They like to sleep on Regina Hall - the mainstream press, black press, everyone except Queen Latifah, who welcomes Hall onto her beige and brown morning talk show couch to chat about Matthew McConaughey, the cover of Modern Dog - a magazine Regina shares on stands with her bulldog Zues - and how funny she is in the number one romantic comedy in America, About Last Night. But Latifah seems to be one of the few interviewing types that knows why Hall deserves love.
Weeks prior, in a conference room on the ground floor of the ritzy Beverly Hilton Hotel, journalists seemed bewildered enough to ask silly questions that sounded like they came after a snore like, “You were funny in About Last Night. Where did that come from? Was that natural?”
Regina Hall: I’ve worked with a lot of comedians. Not every comedian, but I worked with the Wayans to start, Chris Rock, Mike Epps, Cedric the Entertainer.
Of course if this young journalist had simply wiped the slobbery sleep off their lazy bottom lip to do research, they’d have realized that Regina’s first film role and IMDB credit came from 1999’s romantic comedy The Best Man, playing Candace, college girl turned stripper to pay her way through school. That press person must have forgotten about the string of parody movies that blew up Hall’s face, bigger than her name, over a decade in the early part of the millennium: Her role from 2000-2006 as Brenda, the around-the-way girl stereotype in parts one through four of the Wayans Brothers’ Scary Movie Franchise. She continued her knack for parodies as Mrs. Xavier in Superhero Movie (2008). Funny roles in slapstick flicks like Malibu’s Most Wanted (2003), The Honeymooners (2005), First Sunday (2008) and Death at a Funeral (2010) are all comedic resume bullet points that said journalist had obviously neglected to prepare themselves in knowing. Which is ironic actually, especially when prep is what’s gotten Hall to where she is today with career consistency.
“I’m always prepared to know that comedians, in auditions, don’t stick to script. So I have to be that prepared to know so that my character can improv through that character’s voice. So it’s probably a little bit more preparation for me, because [comedians are] so able to do it standing on stage,” she says. “So the preparation really doesn’t come in the lines, it comes in the character. I have to really think about who they are. Sometimes your character’s not supposed to ad lib. Maybe she’s the quiet wife. And a lot of times, when you do comedy, sometimes the women are kind of the instrument for the joke. So it just depends on how it’s written. They’re all work. They’re all great. It’s just that you want to service each one properly.”
The Shadow League came prepared.
Raqiyah Mays: Have there been any roles you’ve turned down?
Regina Hall: I’m sure after Scary Movie, I was really conscious to say I have to balance it with something else. People saw Scary Movie like, ‘Oh, she’s funny.’ Brenda Meeks. But what they forgot was it was a parody, an image and a stereotype that people had in movies before. Which is why she was so extra. And Cindy [Anna Faris] was really dumb. It was the quintessential dumb, stereotype parody of the white girl that walks into danger. But what happens is sometimes when you do something like that well, then they want you to do that kind of effect for other things. So saying no to that for me in terms of the arc of an entire career, would be why I say ‘No.’ I have to think, I’m doing this character, two, three, and four times and to do it again in another film where that character is actually really like that, I may choose to not do that because of what it would do as a whole for my career.
Hall has always been smart. Born and raised in Washington DC, she attended New York’s Fordham University, graduated, and after answering parental questions about what her next move was, she chose NYU. “I had finished undergrad at Fordham and my mom and dad were like, ‘What are you going to do? You been in New York six months…’ [I was just] living. ‘Are you gonna get a job?’ Hall explains this while sitting alone in an empty, dull conference room with The Shadow League. “So I was like, ‘I’ll go back to school.’ Cause I always loved school, classes and learning.”
Wanting a career with impact, Hall envisioned the life of a scribe and majored in journalism. “Journalism seemed like something powerful. I thought most people believe what they read, so the power of someone holding a pen in our culture, especially, was tremendous,” she says. “We believe what we hear on TV. It’s on the news we watch it. So I thought, our journalists have tremendous responsibility. And so I think I marveled in that. I think I read a book, like Democracy in America and I think that book had more to do with actually writing and how that effected our democracy.”
Studying to be part of a league of reporters seeking truth and justice, the first semester of classes drastically ended when her father died. “It was sudden. And I think when sudden events that are painful happen in your life, you know, they redirect your course,” says the baby-faced 43-year-old. “When you’re young, you don’t grasp the gravity of life. But when you lose someone and you’re young, you do. And so I think that started me thinking about what I really wanted to do in life. And I know my father would have wanted me to finish school. So I did that.”
Simultaneously studying journalism, she took acting classes that led to her life of today colored by a multitude of movie roles and reoccurring stints on TV shows spanning from Ally Mcbeal in 2001, to Law and Order: LA in 2010. Appearing in everything from comedies like Think Like a Man and dramas such as Law Abiding Citizen, Hall has found success in what she naturally has done best her entire career – making people laugh. Being in films like The Best Man Holiday (which has a part three in the works), and Think Like a Man (part two drops this summer), she’s been one of the rare, black, female thespians blessed to live a life that others who work their entire lives in Hollywood never attain.
“I don’t know what it is. I think it’s a little bit of love, a little bit of hard work. A lot of your team. I know so many talented people. Amazingly talented people who don’t work. And a lot of talented people who do work,” she says. “So I never know. I think the key is I’m grateful for what I do. I don’t think, ‘Oh, I should be there. Or, I should have this.’ I’m grateful for what I do have and I think I look at my career as my own. I certainly have worked with a lot of my peers who had very strong careers and made bigger movies. I get to be happy for them and their journey, still appreciating my own, knowing that every career, everything we do, every job whether it’s acting or anything else - it’s our own gift. And when you don’t compare it to someone else’s, you can really enjoy yours.”
Now she enjoys the rave reviews saying she "stole the show" in About Last Night. Recent success has seen the film that was made for $12.5 million, gross $28.5 million in its first week, beating opening weekend blockbusters like Robocop. And Hall, being the book smart, well-prepared actress that she is, seems to smell her career trend toward being in sequels, because she’s still doing character work. Hall still breaks down motivations behind her role as emotional drama queen Joan, the sassy dentist that made Kevin Hart stumble and stutter in About Last Night.
“I was nervous for About Last Night, ‘cause if it didn’t work… You had to have the two story lines kinda juxtaposed against one another. So if it didn’t work…” she says, drifting off at the sad, long gone possibilities. "And there was a careful line to not be too big. But to have her feel truthful. She had to be grounded, but she had to be…. It’s like, she couldn’t be too broad. She’s not Brenda from Scary Movie. She’s a woman. But you have to believe that she was… It was just trying how to figure out how to balance, how to present that, and I’m still a black woman, so to still make other black women look at that and still feel proud of the portrayal of themselves in that woman, and still have it be honest. And then to go and throw all that away and not care what anybody thinks… It’s like an article.
RM: You’re always editing
RH: You’re always editing. (Shaking her head up and down.) Yeah…