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Sanaa Lathan Biography
Sanaa Lathan, pronounced Sa-NAA, "like Sinatra without the tra", was born on September 19, 1971, in New York, as her mother Eleanor McCoy performed on Broadway with the likes of Eartha Kitt, and her father Stan Lathan worked behind the scenes in television for PBS. She was exposed to the life of entertainment and stars at a very early age, which had a profound impact upon her life. As a child, she was nurtured in athletics and the arts, through training in Gymnastics and Dance. She later became a product of divorced parents, whom she remained closely connected to, by being shuttled to live between them, both, in New York and Los Angeles. Those loving, supportive parents, the extremes of the public schools of New York City and the riches of the 90210 Beverly Hills High, served to build, within Sanaa, a humble spirit, competitive nature and a full awareness of self. Being academically competitive and wanting to attain proficiency to become a successful professional, Sanaa began her college matriculation, attending the University of California at Berkeley in the liberal arts division, studying English. While an undergraduate, she continued to nurture the latent desire to express herself through the arts by performing with the "Black Theatre Workshop". Nearing the end of her college days with thoughts of what her next move would be, Sanaa considered the natural progression of an English major to law school, but her fate was sealed as she was encouraged to apply to the Masters program at the Yale School of Drama by a recruiter. Through the three years of the training and skill attainment that Yale provided, Sanaa was able to visualize how she could effectively combine her talents, giftedness and intelligence to express herself through this powerfully expressive art form called acting. She gained a love for the stage and the drama greats, like William Shakespeare , by performing in school productions such as "Othello", "Romeo and Juliet", "The Winters Tale" and "Twelfth Night". Desiring to live in New York near her mom, she began her career performing in off-Broadway productions, such as "Por Knockers" and "A Movie Star Has to Be Born in Black and White". After seeing her perform in a number of productions and realizing her skill and ambitions, her father counseled and encouraged her to move to California, to get into the hot-bed of action that Hollywood could provide her in the business. Reluctantly, she made the move and has not turned back. Upon her own initiative, without the help of her accomplished dad, she was able to get notable appearances in television on shows such as "In the House" (1995), "Moesha" (1996), "NYPD Blue" (1993), "Family Matters" (1989) and the made-for-TV movie, Miracle in the Woods (1997) , playing the younger character opposite Della Reese. She even obtained television series regular roles in two very short-lived sitcoms -- "Built to Last" (1997), that never got national distribution, and the two seasons-canceled NBC sitcom called "LateLine" (1998), in the role of an aggressive talent broker for a network news show. Honing her skills and returning to her passion for the stage, Sanaa also performed at the South Coast Repertory Theatre in the play, "Our Town", as well as other productions, while pursuing her career in television and the movies. Her first movie role came in the action movie, Drive (1997), where she played the estranged wife ("Carolyn Brody"), opposite Kadeem Hardison. Other brief, but substantial roles, came in the vampire action movie, Blade (1998), where she played the mother ("Vanessa Brooks") of lead actor Wesley Snipes, and the comedy, Life (1999/I), playing the girlfriend ("Daisy"), opposite Martin Lawrence , and the comedy/drama, The Wood (1999), where she played the adult girlfriend ("Alicia"), opposite Omar Epps. This chance meeting with Epps provided the opportunity for them to build a friendship and real-life romantic relationship. Upon completion of The Wood (1999) shoot, Sanaa went to New York to join the ensemble cast for her meatiest role to date in the comedy/romantic drama movie, The Best Man (1999). She played the career eclectic yet strong girlfriend ("Robin") role, opposite her fellow The Wood (1999) costar, Taye Diggs. In 2000, she appeared in the limited release independent comedy/drama, Catfish in Black Bean Sauce (1999), where, again, she plays a girlfriend ("Nina"), this time in an interracial relationship opposite the writer/actor director, Chi Muoi Lo. Also in 2000, she lent her acting talents under the direction of her brother, Tendaji Lathan, in his award-winning film short, The Smoker (2000). She also appeared in the acclaimed romantic drama, Love & Basketball (2000), where she played the lead role ("Monica") opposite her real-life boyfriend, Omar Epps. Sanaa gave the performance of her life in this women- empowering breakthrough role, written by the films director, Gina Prince-Bythewood. The acting was no problem, but the basketball was not a skill Sanaa possessed. Having never touched a basketball and without a guarantee of getting the part, Sanaa spent several months training, with her brother and friends, with her costar/boyfriend and finally with a professional coach to look like a professional ball player for this movie. Bythewood, realizing the awesome talent of Sanaa, had her audition for the lead role in her next film direction, the made-for-television HBO movie, Disappearing Acts (2000) , based on the best-selling novel by renowned author Terry McMillan . Sanaa again nailed the role, gaining 20 extra pounds to better depict the character of the book. Sanaa has also begun to extend herself in the business by co-producing a yet-to-be-released movie with Queen Latifah. The Los Angles NAACP Theatrical Award Committee rewarded Sanaa with a nomination for Best Actress for her work in the production To Take Arms. In 2000, Sanaa received the NAACP Image honor nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a motion picture for her role in The Best Man (1999). In 2001, she received the NAACP Image Award nomination for Best Actress in a motion picture for her excellent performance in Love & Basketball (2000), she would go on to win this most coveted award. During the same year, she was also nominated for the Indie Spirit Award for her role in Love & Basketball (2000). Considering the lack of color in the awarding process of the Oscars and the Golden Globes in 2001, many black organizations choose to recognize their powerful performances in 2000 among people of color. Essence Magazine awarded Sanaa the OMAR for Best Actress. BET allowed fans to select winners for which Sanaa won Best Actress for her role in Love & Basketball (2000) in the motion picture category as well as Best Actress in the television movie or mini-series category for her role in Disappearing Acts. The online magazine Reelimagemagazine.com also allowed fans and an expert panel to select winners for its awards. Again Sanaa won Best Actress for her role in Love & Basketball (2000). Loved, admired and supported by her family, friends, fellow actors and fans, in addition to possessing that natural beauty, intelligence and gifted talent, Sanaa has the potential to sail over and above the ranks of other prominent stars. With limited-yet-growing roles or opportunities for African-Americans, in general, in film and women specifically, Sanaa is expected to break the barriers and forge her way into film history at an unprecedented and uninhibited style, both before and behind the camera, in the business. The name Sanaa means both "work of art" and "beauty" in Swahili -- how appropriate the name.
Sanaa Lathan Filmography
- (2014) Macbett as Lady Macbett
- (2013) The Best Man Holiday as Robin
- (2013) Vipaka as Maggie
- (2012) 43rd NAACP Image Awards as Herself - Host
- (2012) Macbett as Lady Macbett (The Caribbean Macbeth)
- (2011) Big Morning Buzz Live as Herself
- (2011) Boss as Mona Fredricks
- (2011) Contagion as Aubrey Cheever
- (2011) E! Buzz with Carla B as Herself
- (2011) Tilda as Sasha Litt
- (2010) Brave New Voices 2010 as Herself
- (2010) The Talk as Herself - Guest
- (2009) Angela and Friends as Herself
- (2009) Lens on Talent as Herself
- (2009) Powder Blue as Diana
- (2009) The 40th NAACP Image Awards as Herself
