Sanaa Lathan

Sanaa Lathan

Born Sanaa McCoy Lathan
(1971-09-19) September 19, 1971[1]
New York City, New York, U.S.
Alma mater University of California, Berkeley
Yale School of Drama
Occupation Actress, voice actress
Years active 1996–present
Parent(s) Stan Lathan
Eleanor McCoy

Sanaa McCoy Lathan[2] (born September 19, 1971) is an American actress and voice actress. She has starred in many films, including the box-office hit The Best Man and its 2013 sequel, Love & Basketball, Brown Sugar, Alien vs. Predator and The Family That Preys. Lathan was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance on Broadway in A Raisin in the Sun. From 2009 to 2013, she voiced Donna Tubbs in The Cleveland Show. In 2010, she starred in the all-black performance of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Novello Theatre in London.[3]

Early life

Lathan was born in New York City. Her first name means "art" in Swahili and "shining light" in Arabic.[4] She is of African American and Native American descent. Her mother, Eleanor McCoy, was an actress and dancer[5] who performed on Broadway with Eartha Kitt. Her father, Stan Lathan, worked behind the scenes in television for PBS, as well as a producer on shows such as Sanford & Son and Russell Simmons' Def Comedy Jam. Her brother is Tendaji Lathan, a well known DJ. She attended Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics.

She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a bachelor's degree in English. Lathan then attended Yale University with a master's degree in drama.[2]


Following her training at Yale, where she studied with Earle R. Gister and performed in a number of Shakespeare's plays, Lathan earned acclaim both off-Broadway and on the Los Angeles stage. Encouraged by her father to make Los Angeles her professional base, Lathan found early television roles on episodes of such shows as In the House, Family Matters, NYPD Blue, and Moesha.[2] During that same period, she won raves and a Best Actress nod from the Los Angeles NAACP Theatrical Award Committee for her performance in To Take Arms.

In 1998, Lathan earned a degree of recognition with her role as the mother of Wesley Snipes' title character in Blade.[2] She followed this the subsequent year with a role in Life with Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy and back-to-back turns in The Best Man and The Wood. The Best Man was a comedic ensemble film, starring Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Harold Perrineau Jr., and Morris Chestnut.[6] The Best Man went on to become one of the top ten highest grossing African American films in history and Lathan received a NAACP Image Award nomination for her performance. The Wood, another ensemble film starring Diggs and Omar Epps, cast her as the love interest of Epps.[2] Lathan and Epps were reunited onscreen in Gina Prince-Bythewood's Love & Basketball, this time playing a couple as passionate about basketball as they are about each other.[7] Her performance in Love & Basketball earned her the 2001 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture, as well as an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Actress and a BET Award. In 2000, Lathan appeared in the Off-Broadway production of The Vagina Monologues along with Teri Garr and Julianna Margulies.[8]

In 2001, Lathan earned additional acclaim for her work in the multicultural comedy film Catfish in Black Bean Sauce.[9] Next was her second collaboration with Prince-Bythewood: Disappearing Acts; it is based on a novel by Terry McMillan.[10] In the HBO film, Lathan is cast as an aspiring singer/songwriter in love with a carpenter, played by her Blade co-star Wesley Snipes. For her work in the film, Lathan earned an Essence Award for Best Actress. That year, she was named by Ebony magazine as one of its 55 Most Beautiful People and was honoured by Essence magazine and Black Entertainment Television. In 2002, Lathan starred in the romantic comedy film, Brown Sugar, alongside Diggs, Queen Latifah, and Mos Def.[11] Lathan's performance earned an NAACP Image Award Nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture. The film also received an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Motion Picture. In 2004, Lathan starred on Broadway in A Raisin in the Sun with Sean Combs, Audra McDonald, and Phylicia Rashad. Lathan received a Tony Award nomination for Best Performance by a Featured Actress for her portrayal of Beneatha Younger. Several years later, Lathan reprised the role in a critically acclaimed ABC Network production of A Raisin in the Sun.[12]

In 2003, she co-starred with Denzel Washington in Out of Time.[13] The following year, she was cast in the lead role in Alien vs. Predator.[14] The film was a major success grossing over $171 million worldwide.[15]

Lathan at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Wonderful World

Lathan has acted in several roles in which her characters are involved in interracial relationships. In 2006, she co-starred with Simon Baker in Something New, a romantic comedy;[16] as Michelle Landa, the much younger wife of a Texas businessman (Larry Hagman) during the fourth season of the television series, Nip/Tuck;[17] and in 2008 as Andrea in Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys. The film also features Alfre Woodard and Kathy Bates; it was released in the U.S. on September 12, 2008.[18] In an interview with NPR, Lathan said the script took a fresh approach to telling an interracial love story, by describing the internal conflict some African-American women confront when it comes to dating interracially. "I feel like with black women, in a way, I feel like it has been harder for us to go there just in terms of culturally. I know that there's this statistic that says that like 13 percent of black men are in interracial relationships. And don't quote me on this, but it's like four percent or three percent of black women are in interracial relationships; and I think that says a lot about, you know, either black women's loyalty her black man or her either guilt about stepping outside of the race."[19]

In 2009, Lathan co-starred with Matthew Broderick in the drama Wonderful World.[20] From 2009 to 2013, she voiced the character Donna Tubbs on The Cleveland Show.[21]

In 2011, Lathan co-starred in the Steven Soderbergh thriller Contagion alongside Matt Damon, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Bryan Cranston, and Laurence Fishburne. In 2011, Lathan starred alongside Anthony Mackie and Forest Whitaker in Repentance, a psychological thriller directed by Phillipe Caland.[22] Lathan played series regular Mona Fredricks in the second season of Starz' original series Boss, starring Kelsey Grammer.


