Love & Basketball was a pivotal film in African-American culture. Both Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan did their best to bring the characters to life with their performances. However, could you imagine the movie with another lead actress other than Sanaa Lathan? Writer and director Gina Prince-Blythewood is spilling the tea and is stating that was almost a possibility as her audition left her unimpressed.
Gina Prince Blythewood appeared as a guest on Jemele Hill’s podcast, where she spoke on the iconic film’s process. She explained that Sanaa Lathan wasn’t the first choice during their interview. In fact, she revealed that during the film’s creation process, she had no intentions of casting anyone that couldn’t play basketball. Her reason for this was that she didn’t want to disrespect women athletes.
It was finally time for the audition process, and Sanaa Lathan appeared. While she admits that she was “great” overall, she says the audition was a “ridiculous” one. Gina Prince Blythewood recalled the actress’s lack of basketball skills as she’d “never touched a ball in her life.” Sanaa Lathan’s process was a difficult one. But, she committed to ensuring that she secured the lead role of ” Monica Wright-McCall.” Next, the New York City actress began to train with her brother before asking Blythewood to land her a professional basketball coach. With that, Lathan began to train under Colleen Matsuhara, who was the assistant coach of the Los Angeles Sparks.
However, Sanaa Lathan was going up against Niesha Butler, the star player for the New York Liberty. “She was the truth,” recalled Gina Prince Blythewood. Butler was placed with an acting coach under Blythewood’s direction, stating that she was “good,” but noted Sanaa’s acting background. “Sanaa [Lathan] is next level,” she said.
Gina Prince Blythewood recalled spending months making the tough decision and that Sanaa Lathan worked very hard to secure the part. However, she stated Lathan’s father mentioned the process was “abusive” because it took so long for her to decide. Blythewood shared that she even brought the auditions to Girlfriends creator Mara Brock Akil’s bridal shower to help make the decision. Check out the interview below to hear how Sanaa Lathan reacted when she received the news that she got the part. Her reaction may shock you!