All Articles Tagged "Sanaa Lathan"

The Smiths Called It: Hollywood’s New Emphasis On Diversity

October 6th, 2016 - By Charing Ball
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When Jada Pinkett-Smith put the call out to Black Hollywood to boycott the Academy Awards, very few of us took it seriously.

Not even Janet Hubert and she hasn’t worked in years.

Nor did we give too much weight to the #OscarSoWhite social media campaign, which publicly shamed and criticized the Academy for its lack of color.

During that time, most folks thought it was a big waste of time.

But it seems that the threat of a boycott by Black Hollywood’s most influential stars, (including Jada’s mega-star husband Will, who later joined his wife in her Oscars boycott,) might have “inspired” some folks in Hollywood into action.

In short, there is no shortage of Black film and Black folks in film in 2016. Even more surprising, most of those projects have nothing to do with Tyler Perry (although some do. No shade).

In fact, in the last few months alone, Hollywood has either announced or released dozens of new and ambitious projects, which feature African-Americas in either lead roles, or at the helm.

This year, we are saw a return of Black Hollywood heavyweights like Denzel Washington in the western remake of The Magnificent Seven, Vivica Fox in the sequel to Independence Day and Halle Berry in the soon-to-be-released soccer mom-centered action flick Kidnap.

But we have also seen us taking on roles in big budget productions normally not offered to us like Idris Elba’s villainous role in Star Trek: Beyond and Viola Davis, Will Smith and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje playing bad-ass heroes in Suicide Squad.

Films like Southside With You (inspired by Michelle and Barack Obama), the erotic all-Black cast thriller When the Bough Breaks and Loving, which tells the true story of a couple in 1950s Virginia jailed for violating the state’s law prohibiting interracial marriage, have added new perspective to how Hollywood has always done romance.

While films like Queen of Katwe (starring Lupito Nyong’o and David Oyelowo,) Hidden Figures (Taraji P. Henson and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer) and Fences (Denzel Washington and Viola Davis) are giving serious Oscars vibes.

Also up for Oscar consideration is the Nate Parker written and directed biopic The Birth of a Nation, which comes out this Friday. If you recall, the slave rebellion film found itself at the center of a bidding war during its screening at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. Eventually the film inked a landmark $75 million distribution deal with FOX Searchlight

And of course, there is Boo! Madea…

Although some of these projects have been in production prior to the OscarsSoWhite social media campaign and Pinkett-Smith boycott, Hollywood’s colorful film roster may not be a coincidence.

In March of this year, The Hollywood Reporter ran an article about Tinsel Town’s casting blitz for talent of color.

More specifically, the article noted:

“Since the Oscar nominations were announced Jan. 14, a slew of diverse stories and color-blind castings have gained momentum. Newly announced projects include the young Barack Obama movie Barry and Disney’s immigrant story Dr. Q. (Those come on the heels of the record-breaking $17.5 million Sundance deal for Nate Parker’s slave drama The Birth of a Nation).

“There’s definitely a big conversation taking place right now in our business,” says Management 360 partner Darin Friedman. “From both the filmmaker side and the buyer side, there’s a push for more diverse stories. It’s happening in a genuine way: an understanding that the cast or the directors who get hired should reflect the way the world looks.”

The article also featured comments from JJ Abrams, Hollywood producer and founder of the Bad Robot production company (Cloverfield, Star Trek, Super 8), who added: “The Oscars controversy was a wake-up call to examine our role in expanding opportunities internally at Bad Robot and externally with our content and partners…It’s good for audiences, and it’s good for the bottom line.”

It should be noted that Hollywood’s emphasis on diversity is not just happening in front of the big screen. According to The New York Times, The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has invited twice as many women and minorities to join its voting pool than it has in previous years. And regular followers of Shadow & Act will note that over the last few months, a number of Black writers, directors and producers have been snatching up development deals.

This includes the recently announced partnership between Jay Z and the Weinstein Group. It should also be mentioned that The Brooklyn rapper-turned media mogul will also be partnering with Will Smith on an Emmitt Till mini-series for HBO.

And speaking of television…

While network television has always been more diverse – but not by much – than its big screen counterpart, this year has seen a particularly diverse fall line-up.

Shonda Rhimes hopes to keep churning out the hits at ABC with the Romeo and Juliet-inspired drama Still Star-Crossed while Lee Daniels hopes for a second-time to shine at FOX with his new primetime drama Star.

Also making their debuts at FOX are Laverne Cox who will be starring in the remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Damon Wayans with a reboot of Lethal Weapon.

