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Exclusive: Jamila Gray and Sanaa Lathan Highlight Black Women in Rap Like Never Before

Exclusive: Jamila Gray and Sanaa Lathan Highlight Black Women in Rap Like Never Before

The On the Come Up stars sat down with The Advocate Channel to discuss their groundbreaking film.

Following its theatrical release on Friday, new blockbuster On the Come Up has taken audiences by storm. Advocate Channel correspondent Rachel Smith recently sat down with the women behind the film to discuss their breakout hit, and its breakthrough for Black women.

Jamila Gray stars in the movie as Bri, marking her first lead role in a feature film. The actor revealed that the sudden success came as a surprise to her, as the casting process was quite rigorous.

"So unexpected, so out of nowhere," Gray shared. "I got the audition in February of 2021, and I didn't hear back until six months later. They looked through the other auditions and found me."

The movie also marks the directorial debut for Sanaa Lathan. Despite nearly 30 years of experience in the industry, Lathan had never directed a film -- feature or otherwise -- before On the Come Up, a moment she couldn't be more grateful for.

Lathan explained: "I have a lot of experience in front of the camera, but really on-set. I've been doing it my whole life pretty much -- professionally for thirty years. So, I'm a first time director, but I know a lot, I've had a lot of experience. And it feels so great that people are responding to the movie. I'm over the moon."

Based on the Angie Thomas novel of the same name, On the Come Up follows the story of 16-year-old Bri, who aims to become one of the greatest rappers of all time. With her family facing an eviction notice, Bri has no choice but to succeed.

Lathan is thrilled that audiences have connected to Bri and her story, and is especially proud of the representation it brings to Black girls and women.

"I love that this little girl is in the world of hip hop," Lathan said. "She's something that we haven't really seen much of, and this is such a great time for female rappers and emcees. It's about time."

Gray agreed, praising the cast and crew for the momentous breakthrough. She said,

"I think it's amazing to be apart of something that's led by Black women, written by Black women, and starring Black women."

Check out the full interview below.

Catch On the Come Up in theaters or streaming on Paramount+.

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