Omar Epps Says Love & Basketball Was 'Empowering for Women'


Confirmed: Love & Basketball is one of the most iconic movies ever made. To celebrate its 15th anniversary, Essence interviewed its two stars Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps about the film’s impact on my life.

I’m still waiting on the BET documentary that director Gina Prince-Bythewood mentioned during our interview for Beyond the Lights. In the meantime, Lathan and Epps shared some cool facts about their experience filming.

For one, Gina initially wanted a real-life basketball player for the role of Monica Wright (somehow I already knew this). Lathan says:

“…It was like Gina really resisted hiring me [laughs] and so they found every basketball player from all over the world to come in. The process drew out for months and finally they got me a coach from the L.A. Sparks just to see if I would improve. Then finally she gave me the part. I was just kind of emotionally drained by that time. I guess it worked for the character because she always had to prove herself.”

Lathan adds:

“Just last night I went out to dinner and these two girls came up to me and said they grew up on the movie and they are looking for their ‘Q.’ Who knew, when I was shooting it, I had no idea. To me I was just coming in everyday and doing the work. It’s one of those things that happen once in a while. Not very often does a film speak to different generations across cultural and gender lines.”

Epps spoke more specifically about the movie’s influence on women. Although his character Quincy pulled some pretty non-empowering moves, Epps says:

“I think it’s sort of that fairytale love story for women. Monica and Quincy had a real friendship and that’s the basis of every great relationship, which is really hard to do. It’s that fairytale where you grow up with someone, you know him or her as a person, [end up] taking their virginity, then she [moves on] and lives her life, he lives his. Then they go off to college. I think that part of it is timeless.”
“I just thought it was a dope script. It’s really empowering for women. Certain undertones of the film resonated with me also. I just thought it was fresh, I thought it was of that time and progressive and we hadn’t seen something like that.”

There’ve been discussions of a sequel, but according to Epps, Prince-Bythewood “has this you-don’t-touch-a-classic-thing and I agree.” And I agree.

If it did happen, though, Lathan envisions “Monica having a great career in the WNBA and maybe becoming a coach.”

Lathan says, “I think Love & Basketball is perfect the way it is. But it depends, like with one of my other films, Best Man Holiday, originally I wasn’t into the idea of a sequel but when I read the script I was like OK this makes sense, so it always depends.”

Image via screengrab

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