LOS ANGELES — When Michael Keaton meets other actors or others in the entertainment business, “or any business for that matter, I tell them they have to make a point of visiting Chicago on their very first visit to America.”

The actor said he often gets a quizzical look from those first-time visitors. “They think m’We have to go to New York. We have to go to Los Angeles,’ and that’s fine — both of them are great, international cities. Chicago’s also an international city today, but it’s also the quintessential American city,” said Keaton. “It captures the essence of what the USA is all about, and I like to tell people that, like me, if they include Chicago in that first visit they will never have a bad time.

“Plus the food. God! The food in Chicago is so good — and so diverse.”

In his new movie “American Assassin” (opening Friday), Keaton portrays a veteran CIA operative named Stan Hurley forced to train Dylan O’Brien’s Mitch Rapp to become a deadly black-ops undercover agent. His CIA boss was caucasian in the many Vince Flynn books that included “American Assassin” but in the film is played by black actress Sanaa Lathan.

Sanaa Lathan | John Shearer/Invision/AP Photo

“I love that in this film there’s non-traditional casting,” Lathan said. “I come from the theater and that’s what they do. You do it in Chicago, I know. It’s time for Hollywood to do that too.”

Lathan likes the creative lengths the city’s theater community goes to to produce new avenues for stage actors. “Once those lights go down, people suspend their disbelief. If an actor is doing a good job, people won’t care that a black woman is cast married to a white man in a role where race is not even part of the story line — when it’s not about a mixed marriage, so to speak,” she said. “We need more of that both on stage and in films and television.”

Her “American Assassin” character, CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy, is prominent throughout Flynn’s books.

“She’s the reason Mitch Rapp becomes who he is,” said Lathan. “She has an instinct, a feminine instinct that usually serves her well. Even though Mitch is damaged and has gone through so much pain, she sees something  in him.

“Speaking of Chicago, so many women I’ve met in Chicago — whether working on a movie set or a TV show or simply in a hotel or arestaurant — have been super intuitive. When I think of Chicago women, I also think of how in tune they are with their own instincts — perhaps evern more than I’ve encountered in women in New York or L.A.”