Kriss Turner's breakthrough screenplay Something New proves to be a breath of fresh air in multiple ways. The film lives up to its title by delivering a deep, thought-provoking romantic comedy that deals with interracial dating. Surely, this is a far cry from the contrived Hugh Grant special.
Turner insisted that she was not inspired by real life events despite admitting that Kenya's character (Love & Basketball's Sanaa Lathan) had parallels to her own life. Instead, Turner threw out a number that she received from the Detroit Free Press, "42.4%." This represents the number of African American women who will never marry. The number increases exponentially when the woman is in her thirties and making over $50,000 per year. The number seemed appallingly high to producer Stephanie Allain. When asked why she felt the number was so high, she replied, "because men inherently want to provide financially for women."
Perhaps this is why the character of Brian (Simon Baker) works so well in this unconventional love story. He is essentially a gardener and a caucasian, but he provides for the African American Kenya in emotional, spiritual and sexual ways; all of which are more important for her than money. Although in writing the script, Turner originally intended for the film to appeal to professional black women (Kenya is a highly successful accountant), she quickly acknowledged the universal element to the story. As Allain stated, "the film can really be seen as a metaphor for dating outside your religion or your class, not just your race."
Much of the plausibility of the film stems from the remarkable chemistry between Baker and Lathan. Baker was admittedly nervous before taking on the role because he acknowledged, "My Australian background had not prepared me for confronting American social issues such as race." This mild trepidation was completely undetectable in the film, as he appeared to have a great command for his "fantasy-like" character. The two stars always appeared extremely confident in their skin, making their onscreen communication even more exceptional.
Something New marks director Sanaa Hamri's first film after years spent directing music videos. She made it a top priority to film in the upper-class black section of Los Angeles. It was important for both the director and the producer to showcase a portion of Los Angeles that is unequivocally black, but at the same time, a section which does not get the negative exposure of Compton or South Central.
Lathan has extensive experience with interracial dating and is quick to point out the double standard that comes about when a black man dates a white woman, as opposed to the other way around. According to Lathan, "when a black man dates a white woman, he is moving up. But when a black girl dates a white man, she is selling out." Lathan finds the double standard morally indefensible and feels that individuals are simply too quick to judge when they see an interracial couple. In addition to unveiling interracial tensions, Something New also seeks to enlighten the general public regarding the plight facing professional African Americans. The so-called "Black Tax" refers to the fact that African American individuals have to work twice as hard as whites just to gain the same amount of respect. Both Lathan and Allain acknowledged this truth, citing personal experience.
When commenting on the message of the film, the cast, as well as the director, both echoed the same sentiment: "Don't let Something New's comedic fa‹¨«ade fool you because underneath, the film grapples with serious issues that have faced American society for decades." It is this notion coupled with the vivacious, untraditional love story that is the essence of Something New.