With an acting career spanning four decades and multiple awards and nominations, Regina King has effortlessly embodied countless memorable characters across the big and small screens.
From thought provoking films like Boyz n the Hood, Poetic Justice, Jerry Maguire and Ray; to lighter fare like the Legally Blonde and Miss Congeniality franchises, Regina King brings a special sparkle to every role she’s tackled. On the small screen, King’s presence in past television series like Southland, The Boondocks, The Leftovers, Shameless, and her Emmy- winning turn in American Crime, have highlighted some of the more significant social issues of our time, both with ironic humor and with poignant drama. Wherever art is imitating life in a significant way, Regina King has been tapped to play a pivotal role in the project.
What audiences may not know is that King is also an accomplished television director, with a growing resume of credits including smash hit television shows from Scandal and Greenleaf to The Good Doctor and This Is Us.
Her most recent Emmy-nominated performance as Latrice Butler, grieving mother of a teenage son who is the victim of a death by auto, hit and run by a group of Jersey City police officers, is a true tour de force and a defining role in a long and treasured career.
TME: What drew you to playing Latrice Butler in Seven Seconds?
Regina King: I was actually drawn to the role of [prosecutor] KJ Harper (played by Clare-Hope Ashitey), and [series creator] Veena Sud was sure that she wanted me for the role of Latrice. I liked the pilot script and decided to take that dive into the emotional pool.
TME: You play the mother of a teenage boy who is killed by a police officer. What was your creative process in tackling such an intense role?
Regina King: Being a mother myself, and the mother of a black young man, there are certain fears you have that are unique to having a black child in America. You have fears as a parent when your kids are growing up, because you can’t control everything. But there are those experiences that are specific to black children that are not the same for others. You experience a bit of it, yourself, as a child growing up in America. Unfortunately, it’s our culture and something you grow up with. You then carry that perspective with you throughout your life. So, I had that going into this role. I also spoke to a mother whose son was murdered by a police officer. Hearing her pain up close and personal, and her feeling safe enough to share it with me, I would say that combination of things was how Latrice was birthed into Seven Seconds.
TME: Is the story a fictional account or based on true events?
Regina King: It was based on the truth as far as the regard for black American kids and the law, and how they are regarded in America. That part of it is true, of course. So many examples have had similar outcomes to this story, but it was not taken from one specific person’s story.
TME: While you were shooting Seven Seconds, did you think about the parents of Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and so many young men who’ve lost their lives in similar circumstances? And did you feel a responsibility to reflect these parents’ pain in your performance?
Regina King: There was a responsibility to accurately portray their pain, their lives, and their stories, absolutely.
TME: Do you think a series like Seven Seconds has the power to impact hearts and minds for change, or to simply reflect what is going on in society?
Regina King: I think both. What’s reflective for me is not reflective for you. Seeing it in a television show or in a movie creates an opportunity for each of us to see the other’s perspective. I feel that the series American Crime (the ABC series for which King won an Emmy) was very similar in that way.
TME: Do you take a role like this home with you?
Regina King: I tried not to take it home with me. But again, a bit of this lives with you. It is the narrative of a part of the fabric of what America is. Unfortunately, you are always living it. It took a lot out of me; I’ll be honest. It was the closest to an experiential role I’ve ever had. I’ve known people who have been victims of police brutality, but no one who was closer than a friend or a distant family member. Because it was a friend or a distant family member, I wasn’t with them in their day-to-day struggle of what that experience brings. You go through life hoping that you never personally have an experience like that, but you know that the odds are greater than not that you will, because of who you are. It’s crazy to even say this, but you feel blessed or lucky that your child has made it to twenty-two (King is referring to her 22-year-old son, Ian).
TME: What is so remarkably upsetting about your statement is that even if you are regarded by society as successful, you are thanking God that your son has made it to the age of twenty-two.
Regina King: Made it to twenty-two without having a criminal record, and without having an experience with the police where you may not survive; you may not come home. Unfortunately, that is something you feel gratitude for. He has had an experience with the police pulling him over, and him having to sit down on the curb. He was let go after they ran his license plate and his ID. He was pulled over for being nineteen and driving his girlfriend home. That’s not a normal reason to be pulled over.
TME: Let’s talk about your most recent Emmy nomination for Seven Seconds. Now that you have an Emmy win from 2015’s American Crime, is the pressure off somewhat for this upcoming ceremony, or are the nervous butterflies still there? And what’s the feeling in your body when you’re sitting there listening to the names of the nominees being called out?
Regina King: All three times being nominated felt different. But there is nothing like the first anything, right? It’s totally surreal. The second time is kind of like, “Nah-uh, really?! How did I find a hundred-dollar bill again in the exact same place?!” It’s one of those feelings. Not to be frivolous about it, but it’s like, what are the odds?
