The actress lost her cool when she met costar Denzel Washington

By Gilbert Cruz
Updated November 17, 2006 at 05:00 AM EST

Your mind is not playing tricks — you’ve seen this woman before. Patton, 30, who stars alongside Denzel Washington in the time-warping thriller Déjà Vu, jumped from a small part in Hitch to her blazing torch-singer role in Idlewild. Seems you’ll be seeing her again and again.

Meeting Denzel Washington didn’t freak her out. Okay…it did.
”I tried to pump myself up before [auditioning], saying, ‘Who is this Denzel Washington? What has he done?’ Then you go home and every movie on TV is one of his.”

But working with Washington was ”the best thing that ever happened to me.”
”It was like being in the ring with a boxer. You didn’t know what jab he was going to throw at you. Suddenly you’re doing that acting that people speak of, which is truly being in a moment.”

Patton used to be a movie- and TV-production gofer. It sucked. Having acted at her L.A. high school (her favorite role: Abigail in The Crucible), she studied film at USC, and then went to work as a production assistant, with such gigs as Howie Mandel’s talk show: ”The hardest part about the job is you cease to be a human being. It’s just ‘Hey kid, get me this, get me that.”’

She earned her stripes behind the camera.
Patton has also tried her hand at directing and screenwriting, as well as producing TV documentaries: ”I produced for Medical Diary on Discovery Health Channel. In some ways, the stories were inspiring, because you saw people overcome life-threatening obstacles, but some of them were pretty tragic.”

Someday, Hollywood may be a better place, thanks to Patton.
”I would love to have a production company that has the power to do blind casting and make movies that aren’t so race-specific. I’ve been lucky to work with Jerry Bruckheimer [on Déjà Vu], who did the unthinkable by making an action film, Bad Boys, with two black people as the leads.”