Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Regina King On Her Directorial Debut, Motherhood and John Singelton’s Influence

REGINA KING Covers WSJ. Magazine's Dec/Jan Issue!

*Regina King is set to make her feature directorial debut with “One Night in Miami” for Amazon Studios.

Following its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival, the film has achieved critical raves — quickly garnering awards buzz in this year’s Oscar race. Starring Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge and Leslie Odom Jr., “One Night in Miami”… has been praised for its timely and effective performances. 

Based on Olivier-nominated Kemp Powers’ 2013 stage play, “One Night In Miami” is a fictional account inspired by the historic night these four formidable figures spent together. It looks at the struggles these men faced and the vital role they each played in the civil rights movement and cultural upheaval of the 1960s. More than 40 years later, their conversations on racial injustice, religion, and personal responsibility still resonate — via press release.

In the wide-ranging interview with the Wall Street Journal, King speaks candidly about her brush with Covid and finishing her movie during the Black Lives Matter protests. 

Check out excerpts below. 

READ MORE: Amazon Studios Drops Official Trailer for Regina King’s ‘One Night in Miami’ [WATCH]


King on finishing her movie during BLM protests & Covid:

“The work has truly been a welcome distraction. I find that…on set or editing, working on the music for the film [or] on the color, it forces you to focus on something else. Because everything around us has to do with the pandemic, who’s been in office, this election,” she says, two weeks before Election Day. “But as a Black American, that’s been the story before we were even born—of being marginalized people. That’s all the time happening, and the work kind of allows for me to escape it and not feel like I’m irresponsibly escaping it.”

King on winning an Emmy while wearing a Breonna Taylor T-shirt:

Like many Black Americans, King felt the fatigue of maintaining a professional visage amid violence. “The faces that we put on to smile and to succeed,” she says. “That shit is exhausting.”

King on having her son in mind when telling the story of One Night In Miami:

King describes the story as a personalized portrait of revered figures. “We meet them in places where they’re each getting punched in the gut and getting reminded of their blackness or inequities in some way,” she says. “I wanted the world to see Black men the way I see them, as complex, as vulnerable, as strong…as human beings that feel—who are not void of being hurt.”

King on keeping a focus on her Black audience without feeling she needed to please everyone:

She points to a pool scene of Cassius Clay that’s soundtracked to Donny Hathaway’s timeless cover of Ray Charles’s “I Believe to My Soul.” “I was like, ‘That’s for Black people! I’m letting y’all know now: I’m not changing that!’” she says, laughing. “There’s some things that are inside jokes that, because you’re not Black, you’re going to miss that joke. And in those moments, do you think, OK, does it matter to me if the joke is missed or that beat is missed? No, sometimes it doesn’t matter.”

King on her own brush with Covid:

With a preliminary acceptance to the Toronto International Film Festival and Venice Film Festival and two more scenes to shoot, she found herself in a time crunch when several test results, including her own, came back inconclusive, and they were forced to retest the sample. “I’m pulling up to the testing site [to do a second test], and they called and said, ‘The test came in and you’re negative.’ I literally started crying,” says King, who rushed home and immediately prepared to return to set. 

King on the late director John Singleton’s influence on her career (her first films were Singleton – directed projects—Boyz N the Hood, Poetic Justice and Higher Learning):

Singleton, who died in 2019, opened her eyes to the world of directing before she knew what it was. He was the first director who she felt spoke her language. “We weren’t that far away in age, and prior to that, probably every director I’d ever worked with was my parents’ age or older,” she says. “I was able to see directing from a whole different lens, and he was also allowing me to be part of his process.” 

King on her Broadway aspirations:

King eventually wants to act in a stage play. When she received offers before to star in productions, Ian was still in school, and she wasn’t ready. She is now. She figures she’ll enjoy both the rush and terror of theater, and so she consulted one of her favorite actors, Laura Linney, a four-time Tony Award nominee. 

“What do you have to give of yourself?” King asked her. “Because that’s the thing,” she says now, from the shadows of Zoom. “It sucks the life out of you. It takes up so much of your time. But it’s the most rewarding thing.”

 

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is a screenwriter and freelance reporter from Chicago -- currently living in Los Angeles and covering A-list entertainment for various outlets, including Emmys.com. She has worked for: Miramax, MTV & VH1, The Jim Henson Company, Hallmark Channel, Paramount Pictures, and for iconic indie film producer Roger Corman.

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