A character actor is often described as a transfiguration of sorts: one whose dramatic appearance reveals great beauty, spirituality or magnificence. Regina Hall is synonymous with theatrical transfiguration hoisting a bevy of acting roles from stereotypical to standout. Her hallmark is a solid trademark–whether vulnerable or venerable–the Washington, DC native surrenders to each role she’s asked to play.
Director Malcolm D. Lee (“Barbershop 3,” “Undercover Brother”) cast Hall as “Candy” in his 1999 trademark ensemble romantic comedy, “The Best Man.” In that role, Candy is a timid stripper whose charm danced her way into the heart of a preppy social worker conflicted by a longstanding commitment to his incorrigible college girlfriend. This was Hall’s first feature role. Since, Lee and Hall have worked together in the sequel, “Best Man Holiday” and the impending third installment, “Best Man Wedding.”
We sat down in Los Angeles last spring to discuss her enticing career, ignited by Lee’s Candy. During our conversation, the Fordham University alum explained the chemistry they shared—director to actor–his expectations of her creative instrument and what this particular film director relies on most from a Regina Hall performance. “Malcolm was the first director I ever worked with; I’d done indys but that was my first feature film. I think his decision to cast me made a big difference in my career.
“Malcolm is very clear on what he wants in a performance and, as an actor, you trust him to direct you on what you need to do. I think our work dynamic is charged by an element of trust in his sense and sensibilities about the entire film. The short hand between us is trust.”
The rest of our conversation follows–
Sandra Varner (Talk2SV): You’ve become one of the most versatile actors on the contemporary entertainment landscape with numerous film and television roles.
Your characters on ABC’s Black-ish, BET’s Real Husbands of Hollywood and the “Scary Movie” film franchise are hysterical, as well, your recurring role on ABC’s Grandfathered opposite John Stamos, quite memorable.
Given the diversity of your acting choices, your “believability factor” is high. What approach do you take when preparing for a role?
Regina Hall: I try to find the humanity inside each character. If the role is dramatic or comedic humanity exists within. My approach is to be human and build from that point.
Talk2SV: Believability can also be confidence in one’s self as a veritable portal to convey compassion within said characters, as you’ve stated. Who is Regina Hall–what do you believe and know to be true about YOU?
Hall: (Ponders a bit) who am I? I am still figuring it out. What do I know? I know that God is real and we are all connected to and through him. I know that we see him in all people, all shades. I know that God works through me in my work and the first thing I do before anything else is pray. I surrender in my prayers, acknowledging that I don’t know what I’m doing and ask God to please guide me. I do so literally until a director says, ‘Action.’ At that point and forward, I don’t think about it anymore.
for a week to read the script and pray that the character drops into my spirit. Then, there are times when I get the script for the character two days before shooting begins. It is then that I find myself yelling, asking God, ‘Why did you give me this role?’ I just like to be prepared especially if I’m cast alongside established characters that have been working on the project much longer than I have.
Much prayer goes into a part before it becomes ‘a part.’ Doesn’t matter if it’s a small part, a big part, a funny part, two lines or whatever…I pray that God does something through me and he does.
Talk2SV: Let’s talk about transparency. Viewers like to lose the celebrity’s identity so they can lose themselves into the character’s identity. What is your method to become transparent for the sake of the character? What allows you to get into character faster?
Hall: I like to sit with myself and think about the character, with honest emotions, particularly at the individual scene level. Ask questions about the character’s personality. Ask myself, ‘who is this person; what is she trying to uncover; why is she doing what she’s doing?’
To go through that process, even if everything never gets to the screen, allows the character to resonate with the audience. People… audiences recognize truth.
Talk2SV: By all indications during this conversation and observation of other interviews you’ve given, it appears you’ve come to terms with honesty, fundamentally. Is that an accurate assessment?
Hall: I’ve never thought about it in that way, but, yeah. When it comes to honesty and truth, what else really is there? Even if a lie lay beneath the truth, you can’t escape it. The truth is freeing.
Up next, Regina Hall will be seen alongside Morris Chestnut in the Screen Gems feature, “When the Bough Breaks,” the story of a couple’s struggle to conceive, exacerbated by a young surrogate who yields anything but a bundle of joy.
John and Laura Taylor (Morris Chestnut and Regina Hall) are a young, professional couple who desperately want a baby. After exhausting all other options, they finally hire Anna (Jaz Sinclair), the perfect woman to be their surrogate – but as she gets further along in her pregnancy, so too does her psychotic and dangerous fixation on the husband. The couple becomes caught up in Anna’s deadly game and must fight to regain control of their future before it’s too late.