By Stephanie Amy Collazo
Hollywood vet Sanaa Lathan has graced the silver screen in numerous movies over the span of her career, capturing roles in Brown Sugar, Love & Basketball, Something New and Blade (to name a few). After a short stint in the off Broadway show By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, Lathan is back and one of the many actors in the all-star cast for Steven Soderbergh’s sci-fi thriller, Contagion. In the film, she plays the role of Aubrey Cheever who doesn’t know what to do with the information she has gained from her husband Dr. Ellis Cheever, played by Laurence Fishburne.
YRB: How did you get the role in Contagion?
Sanaa: It came as an offer to my agent. It was just a straight offer, and I was thrilled because it was with a great director named Steven Soderbergh, who did so many movies that I really love. And I was excited to work with Laurence.
YRB: In the film you play Laurence Fishburne’s wife, what was it like working so closely with him?
Sanaa: It was great! He’s such a giving actor. I’ve been a fan of his forever. We had a really good time; it was a heavy subject but he was a great co-star to go through that with because he’s a real team player.
YRB: Tell us a little about your character’s role in the film. We know she is married to U.S. CDCP Deputy Director Cheever, which means she knows a little bit more about the epidemic than the general public.
Sanaa: She tells a friend and I think that her motivation is that she really wants the people that she loves to be taken care of and warned. And I think that it turns into something that she wasn’t meaning for it to turn into.
YRB: What was it like working with the rest of the all-star cast?
Sanaa: It was great. Most of my scenes are with Laurence, so I didn’t really get to see them, but I loved just being amongst some of those actors. Kate Winslet and Marion Cotillard are just some of my favorites, so I’m thrilled.
YRB: How was this different from movies you have previously starred in?
Sanaa: This is more of an ensemble piece, so you know everybody plays their part in the storyline. And before, a lot of the movies I’ve done I’ve been in every scene, so it’s a real ensemble piece.
YRB: With your father being so well known in the business, how much has he influenced your career?
Sanaa: I’ve never gotten a job from him or because of him, but he’s definitely been my number one fan. It’s really great to have somebody in the business that, when you’re kind of going through [something, you have] somebody who understands what you’re going through and has been there. It’s been great to have that support.
YRB: You were also widely noted for starring in A Raisin In The Sun. Any plans to go back to Broadway?
Sanaa: I did an [off Broadway] play called By The Way, Meet Vera Stark written by Lynn Nottage, who won the Pulitzer Prize last year for a play called Ruined. We were standing room only. We got great reviews, so there is a chance that that may go to Broadway. Crossing our fingers, hopefully it will go to Broadway. It’s a great piece about African-American women in Hollywood through the years.
YRB: What was the best advice you’ve ever been given about your career and from whom?
Sanaa: Probably my dad. He [said] just do good work and keep persevering. Everybody has a different road in life and in this career. Whether you get the job or not, as long as you do your best work, it will pay off in the end.
YRB: What’s next? Are you working on any new movies?
Sanaa: Right now, I’m in New Orleans and I’m doing a movie with Anthony Mackie and Forest Whitaker called Vipāka – that’s the working title, so I don’t think it’s going to be called that – but it’s a thriller, a psychological thriller about karma and secrets and the truth coming out.