FOX is also the home to “Shots Fired,” starring Sanaa Lathan, “Pitch” which stars newcomer Kylie Bunbury and the critically acclaimed mini-series “The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” which starred Cuba Gooding Jr.

And while subscription channels have a better track record at reflecting diversity than its network and big screen counterparts, this year has been particularly fruitful for creatives of color. Series like “Insecure (HBO) “Atlanta” (FX), “Greenleaf” (OWN), “Survivor’s Remorse” (Starz), “Underground” (WGN) and “Queen Sugar (OWN) have not only added diversity to the fall line-up but have also produced some quality work as well.

Of course, we won’t know for sure just how much more diverse Hollywood has become until next year, when the various media watchdog groups release their reports. But if these new films and televisions shows are any indication, Tinsel Town might be ready to turn over a new inclusive leaf.

Charing Ball is a writer, cultural critic, free-thinker, slick-mouth feminist and the reigning queen of unpopular opinions. She is also from Philadelphia. To learn more, visit

The #NoMakeup Movement Shouldn’t Be Seen As A Slight To Women Who Love Makeup

July 6th, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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I’ve noticed that when it comes to movements, there’s an assumption that to be a proponent of one aspect of it means you’re against the other. This has been the case when it comes to important things like the way mainstream society (i.e., White folks) view the Black Lives Matter movement and even something as empowering as Black Girls Rock! to things as simple as this whole #NoMakeup movement going on.

It’s gained quite a bit of traction thanks to Alicia Keys, who stated that after being paranoid about leaving the house without makeup and struggling for years with bad skin, she used makeup as a mask. Eventually, after doing a photo shoot makeup-free, she felt empowered, and made it clear that as she promotes her newest album, she’s “not covering up anymore.” She even attended the BET awards last month without makeup.

KeKe Palmer, who has been criticized when makeup-free, is a supporter. And just this past week, Sanaa Lathan said that for the summer, she’s ditching her usual weaves and makeup for a fresh, “au naturel” look.

It was in these declarations from people with influence that I noticed a number of individuals who weren’t here for the idea of encouraging women to forgo makeup. And I also saw people who were proponents for going without makeup, but made their stance clear by saying that they wished more women would stop with the makeup and weaves, claiming that those who embrace such trappings should stop “obsessing” and learn to love their natural selves. And therein lies the problem.

As I’ve already said, too many people think one has to be the antithesis of the other. But the truth is, you can respect and even love a woman’s choice to enjoy playing up her features in makeup while choosing, for yourself, to go without it. And you can be a Beauty Insider card-holding member of Sephora and still appreciate a woman’s realization that she was wearing makeup for all the wrong reasons and wants to leave it alone.

At the end of the day, it wasn’t the intention of either star to make it appear as though one way of doing things is better than the other, which it seemed some people believed was an underlying message. Instead, they used their platforms to share with fans what is best for them. And as people with influence who may have followers who feel attached to certain accouterments for the wrong reasons (because they don’t think they look right without them), they wanted it to be clear that it’s okay to go without. Of course, we’re all adults here, so the pep talk from a celebrity likely gets a side-eye from most. But let’s not act as though there aren’t young people, and grown people, who couldn’t use some encouragement. Namely, encouragement from people who are often criticized heavily if they don’t step out of the house with a full contour job going on just to run errands. They understand the struggle most.

I’ve known many women who forgo wearing makeup. Those who do, they don’t do it as a stance against anything in particular, aside from the discomfort of wearing heavy cosmetics. And I know women who love makeup. Sistahs who take classes to get better at applying it and who shop at Sephora and MAC like they shop at the grocery store. I’ve also been around the folks who are anti-makeup (including some men who say, “You don’t need all of that”), and those who wouldn’t take a picture of me until I put a lip color on (because “a girl always needs a bright pop of color on her lip” and “You never know who you will run into”).

What I’ve learned from all of them is that you have to do what’s comfortable for you. Keyword: comfortable. If wearing a lot of makeup is your thing, do it. If going barefaced is your thing, go for it. But whatever you do, do it for healthy reasons. Don’t cover yourself because you’re uncomfortable with your skin without makeup and you’re worried about how you will be received. Don’t pass up on makeup because other people you’ve never met told you that you look better without it or because a man who couldn’t tell the difference said so. Do whatever works for you and respect other people’s choice to do the same for themselves. Whatever your choice, save your debates for more pressing matters instead of arguing with fellow women and men (who rarely have to deal with the pressure to look a certain way) when none of that does anything to tear down the beauty standards that are really holding us back from feeling comfortable enough to do what the hell we want anyway.

