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 U.N.I.T.Y., the New Jersey-born entertainer and entrepreneur, now 40, has succeed where many others have failed. As an actress, Latifah has earned a Golden Globe, two Screen Actors Guild, and two Image Awards. She has also received nominations for an Oscar and Emmy. In business, she has 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 the rapper Common. The Queen recently sat down to chat with writer Gil Robertson (of the Robertson Treatment), about her multifaceted career.
Gil Robertson: 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 wasnt just a chick flick. And that had some action, some energy. And thats where the whole NBA component came in with Leslie Wright, my character, being a big basketball fan, and a daddys girl. One of the ways that she and her daddy bonded was by his taking her to the games because he didnt 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.
What was it like working with Sanaa Hamri and the rest of the cast?
Oh, man, it was amazing! Honestly, I couldnt have asked for a better group of people to work with. It was a true team effort. Theres 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 Im really proud of her.
Do you think Just Wright will help revive the black romantic film?
I think you definitely see true black love in this film. And I hope that it helps to revive the genre, but I cant say whether it will be a catalyst for that. But Just Wright isnt 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 Commons character, Scott, and two completely different female leads in my character, Leslie, and Paula Pattons, 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. Thats the realistic image that we wanted to portray, not broad stereotypes with one swipe of the brush. Were painting our pictures as vividly as possible.
As a black woman what do you find most challenging the range of roles for black women in Hollywood?
I approach the film business the way I feel about self-esteem. Its something that has to be maintained. Thats 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!
Theres been a lot of talk about you playing the blues empress Bessie Smith, whats going on with that project?
Were working on that. Theyre writing that script right now for HBO, and were trying to make that happen.
What cause are you most passionate about?
Im passionate about children, particularly, whether its education, HIV prevention, treating HIV and AIDS, or protecting young girls from being molested.
Gil Robertson IV