Sanaa Lathan’s role as Monica in 2000’s Love & Basketball is a beloved role amongst Black movies. Surprisingly, Lathan almost turned down the role. During an interview on Jemele Hill’s Jemele Hill is Unbothered podcast, she said it was hard to fulfill the role of a basketball player because she had never played the sport.
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.”
She added that on top of feeling comfortable, she was also discouraged regarding taking on the role.
“Everyone in my life told me to drop out,” she continued. “She doesn’t want you, you’re not going to get the job.”
Love & Basketball ended up grossing over $27 million in the United States and Canada.
Another role she almost didn’t get was the role of Robyn in The Best Man. The Los Angeles native revealed that producers had another role in mind for her.
“It’s funny because they wanted me to come in for Candy, for Regina Hall’s part,” she said.
Lathan said if she would’ve auditioned for Candy, she isn’t sure that she would’ve secured that role.