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B.Couleur Exclusive: Actress Sanaa Lathan on Her New Series ‘Boss’, Being Black in Hollywood, Her Guilty Pleasures and Why She Loves Frank Ocean

Sanaa Final

We all watched and fell in love with Tony award nominated actress Sanaa Lathan when her character struggled with the mountain highs and valley lows of a relationship in the epic romantic hit film ‘Love and Basketball’ in 2000, a role that she had to physically study for. “Girl, there were times when I didn’t think I was going to make it!” she told me describing the grueling basketball training she had to do in order to convince audiences that she was a true ‘ball playa’, a line, if you recall, her character uses to emphatically self proclaim herself.

Sanaa means ‘brilliance’ in Swahili and ‘work of art’ in Arabic and her name suits her well. As the public became even more enchanted with her talents as she nailed performances in the hit notables ‘The Best Man’, ‘Out of Time’, ‘Alien vs. Predator’ and the ode to hip hop cinematic jewel ‘Brown Sugar’, we knew Sanaa was destined for great things.

Now starring in the second season of ‘Boss’ set to premiere this Friday, August 17th on the STARZ channel, I caught up with Sanaa and surprisingly found out that we have a lot of things in common. This season she plays ‘Mona Fredericks’, a politically savvy woman who is very passionate about her community and hails from the south side of Chicago. Actor and comedian Kelsey Grammer (mostly known for his work on the hit NBC sitcoms Cheers and Frasier) is the city’s mayor and Mona winds up working for him. “There’s this housing development that they want to redevelop and she’s (Mona) concerned about the community that’s already there. She doesn’t want them thrown out to pasture. Her whole ambition is really about making sure that these people are taken care of and she has a strong working center. Kelsey’s character winds up taking an interest in her that’s a little bit more than just politics, it’s more of a weird fascination of her and her family life and who she is as a person. It’s very well written,” said Sanaa. “I think it’s one of the best shows on TV,” she continued.

Aside from ‘Boss’, she has reprised her role in the stage play ‘By the Way, Meet Vera Stark’, an piece written by Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage, which chronicles a woman who is a maid in the 1930s by occupation, but is also an aspiring actress that gets her first big break. She then cultivates a career portraying maids and even wins an Oscar. “I was so moved and entertained by the script and it is a great way of commenting on the journey of black actresses because during that time, those were the only roles available,” said Sanaa. Always a ‘glass half full’ type of person, she remains optimistic about the African American woman presence on the big screen and delights in seeing more of her black actor friends working in the heavily competitive industry. “I take my craft very seriously and I work really hard. For all the jobs that I do get, there are twice as many that I am rejected. You have to have a steel exterior and still keep a sensitive heart because there is rejection in all kinds of form, she said “When I went to drama school, on the first day, the instructor said that one percent who call themselves actresses and actors really make it at it. It’s really just about people writing stories about us [African Americans].”

And in an era where reality television is taking precedence over actual storytelling, the portrayal of blacks onscreen has been under severe scrutiny with such shows like ‘Basketball Wives and ‘Love and Hip Hop’. However, Sanaa wants everyone to separate the story lines from the African American race in its entirety. “For me, I’ve been guilty of watching some of those shows and people can decide what they’re going to watch. I hope that Americans are smart enough to know that when they see a show like that, and see people acting out of pocket, it’s what that show is and it doesn’t represent all black people. I look at it as entertainment. I like watching the different characters,” she shared.

Taking inspiration from many aspects of her life, the Virgo beauty credits her supportive friends and family to keeping her level headed in a business where, if you’re not careful, fame can cause you to second guess yourself and obsess about others’ opinion of you. “I went through a phase where I was going to a lot of gossip blogs. Every time I opened my computer, I’d go to these sites. It seeps into your unconsciousness and at a certain point, it can’t help but affect you…no blogs…I stopped about six months ago.” Nowadays her latest ‘addictions’ is simply staying inspired. “I love great stories and conversations. I love to hear when people step outside of their comfort zone.” When she isn’t posting pictures on Instagram and loving her iPhone, she is playing with her dogs, Pops and Sophie, taking nature hikes while jamming to Frank Ocean’s music. “I really love him right now. There haven’t been a lot black celebrities who have come out and I am happy for all of the youth because they have someone to look up to. I love the fact that he’s not hiding, he’s not on the DL and he’s cool and a great artist. He has a number one album-it’s valuable, important and it’s about time. People are seeing now that coming out doesn’t ruin a career, he did it before the album came out and it’s a huge success,” she said.

What do you expect from the elusive beauty in the future? Sanaa wants to produce projects she’s been developing and maybe even directing. But no doubt about it, she will still act.

Right before I concluded our interview, I mention an unflattering blurb I read which deemed her of not being a pleasant person. And just like a true professional who is mature and not easily phased, she takes it all in stride and bursts out with a coquettish laugh. “I’ve been in the business for a long time; celebrities have bad days and good days too. Maybe someone caught me on a bad day, but I think that in general, I am always kind to people. So, can you put in your article that I’m nice! ” she says warmly. Indeed, Sanaa, we will because that is the truth.

Watch the new season premiere of ‘Boss’ on the STARZ channel Friday, August 17th at 9pm EST/8pm CST.

See Sanaa Lathan in the second run of the stage play ‘By The Way, Meet Vera Stark’ in Los Angeles at the Gil Cates Theater from September 18 through October 28.

Photo Source: Zimbio

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