On taking on the role of Vera Stark:
“It’s one of the things that terrified me about accepting the role and yet it was also one of the things that really made me want to do it. I believe that when you’re scared, that’s when you gotta jump in and go for it, because that’s how you grow. Vera ages from 28 to 68 during the play and at 68 she’s kind of a drunk. It’s a delicious, juicy role that I get to sink my teeth into and play every night on stage. Our theater is about 300 seats and I love the vibe you get with that kind of a smaller house. You feel like you’re having a conversation with the audience, which is wonderful.”
On making history come alive on stage:
“Well, for starters, I think the hair and costume people do a beautiful job. And Lynn Nottage had so much research material that she provided us with. The first act is set in the 1930s, so we watched a lot of pre-Code screwball comedies. And then in the second half there are two different periods, 2003—which I’m not in—and the 1970s, which takes place on a Mike Douglas-type talk show. So we watched a lot of YouTube clips of old variety talk shows featuring all those classic diva stars, from Bette Davis to Lucille Ball to Eartha Kitt. And, you know, the play is actually a comedy. Lynn gets her point across through humor; people are laughing during the whole thing and I love that. The play deals with racial stereotypes and the struggles of black actors in Hollywood through the years and she delivers that message with such a sharp comic punch that it really lands. You’re laughing and then you’re like “Wow—this is kind of sad.”
Most rewarding part of doing the play:
“What makes Vera Stark special to me is that it honors all of these black actresses who have not gotten their due. So the play is not only artistically and acting-wise a great challenge, it’s also a chance to honor women like Theresa Harris, Hattie McDaniel and Nina Mae McKinney. There’s a deeper resonance to playing this character for me, because these women’s lives are part of American film history.”
On the 10 year classic Love and Basketball:
“People come up to me everyday and say “I watch Love & Basketball over and over.” What I love about that is that it means the movie is providing something that they’re craving. It’s great to be able to watch a movie and have it give you a feeling that you need in your life.”
What’s on Sanaa’s IPod:
“I’m listening to Adele’s 21, Chris Brown, Musiq Soulchild and I just bought the new Lady Gaga album. And I love Beyonce’s “1+1.” It just gives me the chills.”
The full interview is here.
You can also catch Sanaa as the voice of Donna Tubbs on the comical TV show The Cleveland Show.
(Via Life and Times)