There are moments when opportunity meets preparation and the results are blissful. The Urban Daily was able to sit down with the beautiful and supremely talented duo of Sanaa Lathan and Taraji P. Henson, two stars in Tyler Perry’s ever expanding cinematic galaxy – The Family That Preys. But these sisters from another mother sit down and breaks bread with The Urban Daily about being black in Hollywood, why black love is in a state of emergency, and answers who has the better smack – Rockmond Dunbar or Tyrese.
The Urban Daily: How did you feel about being in the movie?
Sanaa Lathan: I loved it and when I was asked to do a table read, I enjoyed it, greatly. I love what Tyler Perry’s doing in Hollywood. He’s a maverick onto himself. He’s creating his own lane and he’s giving voice to black Hollywood, so I’m just really proud of him for that. I was happy to do the read-through when he asked me. These are the fun roles to play. Who always wants to be the good girl all the time? I certainly don’t. Part of the fun of being an actor is to be able to do a range of characters, so I jumped at the chance.
TUD: Taraji – you play a married woman in the film – how was that for you?
Taraji Henson: It was quite strange because I’ve never been married before [laughs]. It was fun actually, really fun because I feel like that was the first character in my career that wasn’t really dysfunctional. That’s what drew me to the script. You know… the main thing is that I have to fall in love with the character. I felt I needed to do a character like that because in Hollywood, if you do a character really well, then they wanna keep you boxed in. My name doesn’t fit in a box, so I don’t know how you’re going to fit me in one. That’s why I did Boston Legal, after Baby Boy, I went to Lifetime and did a cop show because I didn’t wanna be stuck as some baby mama in the hood. I was drawn to it for that reason and in this movie, she [Pam] is funny. I really want to do comedy. That’s really my strongest attribute. When I got the call, they told me that Alfre [Woodard], Kathy Bates and Sanaa Lathan were attached and I loved it.
TUD: Would you say it’s a good time to be black in Hollywood?
SL: Well, Tyler is certainly making it that way. His studio is huge. You guys see that… He’s really on par with people like a Paramount. What he’s created down there in Atlanta is really awesome! He has the crew, the equipment, the drive and the passion to make it all work. He’s got it going on. I’m so impressed by him!
TH: I also wanted to work with Tyler Perry, but I wanted to do it at the right time. I felt like this was the right film. He’s trying out something new. I wanted to be a part of his new experience… and he offered it to me. I don’t get that much respect in Hollywood. I gotta fight for everything that I get. Nothing is handed to me and on this one, I was blessed that he wanted me to be in this movie.
TUD: Do you think that more opportunities will open up for others behind the scenes?
TH: I really hope so. Tyler has opened up his own studio and he’s starting to take on new projects, new writers and wants to look at other material. So, hopefully, yes… Hopefully for all of us, it gets a little bit easier. You just gotta stay optimistic. You have to believe that a change is gonna to come.
TUD: In The Family That Preys, Sanaa – your affair is also interracial. Could you speak on how that was to do and how it translates on screen?
SL: The thing that I like about it [the affair] was that Tyler never really mentions race explicitly. We’re going to see a white man, a black woman or a black woman and a white man, but I like the fact that these are two families. One is black and the other is white. It could’ve easily been two black families dealing with the same issues. Or two white families, one working class and the other one from wealth. I think the audience is going to project their own “interracial” connotations, but for me, it’s just people. These two people are having an adulterous affair, you know what I mean? They’re doing some dirty you-know-what [laughs]!
TUD: As a woman, Ms. Henson, how do you feel about black relationships?
TH: Ooohh… I’m so sad. I thought about this the other day because I have a birthday coming up. We are in a state of emergency in the black community. I can’t understand it. I have a lot of male friends who, when we get to talking, are like, “Well, you know… slavery…” I’m like, “Okay, you know what…? We all went to college. We’re all intelligent. We know our history. Can we fix it now?” Stop leaning on what happened way before you were thought of and focus on how you can change it. At some point – I hate that word sometimes because it’s an excuse – but “trying” to climb that mountain may be a start. At some point, you’re going to have to put your stuff down and climb the mountain.
TUD: So, you think that that’s a reason why we can’t get over things in a relationship?
TH: I blame it simply on immaturity. I don’t blame it on one gender or anything. As a woman, I will say that I’m open, willing and ready [laughs]. A lot of the guys that I come across are just very immature. They don’t want to learn. I don’t know what their fear is. I have a lot of male friends of other races and they seem to be raised with the understanding that you’re going to get married. That’s how they are. They think growing up that they’re going to meet someone and they’re going to get married. I don’t know where the breakdown happens in our families, but I do know that I’m raising a son and telling him to find a woman. I’m not going to be your woman, I’m the mother, so my son will have to grow up, become a man and find a woman who fits him right and he’ll make her his wife. He grows up knowing that.
TUD: There’s a scene where your character, Andrea, gets roughed up by Rockmond Dunbar. Ms. Lathan – how was filming on that day? Tense?
SL: It’s so funny that you said that because someone who saw the screening said, “That’s really messed up,” and I asked, “Why? She deserved it. She deserved that abuse.” He said, “There’s nothing she could have done to deserve that kind of treatment.” Not only does Rock’s character slap mines, he backhanded her across the table [laughs]. That’s a character’s moment and a character is complex. A movie is not about being politically correct in the story, so that day was really, really fun. We did a lot of takes on that day.
TUD: Taraji, if you had to compare which fight was better between Sanaa’s in The Family That Preys versus yours and Tyrese’s in Baby Boy – which one would you say was worse?
TH: I’d say The Family That Preys. Yvette didn’t have it coming [laughs]! I did attack him, but it was reflexes. He didn’t line it up and hit me straight up, you know…? It was kind of like “get off of me” and I was just standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. I don’t think it was his character’s intention to hit me.
TUD: With all these changes in Hollywood and in the country, if Obama gets in – do you think that that will continue to help things?
TH: I certainy hope so, but you know you just don’t know. When you’re overcome by fear — I was reading a book called Dear Lover and in the book the author (David Deida) said, “A lot of men, the reason why they don’t get married is because they have a false sense of freedom.” Freedom, to me, sounds like, “I can date this one. I can date that one.” But once they grow older and realize that it’s empty, they see the true freedom is in love. Being with your partner is freedom because you’re free to be yourself. You’re free to just let it all hang out if it’s the right person. That’s the true understanding of freedom. A lot of men think that if they get married, they’re giving up so much. But then I look at these guys and I’m like they’re all unhappy. When you have to deal with that loved one, that’s what a relationship will force you to do to not be brand new.