*For nearly 20 years Queen Latifah has been a force in entertainment. Beginning her career as a rapper launching musical anthems such as “Ladies First” and “Fly Girl,” the New Jersey born entertainer and entrepreneur, now 40 has succeed where many others have failed in rising to the pinnacle of success in her craft.
As an actress, Latifah has earned a Golden Globe, two Screen Actors Guild, two Image Awards and a Grammy. She has also received nomination for an Oscar and Emmy. In business, she has also scored big via her company Flavor Unit, which manages artists and produces her projects that includes the new romantic comedy “Just Wright,” starring Latifah and rapper Common. The Queen recently set down to chat with the Robertson Treatment about her amazing career.
Robertson Treatment: How did you become involved with “Just Wright”?
Queen Latifah: Actually, it was something we just created from scratch. What we wanted to do was make was a romantic comedy that was both sexy and romantic and had some emotion, but at the same time wasn’t just a chick flick. And that had some action, some energy. And that’s where the whole NBA component came in with Leslie Wright, my character, being a big basketball fan, and a daddy’s girl. One of the ways that she and her daddy bonded was by his taking her to the games because he didn’t have a son. That made a really big fan out of her. So, the overall goal was to make a movie that was family friendly, but that at the same time had some action, some edge and some sexiness to it.
RT: What was it like working with Sanaa Hamri and the rest of the cast?
QL: Oh, man, it was amazing! Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to work with. It was a true team effort. There’s no way we could have done this independent of those two. Sanaa was the perfect choice because she had a great vision for the film from the moment she first read the script. We interviewed a lot of different directors, but her take on it was something that we appreciated because she assured us that she planned to bring a certain style and taste to the production, that it would be elevated and classy, and have cools shots that would make everyone look really good onscreen. I think that she managed to pull it all off, and I’m really proud of her.
RT: Do you think “Just Wright” will help revive the black romantic film?
QL: I think you definitely see true black love in this film. And I hope that it helps to revive the genre, but I can’t say whether it will be a catalyst for that. But Just Wright isn’t a romantic comedy just for black folks. I think anybody who watches this movie is going to fall in love with the idea of love again. You get to see a strong male in Common’s character, Scott, and two completely different female leads in my character, Leslie, and Paula Patton’s, Morgan. And we also get to see them sort of be family and go through the types of things many families go through, yet still find love in the end. That’s the realistic image that we wanted to portray, not broad stereotypes with one swipe of the brush. We’re painting our pictures as vividly as possible.
RT: As a black woman what do you find most challenging the range of roles for black women in Hollywood?
QL: I approach the film business the way I feel about self-esteem. It’s something that has to be maintained. That’s kind of how I feel about positive roles in Hollywood. They have to be maintained. You have to purposefully, intentionally try to make the right type of films. And the more people that do that, the more things will continue to improve. Absolutely!
RT: There’s been a lot of talk about you playing the blues empress Bessie Smith, what’s going on with that project?
QL: We’re working on that, Bobby. They’re writing that script right now for HBO, and we’re trying to make that happen.
RT: What cause are you most passionate about?
QL: I’m passionate about children, particularly, whether it’s education, HIV prevention, treating HIV and AIDS, or protecting young girls from being molested.
RT: Latifah, you’re such a beautiful woman, when do feel sexist?
QL: I do think I’m beautiful after I get off the treadmill, when I’m real sweaty with no makeup. That’s when I feel I’m at my sexiest.
BEST BETS: THEATRE – “FENCES” ON BROADWAY
Kenny Leon’s latest Broadway fete, appearing at The Cort Theatre in New York City, is his astounding and riveting adaptation of August Wilson” Fences”. This electrifying production set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1957 explores the intricate relationships and dynamics of an African American family during the dawn of the Civil Rights movement.
The play revolves around its dynamic central characters, Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) and his wife Rose (Viola Davis). We become acquainted with an African American male who projects an imposing yet endearing persona. He is supported by his loving and supportive wife. As the play progresses Leon masterfully introduces the full cast of characters. We become emotionally connected to them, individually and collectively as they interact as family and friends facing the challenges and struggles of this crucial time period in America’s history.
Leon’s brilliant directing enables us to vicariously experience the visceral effects of life for an African American family whose complicated relationships are rooted in love, respect, commitment, passion and fear tempered by racism. As the title suggests, this August Wilson work explores the realistic and symbolic effect of “Fences”. Is their intent to keep people in or to keep people out? This question is answered as the drama unfolds much like the process of peeling a red onion. At first glance you are intrigued by the exterior which appears to be round and firm. However, as you begin to peel off the layers, you realize they are thin but tightly connected. As this challenging task continues you begin to cry, but through your tears you persist because you know the taste at the core will be sweet and linger long after the experience. For an experience which lingers long after the event take in a matinee or evening performance of August Wilson’s “Fences” directed by the award winning playwright, Kenny Leon. Engagements continue through July. – Lauvia Sherman
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