A “Love and Basketball” film without Sanaa Lathan seems almost unimaginable. Still, during an appearance on Strong Black Lead’s “Surviving The No,” the actress revealed that her break-out role almost didn’t happen.
The native New Yorker has appeared in several cult classics, but after what seemed to be a difference in creative direction, Lathan revealed that she almost gave up on the role ‘L&B’ altogether. “I really learned a big life lesson when I was actually auditioning for ‘Love and basketball,’ ” the actress began in the two-minute clip.
“It was a situation where Gina [Prince-Bythewood], the director, did not want an actress who could play basketball. She wanted a basketball player who could act the role. And I soon found out and soon realized that she really wasn’t wanting to hire me.”
The 49-year-old said she thought hard about quitting and even was suggested to by “several people in my life, including some of my representation said, ‘Just drop out.’ ” Lathan revealed that the stress of chasing her acting dreams was getting to her, but at the advice of a close confidant in her inner circle, the actress realized there were other options.
She continued, “It was really hard to keep kind of investing and trying to prove myself and keep kind of being shot down. And I was on the verge of dropping out of the audition process. And I had a mentor, a female mentor, a Black woman who really helped me back then with my kind of transition as an actress into the business. And she said to me, she was like, ‘do you love acting?’ and I said, ‘Yes.’ And she’s like, ‘Are you having fun learning basketball?’ And I thought about it and was like, ‘Yeah.’ She was like, ‘Are you getting a good workout when you’re playing basketball.’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ She was like, ‘Then just do it for that.’ Stop worrying about getting the job. Get into your joy.” The actress said, “as soon as I switched to that energy and started having fun in the process, I got the job.”
In 2019, the “Nappily Ever After” star spoke about her experience while shooting the beloved film, expressing that she felt “miserable” and had often believed that she got the job because “I think [director] finally got to the point where she had to hire somebody.” She added, “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.”
Fans were shocked to hear this news, but also voiced that they were happy the actress didn’t give up including one Instagram user who wrote, “I am so glad you did not give up! I love the film Love & Basketball. My favorite…still.” Another commented, “Great message and I cannot picture anybody else in that role! One of my all time favorites! #doubleornothing❤️❤️.”
Years later, the “Shots Fired” star says there was a powerful lesson throughout all of this, stating, “Even at this stage of my career, I know at every level, you know, some of the most famous people in the world you’re dealing with, not only having to prove yourself over and over again, but you are dealing with being rejected, but I don’t see it as rejection anymore.”
She added, “I see these opportunities as experiences to see if it’s something that fits me. And I look at, you know, if I get a no, then it wasn’t a match for me. So, it’s really about switching it in your head. And I know that the things that I do get were mine, and always mine.”