Sanaa Lathan on ‘Succession’ diversity criticism: ‘Clearly they took the note’

Lathan plays Lisa Arthur, a high-powered attorney, on the acclaimed HBO series.

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Succession‘s newest star is none other than accomplished actress Sanaa Lathan, and she had plenty to say to The Hollywood Reporter about joining the acclaimed series, how she started off her acting career and more.

From iconic roles in 1990’s classics like Love & Basketball and The Best Man, to her latest appearances in shows like Native Son, Lathan has enjoyed a lengthy career before joining the Emmy-winning HBO drama. Succession follows the Roy Family, who own the American conglomerate Waystsar Royco, as they fight for control of their media empire.

Lathan depicts high-powered attorney Lisa Arthur, over whom Roy siblings Siobhan (Sarah Snook) and Kendall (Jeremy Strong) fight to have on their side of the family war.

HBO "Native Son" Screening
NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 01: Actress Sanaa Lathan attends HBO’s “Native Son” screening at Guggenheim Museum on April 1, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for HBO)

“I had a blast,” Lathan said of her stint on the series. “What stood out was the level of acting and writing, and I love that they let you play around with improv.” 

Succession, while acclaimed, has received minor criticism for not being very diverse. She quipped when discussing this, “Well, clearly they took the note.”

Lathan also opened up about her mother, Broadway actress and dancer Eleanor McCoy, who would bring a young Lathan to rehearsals. The Love and Basketball star grew up seeing her mother on stage in shows like The Wiz.

“I was in her stomach when she was a dancer in the original Alvin Ailey company…then she plopped me out and put me under the piano during dance rehearsals — I was running around backstage at The Wiz; I was around Eartha Kitt when I was just a baby,” she said.

Still, the 50-year-old actress did not immediately want to follow in her mother’s footsteps. “You always want to do the opposite of what your parents do,” she shared. After seeking a law degree, Lathan had a change of heart when attending Yale School of Drama.

“[Yale] made me really kind of admit to myself I wanted it and gave me the courage to pursue it,” she explained.

Screengrab via YouTube: Succession (2021) | Season 3 Official Trailer | HBO

Earlier this year Lathan opened up about how Succession also pushed her out of her comfort zone as an actor, as the set is known for relying on improv from time to time. She told Entertainment Weekly, “That’s part of their whole system…it’s so well written that you don’t have to do the improv, but they always give you a take where you can.”

She contented, “It’s scary-slash-thrilling, but sometimes really great stuff comes out of it. The writing gives you a great springboard to come up with ideas. I wouldn’t necessarily want to improvise if the writing was s—.”

Succession airs Sundays on HBO.

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