One on One with Regina King: Being Her Beautiful, Talented, Brilliant Self

by | Mar 7, 2005 | celebrities, Exclusive Interviews | 0 comments

Regina King was 13 years old when she earned a small part in a stage play called 227 at Marla Gibb’s Crossroads Theatre in Los Angeles. After the play’s successful run, it was adapted for television and King won the co-starring role of Brenda Jenkins (the daughter of Gibb’s character Mary Jenkins), a studious, well-behaved teenager who—along with a cast of lovable misfits—entertained TV audiences from the stoop of apartment building 227 for five successful seasons.

When the popular sitcom’s run ended in 1990, the 19-year-old King didn’t sit still for a moment—she immediately made the switch from television to film, appearing in John Singleton’s Boyz N the Hood, a movie that drew critical acclaim and set the stage for her to work with Singleton on his next two films, Poetic Justice starring Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur, and Higher Learning, which featured Omar Epps, Ice Cube and Tyra Banks.

In an industry where black actresses find it difficult to attract quality roles, nearly every year since she began her film career, King has appeared in at least one major motion picture and has co-starred alongside such box office luminaries as Cuba Gooding Jr., Tom Cruise, Angela Bassett, Charlize Theron, Will Smith and Jamie Foxx.

“It’s interesting because people think I’m constantly working,” says King. “But I think it’s just that I‘ve been really blessed in the fact that I’ve been able to do movies that leave a lasting impression. So if the movie lives long—like Jerry Maguire—people are going to be talking about it years later, and it seems to people like I’m always working.”

King’s list of film credits is long and impressive, but she remains both humble and pragmatic about her success. “I have been lucky enough that I’ve never had to do a part because I needed the money. A lot of people are in situations where, for whatever personal reasons, they felt they had to do a certain role. I don’t knock anybody’s choices, I’m just grateful that I have been able to say ‘There’s no way I’m doing that. I’m going to pass on that role.’ I’ve been lucky enough to not live hand to mouth. I don’t ever want to look back and say ‘Ooh, I wish I hadn’t done that movie’ because I’m one of those who say, ‘You do the crime, you got to do the time.’ Don’t get mad at it. You know you did it for whatever reason, and it’s gonna roll with you.”

Of the roles King has taken on, one she found especially challenging was her recent portrayal of Margie Hendricks in Taylor Hackford’s biopic about the life of legendary singer/songwriter, Ray Charles. “For Ray, they wanted me to read for the wife, but I wanted to read for Margie. It was the role that spoke to me. I’ve already done the wife. I felt Margie was going to be the role that was the most challenging. This was going to be the role where I was going to have to dig inside. That was a conscious move.” It was a move that definitely paid off for King. Critics called her portrayal of Charles’ jilted mistress “stirring,” “impressive,” and “superb,” and her moments onscreen with Foxx were among the most intense in the movie.

“To be able to work with Jamie like that—it was fun and it was emotional,” she reveals. “You know, it was like a dance, and when you finally see the dance, it turns out to be this beautiful piece. Everybody knew we were doing something special.” King says she never doubted for a moment that Foxx would win the Academy Award. “He deserved that Oscar,” she declared emphatically. “If not him, then who?”

Up next at the box office for King is Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, a colorful comedy in which she co-stars opposite Sandra Bullock as a grim FBI agent with a penchant for fistfighting. “Got to change it up,” says King of her comedic portrayal of the mean and mannish agent Sam Fuller. “Got to add another character to the repertoire.”

Regarding the physical preparation required for a role in which her character beats down a number of grown men, she explains, “I work out a lot so I was already physically in the right place for it, but I did have to learn some stunt choreography. Stunt choreography is like dancing. You have to duck when you’re supposed to duck. I was practicing with Sandy’s double, and I was supposed to duck, [but] I didn’t, and she was doing a kick and I caught it right in the head.” The beautiful and down-to-earth star shows her natural inclination not to take herself too seriously by placing a hand to the side of her head and joking, “Luckily that’s a hard thing.”

Punching and kickboxing is not the only stunt work required in Miss Congeniality 2. There is also an underwater scene that required King and Bullock to spend a substantial amount of time holding their breath. “The stunt coordinator said we would not be down there for more than 20 seconds at a time,” explains King. “When I first got in the pool I couldn’t hold my breath for 10 seconds, but during filming we were under and we came up and the director was like ‘You guys were down there for 45 seconds!’ It’s amazing what you can do when you’re challenged.” There is another challenging scene in the movie that required King to don fishnet stockings and a shimmering gold mini-dress, but curious fans are just going to have to wait until the March 24th movie release for that mystery to be revealed.

With Miss Congeniality 2 completed and on its way to theaters, Regina is currently working on another comedy project, only this time she won’t need to prepare physically for the role. “I’m doing Boondocks,” she explains, referring to an animated series based on the popular and controversial comic strip created by cartoonist Aaron McGruder. “It’s going to be on Cartoon Network. It’s a lot of fun. We’re five episodes in, and they are all hilarious.” King warns, “Some people will be offended. When you want to make people listen, you’ve got to offend some people sometimes.” She laughs and adds, “It won’t be the first time Aaron has offended someone through his style and his satire. I think he’s brilliant.”

Since the Boondocks project requires only voiceover work, King gets to spend a lot more time at home with her husband Ian and their 9-year-old son, Ian Jr. “It’s been great because I don’t have to do makeup and hair, and the recording studio is only 15 minutes from my house,” she says.

Throughout her career, home has always remained King’s number one priority. She admits it hasn’t been easy, but when it comes to managing a successful film career and a happy household, she has always worked to put family first. “I can’t say there’s a certain formula, but everything has fallen into place and works the way it should. I’m blessed to be in a situation where I don’t have to have a nanny. I don’t want to miss any of my son’s firsts.”

King takes her role as parent and role model for her son very seriously, but she isn’t just committed to her own child’s development—she’s trying to make a difference in the lives of as many young people as she can personally reach by visiting schools and talking to kids about developing healthy self-esteem. “I am addressing my young sistas [saying] ‘embrace your beauty and your individuality.’ I go to the high schools and elementary schools and I see them trying to emulate what they see in the music videos; it makes me want to cry—it really does. Unfortunately we are not represented well on television and in the movies and I want these young people to know that that isn’t all that we are—shaking our behinds in videos.”

In her career, King works hard to project an image that says black women can be beautiful, strong and confident—without taking their clothes off. “I try to encourage people in the industry to do it differently,” says King. “We all have a responsibility to try to create a better image. No disrespect to the rappers, but couldn’t we do a different video? I think it’s having a huge effect on young women. It’s creating confusion within them as far as their self-worth. When they see rappers looking at the girls like ‘Ooh you hot, ma’ they think that’s what they need to do to be hot. I want them to know you don’t have to be half naked to be beautiful. I tell them it’s hotter to have an incredible brain. It’s much hotter to be able to hold a conversation with anybody, any age, any color.” Just being her beautiful, intelligent and talented self, Regina King is a shining example of that truth.


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