the basketball players, they had to do the scenes and then do a basketball audition. Same with me. I’d do the scenes, then we would walk across the street, and I’d tribble the ball, looking crazy, because I had never picked up a ball.”

I mean I had my brother come out and go to the local court and I was just like you can’t learn basketball in a couple weeks or a couple months you know. These girls had been born, came out the womb with a basketball. And finally, she kept, every time I thought it was time to get to that next level to get the job, she would throw in another basketball player and that became very emotionally really hard. And it went on for months and months.”

Lathan also noted that she was urged to drop out of the project altogether. 

READ MORE: Sanaa Lathan Says She Was ‘Miserable’ Working on ‘Love & Basketball’ [VIDEO]

“Everyone in my life told me to drop out,” she continued. 

Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, “Love & Basketball” grossed over $27 million in the United States and Canada.

The film is considered one of the best sports romcoms ever.

Co-starring Omar Epps, the story centers on a young Black couple navigating the challenging worlds of romance and athletics. In a new interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith, Lathan said she had to prove herself worthy of the starring role.

“I was miserable. I can laugh about it now,” said Lathan. “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 knows me then really. She gets to the point where she makes this decision with me, but I felt like the default.”

She added, “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.”

Producers wanted a real basketball player to play the female lead.

“The hardest challenge was getting the job, which I think weirdly prepared me for Monica,” said Lathan. “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.”

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is an entertainment reporter with over 15 years of experience working in the film industry in areas including production and post-production, marketing, distribution, and acquisitions. She has worked for legendary film producer Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino's production team at Miramax, the late Larry Flynt, MTV/ VH1, Hallmark Channel, Paramount, Jim Henson Co., Parade Magazine, and various LA-based companies representing above-the-line talent.



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