Sanaa Lathan is one of the most underrated, underused actresses of her generation. And that’s partly because, as she told me this summer when I interviewed her for another outlet, she’s next-level picky about the projects she signs on for. “You’d be surprised how much stuff out here is really bad,” Lathan said. “I’ve definitely been the bane of my agent’s existence sometimes. Something will be popular and hot, and I’m like, ‘No, I’m not interested, it doesn’t speak to me.’ It really has to be a story that I want to tell, or I want to see.”
Which makes today’s news about Lathan even more exciting: According to Deadline, the actress will star in an upcoming Fox series called Shots Fired, directed by close friend and regular collaborator Gina Prince-Bythewood and produced by Empire‘s Brian Grazer. Bythewood is the brilliant mind behind Love & Basketball (starring Lathan) and Beyond the Lights, both of which are incredible, seriously, stop reading this sentence and go watch them immediately if you haven’t. She’s regularly championed Lathan publicly and privately, encouraging her to hold out for meaty, complex roles (and sharing with me this summer that she was writing a mysterious part tailored for her). And here we are! Time flies when you’re waiting for somebody to tell you what part they’re writing for Sanaa Lathan.
Shots Fired, according to Deadline, will be an “event series” that “examines the dangerous aftermath of racially charged shootings in a small town in Tennessee. According to an earlier description of the series, a shooting involves an African-American cop killing a white teen in Tennessee.” It’s a timely, but difficult topic to take on in the current sociopolitical climate, to be sure; it’s encouraging that both Prince-Bythewood and Lathan have a history of making smart, moving art that deals directly with sensitive social issues. Love & Basketball, for instance, addresses sexism and double standards in sports and romantic relationships, and Lathan’s previously tackled issues like interracial dating and American racism in her films.
Lathan will play the as-yet-unnamed lead, “an expert investigator who digs into the cases, alongside a special prosecutor sent to the town by the Department of Justice.” Along with said special prosecutor, Lathan’s character must “navigate the media attention, public debate and the social unrest that comes with such volatile cases, as they seek justice before the divided town erupts.” The series premieres in 2016; taking into account Lathan’s crazy-high standards and Prince-Bythewood’s flawless track record, it’s most likely gonna be a good one. And, like, if Lathan’s special prosecutor just happens to be Omar Epps and the two have a lot of great sex scenes, I wouldn’t be mad about it.