The anthology series launched April 1, with new installments available weekly (Thursdays) on CBS All Access beginning April 11.
Rod Serling created the original series, which ran for 80 episodes from 1959 to 1964.
Lathan stars in the third episode of the series reboot, titled “Replay,” as Nina, a woman who discovers her old camcorder allows her to go back in time and alter the past. This comes in handy when she and her son have a tragic moment with a violent and racist cop.
During her conversation with Vulture, Lathan opens up about the challenges of the role and what she’d like to do if she ever returns to The Twilight Zone. Check out the Q&A below.
How challenging is it to play a character who’s going through the same thing twice?
It was very challenging because everything was done out of order. You know, usually you don’t have the luxury of doing things in order, just because of location and budget constraints. We did everything out of order. For instance, everything that was in the the diner had to be done on the same day or in a couple of days. So you might start with a beginning scene and the next scene is at the end [of the story], and because of my character’s emotional journey, I had to kind of practice where she’s going to be and get there.
So, for me, it was a challenge, but it was fine. That’s the kind of challenge that I live for as an actor. When I read the script, I immediately called my agent, like, “sign me up,” because this is the kind of role.
I picture you having some sort of chart, where’s it like, “In this take I’m happy,” or “In this take I’m just broken.” Did you study any similar performances, like Groundhog Day, just to get a sense of what others had done in similar roles?
No, the script was so well written and I’m a trained actress. I studied drama. I’ve done lots of theater and I have many, many years of experience. So, for me, it was really just about diving into the character and starting where she is emotionally. Acting is a craft, and I think that, especially in America, we as a culture don’t talk about it. I think in England and elsewhere, they kind of give it a little bit more respect.
Part of the tradition of The Twilight Zone is having episodes like this that have a really strong element of social commentary. It that part of what drew you to this script in particular?
Absolutely. I mean, I didn’t know when the script came to me what it was about. I was so excited. I grew up watching the reruns of The Twilight Zone and vividly remember several episodes that kind of stayed with me. And so, the combination of that with Jordan Peele — who I think is one of the most exciting filmmakers out right now — I was just so excited to read it. And then I read it, it was “Sign me up.” This role was so juicy and it’s the kind of role that, as an actor, you dream about playing.
Was it difficult working with the now-ancient technology of the camcorder in this episode?
[Laughs.] I had to take that camcorder home and completely rehearse and kind of carry that camcorder with me for a couple of days, just get used to acting with … it’s like another character.
Did you have one of those growing up? I think you and I are about the same age, and when I see something like that treated as an antique, it makes me feel old.
I know. It’s so funny because I remember when those were a hot thing. I remember when Sony Walkmans were … I was dying to get a Sony Walkman. They seemed so advanced at the time. I think I had an uncle who had one, we didn’t have one. I wanted one.
When you’re doing a role like this where you are completely antagonistic to another character, do you avoid being friendly to the actor playing that character, like Glenn Fleshler here?
No, Glenn and I, we did Shakespeare in the Park together. We did Measure for Measure. We know each other, and I was just so thrilled. It kind of makes it great when you have that kind of camaraderie already. Especially if it’s an antagonistic, dark thing, because then you call “cut,” it doesn’t linger.
Read the full interview here.