Sanaa Lathan has proven to be a major player on the Hollywood landscape after starring in films like Disappearing Acts, The Wood, The Best Man and Brown Sugar but many came to know her in the 2000 romantic classic Love & Basketball. Starring alongside Omar Epps in the basketball romance film, Lathan recently stopped by Jemele Hill’s Jemele Hill is Unbothered podcast and revealed she almost didn’t land the role because she couldn’t play a lick of basketball in Gina Prince-Bythewood’s film directorial.
“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 dribble 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,” Lathan revealed.
The daughter of Hollywood TV and film producer Stan Lathan also stated that everyone in her life told her to drop out and that Gina didn’t want her and she wouldn’t get the role.
“I was miserable. I can laugh about it now. I got the job and I think Gina finally got to the point where she had to hire somebody. 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,” she continued to explain to Hill.
Lathan did a staged reading of the script when Prince-Bythewood was still working on the script which the director couldn’t get out her head and which led to Lathan making the final cut. An assistant coach for the LA Sparks was also brought in to help Sanaa get her ball handles down as Love & Basketball would eventually gross over $27 million.