Sanaa Lathan Says “No Makeup. No Weaves” For Summer ’16

July 5th, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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What are you doing without this summer? Well, if you catch me out and about in NYC on the weekends, you’ll see that I’ve decided to forgo makeup and full shirts (#teamcroptop). As for stars like Sanaa Lathan, she’s ditching not just makeup, but weaves, and we’re loving it.

The actress, who is currently working on the upcoming Fox show Shots Fired, took to her Instagram page to let her followers know that this summer is all about going au naturel for her.


A video posted by Sanaa Lathan (@sanaalathan) on

All that hair! Lathan continued to show it off on social media, stepping out with a friend with her curls (and cheekbones) popping:

Me and my road dawg @tamietran. Happy 4th! 💜

A video posted by Sanaa Lathan (@sanaalathan) on

In an interview with Hype Hair last year, Lathan said that while she loves “weaves and wigs and all of that,” she had been embracing her own hair more and more.

“I’ve been wearing my hair natural a lot lately. For me, it’s all about changing it up. In terms of my real life, I’ll put it in cornrows and put some conditioner in it and then take it out and it’s really big and wild. I’ve been loving that lately.”

In case you missed it the first time, Lathan revealed a very full head of hair in 2013 after taking out a weave:

sanaa lathan

Source: Facebook

We’re glad to see the actress, as well as influential stars like Alicia Keys, stunning either way, embracing their strands and encouraging other women to show off their natural beauty as well. Of course, there is nothing wrong with wearing weaves and all the MAC your makeup bag can handle, but there is an issue when it seems that you rarely feel comfortable enough to step out without such accouterments.

Will “Shots Fired” And the Re-imagining Of Ferguson Work On Network Television?

May 18th, 2016 - By Charing Ball
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"Shots Fired" And the Re-imagining Of Ferguson

Source: Fox

There is a new series coming to network television, FOX, to be specific, and it has a lot of folks feeling uncomfortable right now.

And one of the folks is me.

The show is called “Shots Fired” and it is definitely doing just that. At who and what? Well now, that is the question.

Watch the trailer below:

For those with cheap data plans, here are some key points:

  • It was written by Reginald and Gina Prince-Bythewood; the latter of which wrote and directed Love & Basketball.
  • It stars Sanaa Lathan, Helen Hunt, Richard Dreyfuss and a whole host of talented folks.
  • It’s a police drama, set in North Carolina, about two Black special investigators’ hunt for the truth after a Black cop shoots and kills an unarmed White kid.
  • In the trailer a government official, possibly the mayor of this fictitious small town, tells Tristen Perry one of the Black investigators on the case (who is played by Stephan James): “there’s been a police shooting of an unarmed man today. The governor called personally. She doesn’t want another Ferguson.”
  • To which the Black investigator responds: “All I care about is the truth. And my truth has no color.”
  • The killer Black cop is suspect as heck. Not only does he have a history of making racial charged statements against White people (i.e. being caught on video saying “I finally got a license to kill these crackers”) but he might have some involvement in the death of a Black kid too (although that part of the trailer remains unclear).
  • After a montage of what appears to be someone getting the tar beat out of them, the background piano music kicks-in and Det. Perry gives an All Lives Matter-type speech.
  • There is a scene where a bunch of grizzly faced Black men in hoodies do “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” after a White cop pushes a Black kid to the ground.
  • During another montage of various background scenes from the school, a woman asks, “All the murdering of unarmed Black men by police across this country and this is the one the government is investigating?”

That’s the same question I had for this series.

Okay I’ll admit: a huge part of me is excited about this show. For one, we get to see Prince-Bythewood and Lathan working on a project together again, which has its appeal. And for two, but more importantly, I’m messy. And this entire role-reversal of a story that could have been ripped from actual headlines looks quite messy.

If done right, it could be spectacular critique of race and power in America. But that’s if it is done right…

And that leads me to my possible issue with this series that I have not even seen yet. (See what I did there?) For one, it’s on FOX, which has a history of taking ambitious urban dramas and watering them down so thinly, they almost become comical. I’m talking about “New York Undercover.” And I’m talking about “Empire” too. (Sorry guys, but that show has lost its luster.)

And secondly, why would special investigators sent from some unnamed government agency be investigating a shooting of a White kid by a Black cop? And more importantly, why would that shooting be anything like another Ferguson? I mean, is there a historical pattern of Black cops brutalizing and falsely imprisoning White people in America? Because that’s what happened in Ferguson (and elsewhere). Mike Brown’s death was just the final straw in a long line of injustices against Black folks in America.

