Sanaa McCoy Lathan (born September 19, 1971) is an American actress and voice actress. She has starred in numerous movies, including the box-office hits Love & Basketball, Alien vs. Predator, Something New, and The Family That Preys. Lathan was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance on Broadway in A Raisin in the Sun. In 2010 she starred in the all-black performance of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Novello Theatre in London.
Lathan was born in New York City and attended Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics. Her first name means "brilliance" in Arabic and "work of art" in Swahili. She is of African American and Native American descent. Her mother, Eleanor McCoy, was an actress and dancer 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 (now a DJ).
She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in English. Lathan contemplated a career in law, but instead enrolled at the Yale School of Drama.
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, the young actress found early television roles on episodes of such shows as In the House, Family Matters, NYPD Blue, and Moesha. 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. 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.
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. 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. In reality, the couple was also dating at the time. The film served as a break-out role for Lathan, who played a leading character instead of the girlfriend of one. 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.
In 2001, Lathan earned additional acclaim for her work in the multicultural comedy Catfish in Black Bean Sauce. Next was her second collaboration with Prince-Bythewood: Disappearing Acts; it is based on a novel by Terry McMillan. In the HBO movie, 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, as well as the added assurance of a very busy work schedule. 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, Brown Sugar, alongside Diggs, Queen Latifah, and Mos Def. 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.
Lathan subsequently starred in several major Hollywood films, including Alien vs. Predator, which was Lathan's biggest role to date. Alien vs. Predator was a major success grossing over $171 million worldwide. Out of Time was also an important role for Lathan as she played the plot-twist antagonist, sharing the screen with protagonist Denzel Washington.
In 2006, Lathan co-starred with Simon Baker in Something New, a romantic comedy about an interracial relationship. Lathan appeared in a recurring role as Michelle Landau in another interracial relationship as the much younger wife of a Texas businessman (Larry Hagman) during the fourth season of the television series, Nip/Tuck.
Lathan played 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.
Lathan with Matthew Broderick at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Wonderful World.
In 2009, Lathan co-starred with Matthew Broderick in the drama Wonderful World. She also began voicing the character Donna Tubbs on The Cleveland Show.
Lathan is currently playing the title role in Second Stage Theatre's By The Way, Meet Vera Stark by Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage co-starring Stephanie J. Block, and David Garrison closing June 12.
In 2011, Lathan co-starred in the Stephen Soderbergh thriller Contagion alongside Matt Damon, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Bryan Cranston, and Laurence Fishburne.