Lathan is also unofficially the mother of modern Marvel cinema.
In 1998, she starred in “Blade” as the mother to Wesley Snipes’s half-human/half vampire superhero. The film paved the way for live-action movies featuring Marvel characters to be taken seriously. And two years before “X-Men,” four years before “Spider-Man” and 20 years before “Black Panther” arrived in theaters, “Blade” featured actors of color in lead and supporting roles in a superhero film.
That remains a point of pride for Lathan.
So when her agent called with an offer from Warner Bros. Animation to be the super-confident, scene-stealing Selina Kyle/Catwoman in the bloody, violent and at-times hilariously sexually suggestive “Harley Quinn” animated series, a resounding yes seemed like the most appropriate answer.
“I want to be friends with [this] Catwoman,” Lathan told The Washington Post. “She’s the coolest superhero out there. She’s extremely confident. Sexy. Not surprised by anything. [Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy] are fan-girling over her. She just knows she’s a badass. She has the confidence that every woman wants and needs.”
Season 2 of “Harley Quinn” (in which Kaley Cuoco voices Harley) debuted on the DC Universe streaming service April 3, with new episodes available weekly. Last year’s first season was a critically acclaimed hit for DC Universe, whose subscriber base primarily consists of die-hard DC Comics fans. Lathan’s Catwoman arrives in Season 2′s third episode, which will begin streaming on Friday. She’s a master thief who steals everything in sight, including the hearts and breath of those who get near her. Even Harley Quinn’s BFF Poison Ivy (voiced by Lake Bell), who is usually the show’s most confident and self-assured character, can’t resist this Catwoman’s appeal.
Lathan says the transition from voicing a network television character on the not-intended-for-kids “Family Guy” to “Harley Quinn,” which has little restrictions and lots of f-bombs, was seamless.
“It’s literally just pure fun,” Lathan said. “You kind of have more leeway when you’re doing animation because [the audience doesn’t] see you. So you can do any kind of voice, any kind of character. [Voice-acting] is kind of the best job in the world because you can roll out of bed, go in your sweats and a baseball cap, you’re in and out and you know your job is done.”
If Michael B. Jordan is ever cast as Superman one day, it would be a historic moment for capes, but a Catwoman of color, however, is something Hollywood is surprisingly good at. Lathan is now a part of an elite sorority of African American actresses who have been associated with the villainess who occasionally dabbles in anti-heroism.
Eartha Kitt was Catwoman on the campy 1960s “Batman” television series starring Adam West. Halle Berry starred in a Batman-less “Catwoman” film in 2004. Zoe Kravitz was cast as Catwoman in Matt Reeves’s upcoming “The Batman,” starring Robert Pattinson as the Dark Knight, which was recently filming in London until production was halted because of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Lathan’s addition to this feline-trio makes it a newfound fantastic four. She’s especially fond of the association with Kitt, who became a close friend and mentor to Lathan’s mother, actress and dancer Eleanor McCoy, when she worked alongside Kitt on the Broadway musical “Timbuktu” in 1978.
“I was around Earth Kitt a lot [as a child] during [“Timbuktu”] and after,” Lathan said. “[She] was such a larger-than-life figure in my childhood. And being familiar with why she was the icon she was, and Catwoman being one of the roles that she played … I was just so tickled when the offer came in to play [Catwoman] because I just felt like Eartha was winking at me or something in some kind of way.”
Even after a journey from her vampire fangs in “Blade” to her new animated claws in “Harley Quinn,” Lathan says she’s still open to a new live-action superhero role if the opportunity presents itself.
“[Blade]” was the beginning of my [acting] career,” Lathan said. “I’m not stopping anytime soon, but I would love something juicy in a big ol’ Marvel movie or a DC movie.”