Whereas White people tend not to get upset over individual incidents like this – not to the point of being concerned about another Ferguson happening – mainly because there is no reason for them to not have faith in their judicial system. In fact, the last time I checked, the only thing White people will get upset and riot over, are pumpkins.

Already, the Bythewoods are asking for a suspension of belief that my mind might be incapable of making. Why, in order for that storyline to be believable, they would literally have to re-write the history of America. And I don’t know how many seasons FOX is willing to give them for that.

All of that to say, this reference, along with all of the #AllLivesMatter against the piano backdrop talk, makes me think this show might end up making my head hurt.

But like I said, I’ll probably end up watching it anyway.

Regina Hall & Morris Chestnut Deal With The Surrogate From Hell In When The Bough Breaks [Watch]

April 15th, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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when the bough breaks

Due out September 16, When The Bough Breaks is a thriller about a surrogate mom who loses her sh-t when her advances toward the soon-to-be father are rebuffed. It’s also the second film of Morris Chestnut’s three-picture deal with Screen Gems. The first was The Perfect Guy starring Sanaa Lathan, Michael Ealy, and Chestnut.

In this psychological thriller, Regina Hall and Chestnut play Laura and John Taylor, a successful couple who are struggling to have a baby. When they hire a young woman named Anna (played by newcomer Jaz Sinclair), she seems perfect. But as her pregnancy advances, Anna becomes obsessed with John, and all hell breaks loose…see what I did there with the title?

The first trailer for the film came out this week, and it was the public’s first look at the picture. But I was able to visit the set of the Jon Cassar-directed film last spring in the bayous of New Orleans while cast and crew finished shooting one of the last scenes of the picture. Before much had materialized of the movie or promotion for it, the stars were giving reporters (like moi) the inside tea on it (including that the film was originally written for a White cast) and what to expect. Here’s a little without giving too much away.

“I love Laura, she’s amazing,” said Hall of her character, a major stretch from her usual comedic turns. “She goes through a lot. You see a woman who just really wants her child. It makes you think of the lengths that a mother really goes through for her children. I think Laura, although she’s not carrying the baby, the moment that baby has life, she’s like, ‘That’s my baby.’ So she has a different kind of fight, a different kind of strength.”

And as for John, Chestnut said his character is not what you think.

“He’s a loving husband who gets caught in a situation where he has to make some decisions. He’s an alpha male, so he feels what he does is best. But it turns out probably not to be the best decision.”

And Sinclair’s character of Anna definitely changes drastically from start to finish. Pregnancy hormones and unrequited love are just not a good mix.

“You never quite know who this girl is,” newcomer Sinclair said, “because she changes as the story changes.”

But we know that things are going to get very interesting–and violent. (We saw a scene that involved a lot of blood, a shotgun and a lot of bayou mosquitos…) And despite early questions of whether or not When The Bough Breaks is similar to other girl-falls-in-love-with-other-woman’s-life-and-tries-to-take-it films like The Hand That Rocks The CradleObsessedSingle White Female and more, Hall assured me that it’s different. But it never hurts to be compared to such great thrillers.

“There are always going to be comparisons, but I think on its own, the movie is great,” Hall said. “I mean, I think our director is so smart, and he’s done such beautiful work. I think it stands alone. Every culture is different, and it’s a different movie. But I loved The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. So if we’re compared to that, that’s where I would want it to be.”

Check out the trailer for yourself below and let us know if you will give this one a chance come September.


Sanaa Lathan Cast As Lead In Fox Drama About Police-Related Shooting

October 7th, 2015 - By Jazmine Denise Rogers
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Sanaa Lathan

Helga Esteb / Shutterstock

2015 has been kind to Sanaa Lathan.

In addition to her summer romance thriller The Perfect Guy opening at number one at the weekend box office, the 44-year-old has been cast in a primetime police drama for Fox.

According to Deadline, the untitled series will be directed by Love & Basketball visionary Gina Prince-Bythewood. Prince-Bythewood will executive produce the show alongside Reggie Rock Bythewood, who co-wrote the project.

The series will explore the aftermath of a fatal police-related shooting when an African American cop kills a white teenager in Tennessee. Lathan has been cast as the expert investigator hired to dig into the shooting case, along with a special prosecutor sent to the town by the Justice Department. Together, Lathan’s character and the prosecutor are tasked with navigating “media attention, public debate, a race war and the social unrest” that is usually birthed from cases of this nature.

According to reports, Fox has every intention of “picking up the project straight to series.” In other words, executives are confident that it’s going to be a hit.

Bet You Didn’t Know: Secrets Behind The Making Of The Perfect Guy

September 18th, 2015 - By Meg Butler
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Image Source: Screen Gems

Image Source: Screen Gems

Can’t get enough of the new hit thriller The Perfect Guy? Read on for some juicy behind-the-scenes info on this box-office hit!