TME: I don’t think it’s a luck thing. You really are such a gifted actor, and your performance in Seven Seconds was a tour de force.
Regina King: Well, I mean, what are the odds of walking by that same corner again and finding that same bill?
TME: Do you let that stuff, like awards and accolades, or critics, shape you at all? Do you ever find yourself being very conscious of, “What are the critics going to think?” “What are the nominating committees going to think?”
Regina King: First and foremost, I’m focused on doing good work. I’m not thinking, “Ooh, this is gonna get me an Emmy!” (Laughs)
TME: (Laughs) There are people like that in your business. You know that, right?
Regina King: I joke, but yes, I know! The first time, I wasn’t even in the Television Academy. Becoming a member of the Television Academy and knowing all that goes into voting, with all the material that’s out there, it’s a lot. Since my last name starts with a “K,” I fall right in the middle of all the names.
When you’re voting, and you see all the titles of the shows and the people’s names, first it starts with the Z’s and then it goes all the way to the A’s. Then the next category starts with the A’s and goes all the way to the Z’s, in that same pattern. So, I don’t take it lightly that someone was able to get to “K” for King and get to “S” for Seven Seconds. I don’t take that lightly, that not only did they make it that far, but they made it that far and they watched and stayed. I don’t take that lightly because those are my peers.
TME: What do you see as your higher purpose in all that you do, from parenting your son to your work. And what spiritual philosophy do you subscribe to?
Regina King: Overall, just trying to walk in my truth. I recently did a panel talk (Entertainment Weekly’s Women Who Kick Ass Comic Con Panel) and [actress] Chloe Bennet said something that I definitely subscribe to. She said, “At this moment in time I can feel a certain way and say a certain thing, and then in 2022 I might contradict that just because I’m in a different place at that point.” For me, I can only be in my truth right now, in this moment. If I am walking in that truth, if I share an opinion right now about something, in the year 2022 I will not say, “I didn’t say that in 2018.” I would know I said it, because in that moment it was true for me.
TME: Right.You would say, that was me then. I saw this beautiful tribute on your Instagram feed to actress Marla Gibbs. Marla gave you your first big job playing her daughter on the show 227, when you were fourteen years old. You thanked her for all that she did for you as a mentor. You say, among many other things, “She taught me how to be a professional.” I want to ask you about some other influential people you’ve worked with over the years, and what your takeaway was from working with these people. Let’s start with Tupac Shakur, who you worked with in 1993’s Poetic Justice.
Regina King: I would say he’s a man that walked in his truth. Man, did he ever. That would be the biggest takeaway, in that he was just unapologetic, and it was beautiful.
TME: And working with Tom Cruise in 1996’s Jerry Maguire?
Regina King: An example of a consummate professional. If you hear anybody say that they don’t like that guy, hmmm, I don’t know. I’d have to go back and look in the books on that person. He’s a good guy, and he is a professional. He is that same example of what Marla [Gibbs] was, and I saw from him that it exists when you’re on that mega level.
TME: And working with Jamie Foxx in 2004’s Ray?
Regina King: Jamie is super talented. The first thing that came to my mind when you said “Jamie,” is that he’s a caring guy. He takes great care with things that he does, and with the people that he works with. That’s the reason why he’s so good at embodying a character, because he takes care with the details.
TME: I also came across a picture you posted with your son. You were waiting in line together to vote in the June primaries, and it was his first time voting. Finish this sentence for me: “I hope that in my son’s lifetime…”
Regina King: The first thing that came to my mind is that he wants to have children, but he goes back and forth between asking if it’s irresponsible to bring children into this world. And I see where he is coming from with that.
TME: Tell him that you have great faith in the next generation to lift the consciousness of this planet.
Regina King: Oh, I tell him that all the time, that I have great faith in him and his generation. Literally, from year to year with the conversations that we have, it goes from, “When I have kids,” to, “Man, I don’t know if I want to bring a kid into all this.” Just because of certain things that happen in the world. It’s the same reason you don’t want to turn on the news half the time.
TME: If there’s one thing the kids from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, showed me, it’s that with the younger generations coming up there is a different level of consciousness, and it gives me great hope.
Regina King: What I love is that they’re able to articulate their passion in a way that is open. Whereas, I feel like a lot of our generation, we weren’t able to articulate our anger as effectively. There is a maturity present with the younger generation, but they still have that passion. It makes me more confident in what they can accomplish.
Catch Regina King’s Emmy-nominated performance in the limited series, Seven Seconds, streaming now on Netflix. Follow her on Instagram @iamreginaking and on Twitter @reginaking.
