Sanaa Lathan on directorial debut, ‘On the Come Up’: ‘It’s like I’m having a baby or something’

The actress is now excited about the film's release. “It’s time to deliver this baby to the world that I’ve been working on for the past two years,” she said.

Sanaa Lathan has been bitten by the directing bug. At least, that’s what she told theGrio ahead of the release of her directorial debut, “On the Come Up,” set to premiere this week on Paramount+.

Based on the bestselling novel of the same name, “On the Come Up” is described as a “love letter to Hip-Hop.” The film stars Jamila C. Gray as Bri, a 16-year old girl with dreams of mastering the rap battle scene. Rapping to support her family and to live up to her father’s legacy, Gray’s entire world changes when she goes viral and finds herself, “torn between the authenticity that got her this far and the false persona that the industry wants to impose upon her.”

Lathan is eager for the film to be released. “I’m so excited, it’s like I’m having a baby or something,” she quipped. “It’s time to deliver this baby to the world that I’ve been working on for the past two years.”

2022 Toronto International Film Festival - "On The Come Up" Premiere
Sanaa Lathan attends the “On The Come Up” premiere on Sept. 8, 2022 during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival at Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto.The film marks her debut as a director. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

She recently screened the film with an audience during its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. A “pinch me moment” is how she described the experience. “This is definitely a moment in my life and you never know until you get in that theater,” she explained. “And you know, people don’t lie!”

Lathan has been acting for more than 25 years but told theGrio that she hopes to continue sitting in the director’s chair, too. “It was really one of the joys of my life to direct this movie,” she said. “It was not easy. It’s very challenging, it’s very all consuming and yet it’s one of the joys of my life.”

Her role as director also gave Lathan an opportunity to cast her three leads (Gray, Michael Cooper Jr. and Miles Gutierrez-Riley) whom she said wound up being perfect fits in the film.

“I was so nervous casting them because it was still in the pandemic, so we had to do everything virtually. The chemistry between those three characters is so important and I was just so nervous and I lucked out, because they’re all still friends. They hang out, they talk,” she explained.

“They were so talented and so hardworking, any kind of direction I gave them they just immediately incorporated … they all have really bright futures. I’m really excited for them!”

“On the Come Up” premieres Friday exclusively on Paramount+.

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