“The Perfect Guy” Steals Weekend Box Office

September 14th, 2015 - By Jazmine Denise Rogers
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Sony Pictures

Sony Pictures

The Perfect Guy exceeded expectations this weekend, scoring the number one spot at the box office.

According to ABC News, the romance thriller earned $26.7 million at the weekend box office narrowly beating M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit, which earned $25.7 million.

Considering that the PG-13-rated film only cost $12 million to produce, Sony experienced some noteworthy success this weekend. Apparently, supportive female audiences are what helped the film to surge to the number one spot. An estimated 69 percent of The Perfect Guy’s weekend audience were women, and 58 percent were over the age 25.

“It bodes well for the longevity of the film. Not only is it a date movie, but it’s a film that girlfriends are going to go to together as well,” said Rory Bruer, Sony’s President of Worldwide Distribution.

According to Entertainment Weekly, this marks the fifth consecutive weekend that a film starring Black actors and actresses has topped the box office. Labor Day weekend, War Room held the number one spot and prior to that, Straight Outta Compton maintained the top spot for three weekends straight.

Did you check out The Perfect Guy this weekend? What were your thoughts?

Pass Or Play? Sanaa Lathan Gives Singing A Shot With Debut Single “Emotional” Ft. Dej Loaf

September 13th, 2015 - By Ashley Monaé
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emotional x sanaa lathan

Sanaa Lathan is making headlines for more than just the release of her highly-anticipated big screen thriller, The Perfect Guy.

The 43-year-old actress is stepping outside of her comfort zone of acting and is giving singing a shot with her debut single, “Emotional.” Lathan tapped Dej Loaf to lend her smooth rhyme game to the Detail-produced track, who is widely known for his work on Beyonce’s Grammy winning single “Drunk In Love,” and “7/11.”

In an interview with Yahoo!, Detail shared that track was recorded just two weeks and came about from a conversation he had with Lathan after seeing the film’s trailer. “I was looking at the trailer and I said, ‘Wow. That’s an emotional n***a,” Detail said. “Everybody started laughing and Sanaa said, ‘Exactly.’

Also, he details that it was Lathan’s idea to add Dej Loaf to the track – smart move!

“Emotional” will be featured on The Perfect Guy soundtrack.

Take a first spin of “Emotional” below.


Popcorn Love: Morris Chestnut Talks The Perfect Guy

September 11th, 2015 - By Kay Hudson
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The Perfect Guy

The Perfect Guy

The Perfect Guy is number-one at the box-office and we know why. The new love thriller, produced by actress Sanaa Lathan and actor Michael Ealy, who also star in the steamy flick will truly have you on the edge of your seat. With eerie twists and turns, which mirror many new courtships, it is no surprise that The Perfect Guy is the date movie of the season.

After watching this chiller with my partner, we left the screening with a bunch of questions regarding speedy relationships. We asked each other about red flags and deal breakers when it comes to love.

A few days ago, Mommynoire met Michael and Sanaa over brunch at the 40/40 Club in New York City, where they candidly discussed how the film evolved and the lessons they learned about love.

But just a week ago, Mommynoire spoke with every ladies chocolate fantasy, Morris Chestnut, who is also featured in the film. During our interview, we talked about his role in The Perfect Guy, the mistakes men make, and what fans should look for in movie.

Mommynoire: Why did you allow Sanaa’s character Leah to walk out of your life in the first place?

Morris Chestnut: (laughs) – That’s a great question! We were just at a point where we were at different stages in our lives. She wanted something different than I wanted and sometimes as men we don’t take advantage of certain situations when we can. He just let it go. And you are right – it was a mistake that he did that.

Do you think that women are really looking for a man to fight for them?

Morris Chestnut: I think couples need to understand who they are with verses thinking the grass is always greener – basically, looking for the perfect situation.

What do you think are some warning signs that women should pay attention to when looking for the perfect guy?

Morris Chestnut: I think that they should really get to know a person first. I think sometimes people are anxious to be in relationships and be in certain situations to where they kind of rush things. I think if they take the time to get to know who they are with, they can prevent some bad situations.

What was your biggest challenge in this role?

Morris Chestnut: This was a pretty straight forward type of role. It was really just building up the history of the relationship. When the film opens up, Sanaa and I were in a long-term relationship, so building that up was the main challenge.

What should fans take away from this movie?

Morris Chestnut: I want them to really understand and try to get to know who they are with, so they don’t end up in an imperfect situation.