Year Title Role Notes
1997 Miracle in the Woods Young Lilly
1997 Drive Carolyn Brody
1998 Blade Vanessa Brooks
1999 The Wood Alicia
1999 The Best Man Robin
1999 Catfish in Black Bean Sauce Nina
1999 Life Daisy
2000 Love & Basketball Monica Wright
2002 Brown Sugar Sidney "Sid" Shaw
2003 Out of Time Ann Merai Harrison
2004 Alien vs. Predator Alexa Woods
2005 The Golden Blaze Monica (voice) Direct-to-video film
2006 Something New Kenya McQueen
2008 The Family That Preys Andrea Pratt-Bennett
2009 Wonderful World Khadi
2009 Powder Blue Diana
2011 Contagion Aubrey Cheever
2013 The Best Man Holiday Robyn Stewart
2014 Repentance Maggie Carter
2015 The Perfect Guy Leah Vaughn
2016 Approaching the Unknown Captain Emily Maddox
2016 Now You See Me 2 Natalie Austin
2016 The Best Man Wedding Robyn Stewart Post-production
TBA American Assassin Irene Kennedy Filming
Year Title Role Notes
1996 In the House Charese Episode: "The Curse of Hill House"
1996 Moesha Ebony Episodes: "A Concerted Effort" (Parts 1 & 2)
1997 Family Matters Allison Episode: "Revenge of the Nerd"
1998 NYPD Blue Shirley Barish Episode: "You're Under a Rasta"
1998–1999 LateLine Briana Gilliam Regular role
2000 Disappearing Acts Zora Banks Television film
2006 Nip/Tuck Michelle Landau Recurring role
2008 A Raisin in the Sun Beneatha Younger Television film
2009–2013 The Cleveland Show Donna Tubbs (voice) Regular role
2010–present Family Guy Donna Tubbs (voice) Recurring role
2011 Tilda Sasha Litt Unsold HBO pilot
2012 Boss Mona Fredricks Regular role
2014 Real Husbands of Hollywood Herself Episode: Rolling with my Roomie
2017 Shots Fired Ashe Akino Upcoming TV series

Awards and nominations

Year Nominated work Award Category Result
2001 Love & Basketball BET Award Best Actress Won
2001 Love & Basketball Independent Spirit Awards Best Female Lead Nominated
2001 Love & Basketball Black Reel Award Best Actress Won
2001 Disappearing Acts Black Reel Award Best Actress Nominated
2001 Love & Basketball NAACP Image Award Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Won
2003 Brown Sugar NAACP Image Award Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Nominated
2003 Brown Sugar Black Reel Award Best Actress Nominated
2003 A Raisin in the Sun Tony Award Best Featured Actress in a Play Nominated
2004 Out of Time Black Reel Award Best Actress Won
2004 Out of Time NAACP Image Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Nominated
2004 A Raisin in the Sun Theatre World Award Best Female Lead Won
2006 Something New Black Movie Awards Best Actress Nominated
2006 Something New Black Reel Award Best Actress Nominated
2007 Something New NAACP Image Award Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Nominated
2007 Nip/Tuck NAACP Image Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Nominated
2008 The Family That Preys Black Reel Award Best Actress Nominated
2009 A Raisin in the Sun NAACP Image Award Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie/Mini-Series Nominated
2012 By The Way, Meet Vera Stark Lucille Lortel Awards Outstanding Lead Actress Won
2012 By The Way, Meet Vera Stark Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Play Nominated
2016 The Perfect Guy NAACP Image Award Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Won


  1. Rebecca Flint Marx (2009). McCoy-Lathan Caples/ "Sanaa McCoy Lathan Caples:Biography on MSN" Check |url= value (help). MSN. Retrieved 2008-05-13.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "Sanaa Lathan- Biography". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  3. Sanaa Lathan Joins Jones and Rashad in West End Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  4. Biography for Sanaa Lathan at the Internet Movie Database
  5. Sanaa Lathan Biography (1971?-)
  6. Blackman, Lori (December 13, 2000). "Sanaa Lathan". CNN. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  7. Moore, Roger (April 21, 2000). "Sanaa Lathan's Got Game With Role In Basketball Film". Orlando sentinel. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  8. "Sanaa Lathan Joins Jones and Rashad in West End Cat on a Hot Tin Roof". June 3, 2009. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  9. Thomas, Kevin (June 9, 2000). "Catfish in Black Bean Sauce". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  10. LaSalle, Mick (December 8, 2000). "An Intelligent Woman In Incredible 'Acts' / Sanaa Lathan stars as a struggling artist". Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  11. "Brown Sugar (2002)". New York Times. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  12. Juarez, Vanessa (April 10, 2008). "'A Raisin in the Sun' Roundtable". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  13. "Out of Time". Internet Movie database. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  14. "Alien Vs Predator: Interview with Lance Henriksen & Sanaa Lathan". August 11, 2004. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  15. "Alien Vs. Predator". Retrieved April 16, 2013.
  16. ""Something New" (2006)". Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  17. Slezak, Michael (June 1, 2006). "'Nip/Tuck': Sanaa Lathan, Rosie join the cast". EW. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  18. Holden, Stephen (September 12, 2008). "Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys (2008)". New York Times. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  19. "'Something New for Actress Sanaa Lathan'". 6 February 2006.
  20. "SANAA LATHAN'S WONDERFUL WORLD". Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  21. "Voices of Donna-tubbs Brown". Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  22. "Forest Whitaker To Star In Voodoo Horror Flick Vipaka With Anthony Mackie". 2011-08-03. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
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