“It is politically incorrect,” Sanaa Lathan said of being slapped by Rockmond Dunbar in the film. “It’s wrong and yet these are flawed characters and it’s a filmmakers right to put in things we don’t agree with. It’s about telling a story. Yes, I think it’s wrong that Chris was wrong in hitting me, but I hear in the screening they were cheering.”
*Tyler Perry’s “The Family that Preys” boast a femme-fatale cast including Academy Award winner Kathy Bates, Academy Award nominee Alfre Woodard, Sanaa Lathan, and Taraji P. Henson.
The story follows two friends, matriarchs of two families, played by Bates and Woodard, who make a cross-country trip to rediscover their friendship and hopefully find a way to save their families from a web of greed and scandal.
Lathan and Henson star as sisters Andrea and Pam, who are at odds, while dealing with their own issues.
“I had a lot of fun,” Lathan said of starring as the rather evil sis. “I don’t know if it’s more fun, but I had fun. I want to play all types of characters and that’s one of the things that attracted me. We all have had experiences with this type of person. Maybe not to the extreme, but I’ve known people in my life that have been that ugly to people. We’re all human beings and we have many colors and that’s my job as an actress. I want to be able to do a range of roles, not just one thing. That’s boring to me.”
“It’s just fun stepping out of your normal shoes,” Henson added.
The cast also includes stellar actors Rockmond Dunbar, Cole Hauser, and actor/director Tyler Perry.
“One of the great things about this cast is that we all hit it off and it’s not always like that. We really had a lot of great chemistry,” Lathan said about Hauser, who stars as her love interest. “Cole called me when he came into town because we were going to portray this [couple] that had a history. So he called and said let’s get to know each other so it’s a little more comfortable on set. He’s great; he’s an easy going guy and we all had a blast.”
Dunbar stars in the film as Andrea’s husband Chris, on the other hand. These two certainly “hit it off” on screen, particularly in a scene where Chris knocks her to the ground.
“It is politically incorrect,” Lathan said of the slap. “It’s wrong and yet these are flawed characters and it’s a filmmakers right to put in things we don’t agree with. It’s about telling a story. Yes, I think it’s wrong that Chris was wrong in hitting me, but I hear in the screening they were cheering.”
Dunbar admitted that he worked through the scene pulling from his recent experience and divorce and told reporters that he was rather involved in the scene.
“The thing about acting, we do tap into our own emotions,” Lathan said. “Even if we’ve never been through something, it still touches you. Your brain doesn’t know what’s real and what’s not. That’s good to me that he was affected.”
Lathan said that she does pull a bit from her history, but she explained that she approaches a role and delivers, without any judgment.
“If it’s on the page, you just take from your experiences. I didn’t model her off of anybody. I don’t believe that you’re supposed to judge your characters. In my mind, when I’m working on that part, she’s not a bad girl. For me, it’s just playing the scene. It’s written and she comes out b*tchy.”
Henson’s character issues came from starring opposite director Perry. The actress said that initially, it was rather odd to work with Perry as he switched from director to actor and back again.
“When he put the wig on, he was Ben,” she said of Perry and his character in the film. “It’s weird because I’ve never worked with a director that is in the film. That was really odd.”
Although she says she’s always been a big fan of Perry’s, she’s never worked with the writer/actor/director.
“So I wasn’t thinking of Tyler the actor,” she said. “It didn’t click until he put on the wig. It took a minute for it to click in. I could see him getting heady, and it was just good to see him on my level. You put him on this pedestal because he’s accomplished so much and then you see him going through the same struggles that an actor does – he’s just like me.”
Having that perspective, Perry’s sixth film once again opens up another number of female images and opportunities.
“Even just as a viewer, I want to be able to see our stories,” Lathan said in appreciation of the roles Perry has created. “We don’t have one experience. We have a huge array of experiences and Hollywood doesn’t represent that. So it’s nice to have a filmmaker whose primary subject matter is us. You see how he is completely expanding into different areas and different parts of the community. And that’s refreshing. And he’s not afraid of complex women.”
The complexities of characters played by Lathan, Henson, Woodard, and Bates will hit theaters nationwide this weekend. For more on the film, go to www.familythatpreysmovie.com.