Though she’s starring in the psychological thriller Repentance (out this Friday), you won’t catch Sanaa Lathan at any movie with blood or torture. “I’m the girl who has nightmares and is checking under the bed,” she tells ESSENCE.com.
Despite being a “scaredy cat,” the chance to star alongside Anthony Mackie, Forest Whitaker and Mike Epps was just too tempting. Lathan spoke with ESSENCE.com about Repentance, facing her fears, and films that have left her totally spooked.
ESSENCE.com: Black psychological thriller, that’s not something we see a lot of.
Sanaa Lathan: No, it’s not, is it? We certainly love them. I know so many of us who are addicted to those kinds of movies. Not me though. I’m too impressionable, and I’m a scaredey cat. I also love that Anthony Mackie plays a life coach in the film. You never see a Black man doing that in a movie.
ESSENCE.com: I read somewhere that Forest Whitaker got ready for the film by reading up on bipolar disorders and mental illness. How did you prepare for it?
Lathan: My whole arc is really kind of about being swept up into the mistakes that Tommy Carter (Anthony Mackie’s character) has buried in the past. So really for me it was about being in that world and getting to know Anthony who is very easy cause he’s a great guy. He’s really funny. Between him and Mike Epps (who plays Mackie’s brother, Ben Carter) it was great. We laughed a lot off set, which is great because it is so intense on set.
ESSENCE.com: Part of the premise of the film is about having secrets and not letting your past shape you. Does your character Maggie have any secrets?
Lathan: She does. One of the reasons why I was so interested in the movie is there was a whole love triangle between Ben (Epps) and Tommy (Mackie). She had met Ben first and was dating him and then wound up leaving him for his brother Tommy, which was a real source of tension between them. Ben was the one who was troubled and wasn’t really educated. And Tommy was the more successful one. So there is that element too.
ESSENCE.com: The film also touches on the whole idea of facing your fears and not letting the past define who you are. How do you approach that whole over-arching theme?
Lathan: In life, I really believe in learning from your mistakes. And the best thing that you can take away from it is the growth that comes with it and the lesson. And so in that way, I don’t believe in dwelling on the past.
ESSENCE.com: What are some films that have spooked you over the years?
Lathan: The first one was The Shining. Then there was The Exorcist. Like, I literally will not go see these movies like Paranormal Activity because I just get too scared.
Repentance opens in theaters this Friday, February 28.