Midnight Mass: The Blood of Life
The isolated island community of Crockett receives a mysterious new head priest, full of secrets and a brand new testament under a very unusual Messenger of God.
Meet poor Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford), freshly released from prison and wracked with guilt over what got him there, a stupid drinking accident that caused the death of his ex-girlfriend. The last thing he wants to do is go back to Crockett and the judgment of the mostly religious community there, his disappointed family, and the nightmares of his ex’s death that plague him. But where else would have him? Resignedly on the ferry, he goes.
Riley’s dad Ed (Henry Thomas) isn’t the kind of man who talks very much at all, much less about his feelings, or his very real disappointment in his elder son. Riley’s teen brother Warren (Igby Rigney) has no idea what to say to him either, and just generally keeps mum. Riley’s mom Annie (Kristin Lehman) is accepting and loving, hesitant in how to help her eldest son but never wavering in her faith in the help of our lord Jesus. Mom seems to think a good heaping dose of the Church would set Riley right but is surprised to learn that the old priest of the Parish, Pruitt, has taken an extended leave of absence from the island, and his newcomer replacement Father Paul (Hamish Linklater) is young, charismatic, and bursting at the seams to tell the whole island about the gifts he brought them, most especially what he claims as a new testament under a messenger of God.
We’ll get back to that whole ball of issues in a moment, the other interesting characters of Crockett Island. Bev Keane (Samantha Sloyan) is the nightmarish overly polite and gently, almost lovingly condescending neighbor Christian woman you’ve ever loathed, the kind of person who explains away every last thing her Church may do wrong or contradictory because, after all, God works in mysterious ways. Pfft. Of course, Bev immediately ingratiates herself as the second to the new Father Paul in their services and is the first to start covering up his transgressions as they become more rampant.
Newcomers to Crockett Sheriff Hassan (Rahul Kohli) and his son Ali (Rahul Abburi) present a burgeoning problem to the plans of Father Paul and his shadowy companion, for they are both practicing Muslims. The practical side of investigating these so-called ‘miracles’ and strange happenings falls on Hassan’s shoulders, as he already struggles with barely-concealed racism and suspicion from his fellow islanders, and of course his son is being wooed away from him by the promise of actual, tangible miracles, but from a different whole faith and God. Father Paul definitely does not practice a traditional Christian faith and relies far too much on making use of the eucharist, the ceremony of the blood and flesh of Jesus Christ turning into bread and wine and, well, consumed.
Wade (Michael Trucco) and his wife Dolly (Crystal Balint) are lifers of the island and both in general interested in one thing, the advancement of their own family, specifically their daughter Leeza (Annarah Cymone), who happens to be in a wheelchair. And that happens to be the canny Father Paul’s first real miracle-with-a-cost that he demonstrates to the astonishment of the parishioners, after a heartfelt and rousing sermon, Father Paul commands Leeza to rise, to stand, and to walk. And lo, she does. What parents wouldn’t wholly dedicate themselves to a cause after seeing this happen to their beloved precious daughter? The fringe benefits of healing, and power, the ones that come at a mighty, currently unnamed, cost, are simply a nice bonus.
Joe Collie (Robert Longstreet) is the town drunk, and while his reasons for drowning his sorrows in the sauce might be understandable, absolution wears a very different face when it comes from Father Paul. While Leeza might be willing to forgive Joe, and even as Joe begins attending the newly-formed Al-Anon meetings on the island of course hosted by Father Paul, redemption might’ve been better sought from medical professionals, and not this newfound method of religious worship.
Dr. Sarah Gunning (Annabeth Gish) is the islands’ kind of all-around medic, and this is how she and Riley’s old friend Erin (Kate Siegel), also newly returned to the island, a few months pregnant but traveling quietly alone, met when Erin comes to the Doc for obstetrics. Sarah’s older mother Mildred Gunning (Alexandra Essoe) has many medical and mental issues, and Sarah struggles in their shared home, to take care of her addled mom and balance her own life. Then Father Paul takes it upon himself to visit one of his oldest parishioners, bringing the sacred host and wine with him to give directly to Mildred, who starts looking and acting so much better under his loving care.
The show is very much a slow slow burn, with a lot of the actual action taking place in the last two episodes. Much of the beginning and middle episodes feature two people just sitting alone, having quiet and seriously in-depth conversations about heavy subjects – grief and repentance, what happens when we die, the disasters that come as a result of addictions, how our actions’ consequences reverberate to those we love around us, faith and the foibles of man, and of course, the giving of oneself over to a higher power, for strength, and guidance, and love.
