Sanaa Lathan has a long and illustrious career in front of the camera. Her acting career spans 25 years including some Black classics, “Love & Basketball,” “Brown Sugar,” and the “The Best Man.” In her most recent role, Lathan makes her directorial debut of “On the Come Up,” about an aspiring rapper Bri, premiering on Paramount + tomorrow and in select theaters.
“On the Come Up” premiered earlier this month at the Toronto International Film Festival. Based on the novel “The Hate U Gave” by Angie Thomas, the movie tells the tale of Bri, a talented 16-year-old rapper, as she tries to dominate the battle rap scene in order to support her family and honor the memory of her late father, a local hip hop hero whose career was cut short by gang violence. She is forced to choose between the genuineness that brought her this far and the fake identity that the business wants to impose as her first hit song goes viral for all the wrong reasons. “On the Come Up” will be available for streaming on Paramount+ starting Sept. 23, and will have a limited theatrical release starting on the same day.
In an interview with HuffPost, Lathan said she was excited to work on the film. She compared it to the excitement she had after landing her first leading role. “It was between me and like three other directors,” Lathan said. “But when I finally got the part of director, I cried like I cried when I got ‘Love & Basketball.’” As to how she got the director job while playing the mother of the movie’s lead character, Lathan told Variety that she “auditioned” to be the director. “There was a director who fell out, so they knew that they wanted a female director … That process was completely new to me but, as a Black actress in Hollywood,” she said, “you’re used to auditioning, so I was like ‘Okay, now what do I have to do?’ and I created a beautiful 30-page deck.” She added that once she got the director job, she just saw a lot of her past in Jay’s character. “I was kind of on my own a lot and was around a lot of addiction within the community and families, so addiction was familiar to me. Once I got the job, and I started thinking about casting the character of Jay, I was like, ‘Actually, this might be great for me to play because I can resource a lot of my past,’” she said.