Sanaa Lathan: ‘The Best Man’ Helped Usher In New Era For African-American Movies

Sanaa Lathan sees The Best Man Holiday as more than just a movie.

The movie is the sequel to the 2000 film The Best Man, which featured the romantic lives of a group of college friends. While it did well at the box office, The Best Man also helped usher in an era when mainstream movies featuring largely African-American actors would grow in prominence.

It helped lead to a spate of other movies featuring African-American actors, including an entire studio from Tyler Perry dedicated to these movies.

“I think audiences, especially African-American audiences, were hungry to see themselves or see people that they know onscreen,” Sanaa Lathan told NPR. “And I think that this movie — along with some other movies at the time, Love Jones was another one – really depicted people that we know personally. And I think that now, once again, 15 years later, there’s still that hunger.”

Sanaa said she had fun making the sequel, The Best Man Holiday, and was excited to see the growth of her character.

“Robyn was kind of the outsider in the first one,” she said. “She and Harper were dating at the time. And she was kind of like really positive. I would say kind of like a hippie. Her feet weren’t on the ground. She didn’t really know what she wanted to do. She was kind of dabbling in jewelry. She was catering. And her life was all about Harper. In this one, they’ve been married for 10 years. She’s a successful chef. And she’s way more grounded. And she’s still the same essence that she was in the first one, which is kind of the glass half full to Harper’s glass half empty.”

This summer, Sanaa Lathan made news for a less flattering story. After rumors circulated that actor Denzel Washington cheated on his wife Pauletta by kissing a woman he met at a party, many media outlets dug up old reports that Denzel and Sanaa had an affair years before.

The two worked together on the movie Out of Time, and reports said they grew close and eventually the feelings turned romantic. Denzel was ultimately able to talk his way out of trouble.

“[His wife] confronted him, and once again he denied he did anything wrong,” a source told Star. Sanaa Lathan also stressed that she and Denzel were friends and nothing more.”(The rumor) got started because the movie had a love scene with Denzel, and people took that and translated it to real life,” Sanaa said in 2006. “They said I was pregnant with Denzel’s child, and people were calling my mother, saying I’m having his baby. It’s frustrating. People are going to talk no matter what.”

Despite the denials, Sanaa and Denzel Washington remained plagued by the rumors of infidelity.

But Sanaa Lathan has moved solidly past the rumors, earning buzz for her performance in The Best Man Holiday and a starring role in an upcoming retelling of Shakespeare’s MacBeth.