- (2009) The Cleveland Show as Donna Tubbs (voice)
- (2009) Wonderful World as Khadi
- (2008) 39th NAACP Image Awards as Herself
- (2008) A Raisin in the Sun as Beneatha Younger
- (2008) Dreams Worth While: The Journey of 'A Raisin in the Sun' as Herself
- (2008) The Family That Preys as Andrea
- (2008) The Wendy Williams Show as Herself
- (2007) 38th NAACP Image Awards as Herself - Presenter
- (2007) Baisden After Dark as Herself
- (2007) CR: Alien vs. Predator as Alexa Woods (VG)
- (2006) Blade: The Series as Vanessa Brooks (archive footage) (uncredited)
- (2006) Something New as Kenya Denise McQueen
- (2006) The 11th Annual Critics' Choice Awards as Herself
- (2005) The 3rd Annual Vibe Awards as Herself
- (2005) The Golden Blaze as Monica (voice)
- (2005) The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson as Herself
- (2005) The Tyra Banks Show as Herself
- (2004) AVP: Alien vs. Predator as Alexa Woods
- (2004) AVP: Production as Herself
- (2004) Out of Time: Crime Scene as Herself
- (2004) Tavis Smiley as Herself
- (2004) The 58th Annual Tony Awards as Herself - Nominee: Best Featured Actress in a Play
- (2003) Nip/Tuck as Michelle Landau
- (2003) Out of Time as Ann Merai Harrison
- (2003) The Sharon Osbourne Show as Herself
- (2002) Brilliant But Cancelled as (archive footage)
- (2002) Brown Sugar as Sidney 'Syd' Shaw
- (2001) The 2001 IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards as Herself
- (2000) Breakfast as Herself
- (2000) Disappearing Acts as Zora Banks
- (2000) Love & Basketball as Monica Wright
- (2000) The Smoker as Roxanne
- (1999) Catfish in Black Bean Sauce as Nina
- (1999) Family Guy as (voice)
- (1999) Family Guy as Donna Tubbs (voice)
- (1999) Life as Daisy
- (1999) The Best Man as Robin
- (1999) The Directors as Herself
- (1999) The Wood as Alicia
- (1998) Blade as Vanessa
- (1998) LateLine as Briana Gilliam
- (1997) Built to Last as Linda
- (1997) Drive as Carolyn Brody
- (1997) Miracle in the Woods as Young Lilly
- (1996) Moesha as Ebony
- (1995) In the House as Charese
- (1993) Late Night with Conan O'Brien as Herself
- (1993) NYPD Blue as Shirley Barish
- (1992) HBO First Look as Herself
- (1989) Family Matters as Allison
- (1986) The Oprah Winfrey Show as Herself
- (1981) Entertainment Tonight as Herself
Sanaa Lathan Trivia and Facts
- Sanaa was raised partly in Beverly Hills with her father, director Stan Lathan. She lived the other part in New York with her mother, Eleanor McCoy , a Broadway stage actress.
- Yale School of Drama graduate.
- Her name is Swahili for "work of art".
- Says her name is pronounced Sa-NA, "like Sinatra without the tra".
- (2000) Voted one of Ebony magazines 55 Most Beautiful People.
- Daughter of actress/dancer Eleanor McCoy and Stan Lathan.
- Gained twenty pounds for her role in Disappearing Acts (2000) .
- Was nominated for Broadways 2004 Tony Award as Best Actress (Featured Role - Play) for her performance as Beneatha in a revival of Lorraine Hansberry s "A Raisin in the Sun."
- She also has Native American ancestry.
- Alfre Woodard has played Sanaas mother in three different films: Something New (2006/I) , Love & Basketball (2000) and The Family That Preys (2008).
- Sister of Tendaji Lathan.
Sanaa Lathan Quotes
- I grew up in the business. My dad is a director/producer and my mom is a dancer, she performed with Alvin Ailey , but I didnt even think about becoming an actress.
Sanaa Lathan Photoshoots
- "Celebrity Sleuth" (USA), 2004, Iss. 36, pg. 18-19, by: staff, "The 25 Sexiest Women of 2005 - #21: Sanaa Lathan"
- "Playboy" (USA), October 2001, Vol. 48, Iss. 10, pg. 185, by: James Smeal, "Grapevine: Lovely After Basketball"
- "Maxim" (USA), May 2001, Iss. Special, pg. 8, by: Alexander Deutsch, "Maxim Hot 100 - 2001: #68"
Sanaa Lathan Other Works
- Appeared in Jon B.'s music video for "Don't Say".
- Appeared in Babyface's music video, "What If".
- (April 2004): Played Beneatha Younger in "A Raisin in the Sun" play by Lorraine Hansberry (Royale Theater, New York City, New York, USA). She was nominated for a Tony for her performance.
Sanaa Lathan Trademarks
Sanaa Lathan Frequently Asked Questions
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