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Yale alum Sanaa Lathan talks about the craft of acting and her latest role in the recently released movie “The Contagion.”

Kam Williams | 9/14/2011, 1:39 p.m.
(Photo courtesy of Sanaa Lathan)Yale alum Sanaa Lathan talks about the craft of acting and...

Many very successful people have made it without an acting background and some are even proud that they’ve never taken any acting classes. But I wanted to be the best that I could be for me which meant studying drama at Yale, where I got a great education in theater after I was fortunate enough to be admitted. People may know me from films, but theater is my first love. I did about 35 plays before I even landed my first screen role. I’m very comfortable on stage, and theater is not something you can just wing.

What was the best career advice you got from your father?

Early on in my career, when I was frequently frustrated while going out for auditions, my dad [producer/director Stan Lathan] told me, “Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get a job. And always give it your best because people in the industry talk, and even if you don’t get that role, someone might remember you and hire you later.”

Are you ever afraid?

All the time! In fact, I believe that “fear” is an acronym for “False Evidence Appearing Real” and that when you have a fear, it’s almost a signal that you have to do whatever it is you’re afraid of. What makes you grow as a human being is stepping outside of your comfort zone.

Are you happy?

I am. I’m definitely a happy person in general, but I cultivate that happiness. I think that to a certain extent happiness is a choice.   

What is your opinion of how reality-TV shows depict black women?

I think there have been some positive portrayals as well as negative. One thing reality-TV is definitely providing for us is variety.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

I love going to the movies and getting Raisinets, a big tub of popcorn and a Coke. That’s definitely a guilty pleasure because I can’t be doing that all the time.

What is your favorite dish to cook?

I don’t have a favorite dish, although lately I’ve been eating a lot of salad in preparation for the premiere. I can make a great gourmet salad like nobody’s business.

Who is your favorite clothes designer?

Whatever looks good on me. [Laughs] I have no loyalties in that department.

If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

Wow! That question’s so good! That I could eat whatever I want and still be a size 4.

What is your earliest childhood memory?

I don’t know exactly how old I was, but I remember my mother playing Stevie Wonder’s “Song’s in the Key of Life” while I was sitting on the floor in our New York apartment.

What key quality do you believe all successful people share?  

Never giving up.

How do you want to be remembered?

I want to be remembered as one who left behind a legacy of great art that entertained and uplifted the world.

If you give me a good question to ask other celebrities, I’ll call it the Sanaa Lathan question.

How about, “What excites you?”[Laughs]

Excellent! I’m definitely adding it to the rotation. Best of luck with “Contagion.”

Thanks for such a refreshing interview, Kam.

To see a trailer for “Contagion,” visit: http://contagionmovie.warnerbros.com/index.html#/videos/trailer-1.