Fresh off of her Emmy nomination for Succession, Sanaa Lathan has made her directorial debut with On The Come Up, the film adaptation of The Hate U Give author Angie Thomas’s second novel.
Lathan, Thomas and cast members Jamila C. Gray, Michael Cooper Jr. and Miles Guitierrez-Riley spoke to Shadow and Act about the film shortly after its world premiere at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.
“It’s not ideal to act when you’re directing because it does take two different hats, and it takes two different parts of my brain,” Lathan told us about helming the film and also having a key supporting role in it. “But I’ve been acting for so long and I really connected to the character of Jay. She’s the mother of Bri, and as a director, I was also kind of, kind of like a mom on set, especially to the young kids. So I felt like there would be an easy parallel with that. All in all, it was definitely challenging, but definitely worth it.”
The film is also a first for its star, Jamilla C. Gray, who stars as Bri in the film in her first lead role.
Comparing Bri’s experience to her own, she said, “I think that Bri had to grow up really fast, so even some of the parallels in her life still resonate with me now. [I’m] a little bit older than her age, [but it’s] about finding yourself about using your voice. But I did pull a lot from being in high school, especially as far as the energy that I enjoyed the youthful energy [of my character]. Having my first crush and my first kiss…it really was nostalgic for me and it was just so much fun to take myself back to 16 again.”
As far as what's next, Lathan definitely feels she will be directing again, but depending on the project that attracts her next.
“It’s interesting because everybody kind of wants you to choose, and honestly, I feel like I’m a storyteller– whether I’m writing or if I’m acting in something or I’m directing something or even producing something that is my purpose in this life,” she explained. “So I know for sure that I will direct again, it [just] has to just be the right thing that really speaks to me because it’s really if you’re acting in something, it may be four or five…six months, but [a] directing job is two years of your life and you have to put your heart and soul into it. And so yeah, I will definitely do both. And I’ll just be really picky to just make sure that I’m really passionate because it’s a big commitment.”