Sanaa Lathan is no stranger to captivating the camera. Her roles in “Love & Basketball,” “Brown Sugar” and a number of films and TV shows that span a 25-year career are proof of that.
But in her latest project, “On the Come Up,” we get to see things from Lathan’s lens as she makes her directorial debut and also stars as Jay, the mother of up-and-coming teen rapper Bri.
Lathan was eager to take on this project, which is based on Angie Thomas’ YA novel of the same name. So much so that she said it was reminiscent of how she felt when she landed her first starring role.
“It was between me and like three other directors,” Lathan told HuffPost. “But when I finally got the part of director, I cried like I cried when I got ‘Love & Basketball.’”
In the film, 16-year-old Bri is hoping to follow in her late father’s footsteps by using battle rap as a platform to make a name for herself. Bri has a complicated relationship with her mom, Jay, stemming from Jay’s addiction to heroin. Though Jay has recovered from her addiction, life begins to take a turn when financial pressures, police brutality and the possibility of losing her daughter arrive at 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 instantly.
“I was captivated by Bri. I saw a lot of my younger self in Bri. I saw a lot of women that I know and love in Jay and Pooh. And I loved the whole idea of a coming-of-age story about a little girl in the world of battle rap,” she said.
“I hadn’t really seen that. And battle rap is a whole ’nother genre of hip-hop that to me is fascinating and still very much alive today. And there were so many elements that made me excited about telling it.”