SANAA LATHAN, February 1, 2006

Let go, let flow. That's the theme of the romantic comedy "Something New," starring Sanaa Lathan as an affluent black woman who falls in love with her white landscaper. And in many ways that's the theme of Lathan's personal love life as well. The 34-year-old beauty, who is currently single, spoke to The Associated Press about interracial dating on screen and in real life.

Why did you decide to take this role?

"It was a good script. I could read it in one sitting which is very telling. And I identify with this character and I know that this is a character we haven't really seen on screen before. We have not seen an interracial issue dealt with from a black woman and white man's perspective in this way. And, usually, it's a black man, white woman. I loved the fact that it wasn't about the couple being against the world or the couple against the family. I loved the fact that it was her dealing with her own prejudices that came up, her own guilt, her own shame and embarrassment about what her peers thought."

Have you been involved in an interracial relationship?

"I've been in a couple with different races like Latino, white, Middle Eastern."

Did you find any major differences between the cultures?

"Yes, there is. There really is a difference. But you know what? Everybody is different. I can think of three black men I've dated and they couldn't be more different from each other."

How does your family or friends react when you date someone who is different from you?

"People are going to always have their opinions whether you date a black man or not. I've had girlfriends, family members comment on black men that I've dated as well as white people. People want to see what they want to see. And if anybody doesn't fit that picture they're going to be like, 'Yeah, I didn't see you with him.' I remember after I dated this white man, nobody said anything but there was a couple of men in my family that joked after that. 'Oh yeah, we had a party when y'all broke up. Hee hee hee.' And, you know, they laughed, and it was like light and a joke. But, you know, that's real. That was real and they let me know. And, it's almost acceptable within our culture to be prejudiced toward whites because of our history. This country is loaded with racism... Like the guy I was dating. White, liberal, educated. I went to meet his family and I think that they probably didn't know they had a problem with it until he walked in with me. And they definitely had issues. Mom had issues with it. Could not, didn't want to see her son. And I don't think she had anything against me. But it was about her son bringing me home. And I felt that for the first time. I was like, 'Wow, that's deep.' It's really simple: I don't fit their picture. And then there was moments with him where like we would be in Harlem. There would be five brothers in the corner, and this is an awful feeling but you're holding his hand and you want to pull your hand away cause you don't want the judgment. And you're gonna get the judgment even if it's just in looks. And the black men are the worst when it comes to judging."

Do you think interracial dating is on the rise for black women, particularly black professional women?

"I think that has to be, it has to happen, if we don't want to be alone. Because you know the inspiration for this movie was this Newsweek article that came out a couple of years ago that talks about 42.4 percent of black women in America aren't married. Black women are shooting up the corporate ladder way faster than our black male counterparts. And (black men) are either dating outside their race, in jail or dying. And so if you want to have a family, you want to be married, you have to look at other options."

Do you think it's more acceptable for black men to date outside their race?

"I don't know if it's more acceptable or if black men are more comfortable. Black men certainly are more comfortable with it. I don't know that society, like white society loves it or black women. When you see a black man with a white woman there is a feeling that you have and I think the feeling is an instinctual feeling of you want her you don't want me. I don't look anything like her, so you don't like. You know what I mean? Something like that. It's a real instinctual primal thing. But then you think about it, you should love who you love."

Let talk about that. In the movie, there's this whole thing about IBM...

"Yes, Ideal Black Man."

And there is a list of qualifications, what type of job, how much money he makes, what kind of car he drives. How does this relate to your personal life?

"My characteristics aren't as specific. I'm more general. I'm more like, I have to be able to talk to him. You know, we have to have good communications. He has to be interested in the world. You know what I mean. Like interested in learning and adventurous and curious, 'cause that's what I am. He has to be passionate about something. And it would be nice if he had a job. It's not like he has to have an MBA."

There was an article in Vibe which mentioned rumors about you and Denzel Washington. Some people read your quote and said you didn't deny the rumors.

"I did deny it."

Are you officially on record saying you deny the rumors about your relationship with Denzel?

"I am officially on record denying the rumors."

In portraying Kenya McQueen, is there anything new you discovered about interracial dating?

"Absolutely. I think I'm definitely more open. You know the thing is I wouldn't have said I was closed before, but like, it's the kind of thing that you don't even think of other options. I've been dating black men for really, for like, I don't know, 10 years. You know, I haven't really dated outside of that. Now I think I'm probably am more open to the idea."

What are some things people can take away from this movie?

"I think it's very universal in that, first of all, it's a love story at the core. It's really about following your heart. It's about, you know, that life may bring you something that didn't fit what you thought. That could be anything from religion to class to even like a job. It doesn't necessarily have to be love but it's just about opening up and saying yes. Stepping outside of that comfort zone. Seeing what's there that might bring you your highest happiness."

-- The Associated Press

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