Regina King currently can be seen playing Detective Lydia Adams on TNT’s drama Southland, from Emmy winner John Wells.
The actress has an impressive movie career as well, including such blockbuster films as Boyz in the Hood, Jerry Maguire, Enemy of the State and Ray, opposite Jamie Foxx, playing Margie Hendricks, Ray Charles’ outrageous mistress.
In her new movie Our Family Wedding she portrays Angela; a lawyer who is the best friend of Brad (Forest Whitaker), whose son Marcus (Lance Gross) is about to marry a young Hispanic girl named Lucia (America Ferrera). Between the two families vying to make it the best wedding ever produced, Angela appears to be the only levelheaded person around, except for the fact that she is in love with Brad.
I spoke with Regina at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills a couple of weeks ago about the movie and her series, Southland, which just moved from NBC to TNT.
Forest had asked you to be in a film before this, why did you turn him down?
It didn’t speak to me, and I think there were only a couple of scenes with Forest. I remember thinking, ‘If I’m going to do a movie with Forest, I want to do a movie with Forest. I want to be able to be on the screen with him more than a little bit.’ So that was part of it, and then when this one came up I was like, ‘Okay.’ But when I read it, I was like, ‘I’m not old enough to play that!’ But it’s Forest Whitaker, the opportunity may not come a third time, and it’s a sweet story.
I called my mother and she was like, ‘Well, your dad and I are 15 years apart, love does not pay attention to age or color or any of that, so if she’s like that, it just makes the story more rich.’ I sent her the script and she called back and said, ‘I’m glad you did say yes, I’m glad you called me.’
Now you’ve worked with Forest, was it all you wanted it to be?
I knew him from before, because Hollywood is small, but I really didn’t get the chance to know him like I did on this movie. But he was on my wish list of people to work with, he definitely had been, and still is. I want to be able to do it again.
What I learned about him is that he’s this laid-back man. He creates an energy that makes everyone feel comfortable without forcing it. I think he almost is uncomfortable if someone around him is uncomfortable. So I was able between scenes to get to know him and find out what he is into, what music he likes.
A lot of times doing a movie, especially when they’re dramatic roles, you don’t get the opportunity to do that, because you’re in the zone and need to stay near that zone, in between scenes, but with this the entire cast was able to get to know your likes and dislikes.
What was the most challenging thing for you in this movie?
It was probably the scene when Angela comes to Brad’s house and finds a girl with him. It was challenging for a couple of reasons. One, because that would be hard for any woman to endure, and two, it was really important to me to be the smart woman that Angela was.
So many women that I know have found themselves in a situation where they’ve had sex or made love to a man, and certain things were said during that moment, but a commitment was never made. But the assumption on her part was that, ‘This is my guy.’ And then a situation like this comes up, and usually in the movie we see the bitter woman cursing and yelling, slicing the tires of the car or slapping him.
Angela is a professional, she’s an attorney. This woman is not going to slap him. This woman is not going to call him a bunch of names. This woman is going to step back and say, ‘You know what? You didn’t tell me that I’m your woman, so I can’t come and expect to have preferential treatment. So I’ll accept that.’ So I made sure that I walked that line.
You like really strong women characters. Do you agree that there aren’t enough good meaty roles for women?
I don’t think there are enough. I think that I’m one of the lucky few who have been able to turn a hobby into a career and still enjoy it and look back and the things that I’ve done. I like my resume. I wouldn’t change anything, even things that on paper seem like they’re going to be great, and the final product, not so much.
I really feel like it’s more about moving towards what you want to see more of, than talking about what you don’t see enough of. So in my 39 years of knowledge and learning, (I’ve found) it’s much better to be proactive. I feel a lot of women that are in the entertainment industry are feeling the same, so you’re seeing more producers, more female directors . . .
With Southland, have you ever been involved with a project which has been handled so weirdly?
Absolutely not. But I never had the feeling that it was over for Southland. I never read critics, their columns or anything like that.
My publicist would send them to me and this was the first time I would read them. And I never saw a bad review. I’ve never been on a set where this many people really care about the great work. No one’s trying to be this stand-out celebrity. Everyone wants it to be great. So I never felt like it was over. New ones are coming on TNT. We’ll be shooting in June.
You seem to have had the misfortune of working for a network which seems to do nothing but make terrible decisions.
Just as an actor, it’s really sad, because NBC was such an iconic network. Brendon Tartikoff was there, it was the network that took risks. They brought us Hill Street Blues.
We’ve seen a lot of cop shows since, but I think Southland is unique in the regard that it creates this feeling that you’re watching something you’re not supposed to watch, you’re getting to know more about the officers behind the badge, it’s not just about procedure.
NBC would do things no other network would do, and (now) here’s a network that’s so scared to make decisions that they put a talk show on (the unsuccessful Jay Leno Show) during the narrative hour. That’s really sad.