THS Interview: Sanaa Lathan Talks ‘Repentance’

Sanaa Lathan

Philippe Caland’s Repentance, starring Sanaa Lathan, Anthony Mackie and Forest Whitaker, places a psychotic twist to the phrase, “family drama.” The suspenseful horror tells the tale of an author and life coach (Mackie) who takes on a troubled client (Whitaker), unaware that the man’s fixation on his mother’s death will endanger his life, as well as those around him.

We caught up with Sanaa Lathan, who plays said fictional author’s wife, to chat about her own fear of horror flicks, what life was like on a tense set and her future projects. –Starrene Rhett Rocque

You mentioned in another interview that scary movies freak you out, so talk about that and explain what attracted you to this project.

Acting in a scary movie is different from watching it. I love acting in scary movies because it’s kind of fun. I just love acting, so whatever it’s gonna bring whether it’s comedy, romance, terror, I’m always down for that but if I watch a scary movie I’m the person whose checking under the bed, the closet, having nightmares; I’m really impressionable when it comes to those kind of movies so I try to stay away but this one in particular is pretty chilling and I know a lot of people who get a fix off those thrillers.


Speaking of chilling, I know that Forest Whitaker is an actor but he’s really good at playing a creep.

[Laughs]. It’s really amazing to watch him, even when you’re shooting, because he’s 1,000% focused. I really admire his work ethic, and you see why he consistently gives these great performances because he gives everything.

Talk about the character that you play.

I play Maggie, who is the loving wife of Anthony Mackie. She’s a yoga teacher and she gets swept up into this repentance that he basically had to go through for the secrets that he’s buried in the past.

Give me three really cool facts about the movie. It can be anything.

We shot in august in New Orleans, so it felt like doing a movie in a steam room [Laughs]. It was very challenging but we also had a great time. Mike Epps and Anthony Mackie are some of the funniest people I know and there was lots of laughter off the set, which is great when you’re working on such a heavy subject, you need that.

Why do you think there’s been such a resurgence in Black film coming to the mainstream and more seeming openness to explore other genres for Black actors?

I think it all comes down to dollars and cents. We’ve always had the audiences but thank God, there was a perfect storm of a couple of movies coming out that I think surprised Hollywood. We weren’t even on the radar and then we’re number one and number two and hitting numbers that Hollywood has to take notice. Hollywood is run off that green, so they’re gonna make more because they realize there’s an audience.

We’ll be seeing you in a sci-fi flick soon, right?

Yes. I’m doing a movie called Ad Inexplorata and it’s basically about astronauts on a one-way trip to Mars. It’s very poetic and it comes out at Sundance and I’m working with brilliant people. Mark Elijah is a brilliant British director. It’s great so you’ll get to see that some time this year.

Going back to your current project, what do you hope viewers take away from Repentance?

I try not to be specific about that because I know that everyone sitting in that theater with different points of view are going whether it’s just entertainment, an escape or if they’re somehow enlightened by some area in their life then great. I do want people to take something away from it but at the very least people will be scared definitely on the edge of their seat.

Repentance is in theaters nationwide on February 28.

About the author

Starrene Rhett Rocque is co-founder of The Hollywood Shuffle. She's an experienced entertainment journalist based in Brooklyn, New York.