Except, for the higher power that Father Paul brought back with him, to share with his beloved flock of Crockett Island, while it may be extremely powerful and full of what could be considered miraculous magic, everything comes at some kind of a cost. And when the Messenger of God is finally revealed to the shocked denizens of Crockett at Easter Mass, with Father Paul rapturing on about rebirth as the bloody massacre begins in earnest, it’s faith, not in any kind of God or religion, but faith in each other, that may save a few hardy souls.
Question the wisdom of your religious leaders along with the rest of us in a fine slow-burn addition to the Flanaverse, Midnight Mass is on Netflix now!
Saw X: It ain’t brain surgery!
Legendary executioner Jigsaw returns to exact revenge on a cadre of scam artists who promised him a bogus cure for his cancer!
First off, be aware, that this is what I call an interleaved sequel, a movie set between previous films in the franchise. In this case, Saw X occurs after the events of the very first Saw film, and before Saw II. Everybody got where we are? Good! Into the madness, we dive!
So, as we all know, John Kramer’s been diagnosed with cancer, very aggressive brain cancer, and likely doesn’t have much time left. And he’s tried everything under the sun, doing a ton of meticulous research, we’d expect nothing less from our master of the art of murder, and not one thing has worked. Yet one man from the support group for cancer sufferers, Henry (Michael Beach), offers an off-the-books supposed miracle cure, and John jumps at the chance.
Why does this nonsense always sound too good to be true? Because it is. Deleted scenes from the first Deadpool movie already told us why traveling to Mexico for any kind of medical cure is a sublimely stupid move, but Kramer is desperate. And while he might be sick and dying, John Kramer has never been what anyone could call stupid. So the villa out in the Mexican countryside, the affable cab driver Diego (Joshua Okamoto) professes surprise at Kramer being highjacked for his good, the nervous muttering from assistant Valentina (Paulette Hernandez), the side-eyeing from little housekeep Gabriela (Renata Vaca) and her tequila, and most especially the smooth and smarming reassurances of head “doctor” Cecilia Pederson (Synnove Macody Lund), all leave a kind of sour taste in John’s mouth.
The whole cluex4 scene is done in the style that the Saw films are known for, where we the audience are treated to cut-together explanatory scenes in a flip-flash fashion of usually about two minutes, for poor John when he realizes he’s been hoodwinked and just how badly, seems a little contrived. But then it’s entirely possible that we the audience truly expected our genius mastermind of the infamous Jigsaw murders to have realized what was happening sooner, and got enraged along with Kramer. And cheered as he prepared to take his bloody and ultra-violent revenge!
First up in our grand guignol of executions is the return of Jigsaw’s first protégé, Amanda (Shawnee Smith). And despite her avowed reverence for Jigsaw and his proven “therapy”, Amanda does waver a bit when the scammers are put through the paces of their specially-made Saw traps, and they shriek and blubber and bleed out. The appearance of the ringer of the bunch, Parker (Steven Brand), doesn’t even slow our beloved engineer of the damned down, because we knew Jigsaw would have his other apprentice waiting just off stage, the deliciously vicious Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). Even the monkeywrench of involving little-boy soccer fan Carlos (Jorge Briseno) in the traps, is just another cog in the machine that is the brilliantly plotting mind of John Kramer.
A fine addition to the Saw legends, showcasing a return to the beloved style and panache of the original Tobin Bell-starring Jigsaw films, Saw X is splashing gore and gallons of blood in theaters now!
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off
“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off,” Netflix’s latest series, is a rollicking journey through the world of video game culture, blending nostalgic references with a fresh narrative twist. Centered around Scott Pilgrim, portrayed with magnetic charisma by Michael Cera, the show skillfully integrates gaming elements into its storytelling, creating a delightful homage to the video game subculture.
The series cleverly employs pixelated graphics, power-up animations, and game-like sound effects to bring the virtual world to life. These visual cues, reminiscent of classic video games, enhance the storytelling and resonate with audiences familiar with the gaming landscape. The attention to detail in recreating iconic gaming moments is commendable, creating a visual and auditory treat for enthusiasts.
The exploration of video game culture goes beyond mere aesthetics; it becomes an integral part of the characters’ identities and interactions. The script intelligently weaves gaming terminology and tropes into the dialogue, effectively blending the real and virtual worlds. The series navigates the challenges and triumphs of the characters through the lens of gaming, making it a unique and engaging experience for both gamers and general audiences.
The ensemble cast, including standout performances from Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, and Chris Evans embraces the gaming theme with infectious enthusiasm. The chemistry between the characters is palpable, adding emotional depth to the series.
“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” successfully taps into the zeitgeist of video game culture, offering a nostalgic yet contemporary take on the gaming phenomenon. It’s a must-watch for those who cherish the pixelated roots of the gaming world while providing an accessible and entertaining narrative for a broader audience. The series takes off not only in its title but also in its ability to soar within the ever-expanding realm of Netflix originals.