Regina King, co-star of the "Miss Congeniality 2: Armed And Fabulous" Movie!
King established herself as a skilled actress in the 1990s with a number of supporting roles in prominent films. Born and raised in Los Angeles, King first made her mark as a TV actress when she was cast in the sitcom 227 in 1985. During her five seasons on TV, King also played small parts in the Bill Murray comedy Scrooged (1988) and Charles Burnett's domestic drama To Sleep With Anger (1990). After 227 ended in 1990, King moved to films full-time with a role in John Singleton's acclaimed directorial debut Boyz N the Hood (1991). King worked with Singleton again in Poetic Justice (1993) and Higher Learning (1995). Showing her ability with film comedy as well as drama, King appeared in F. Gary Gray's cult-hit comedy Friday (1995) and co-starred opposite Martin Lawrence in A Thin Line Between Love and Hate (1996). After drawing attention with her performance as Cuba Gooding Jr.'s wife in the critically praised hit Jerry Maguire (1996), King landed substantial parts in the adaptation of Terry McMillan's How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998), the hit action-thriller Enemy of the State (1998), and the family friendly animal adventure Mighty Joe Young (1998). Though her 1999 film Love and Action in Chicago was not nearly as successful as her trio of 1998 movies, King began the new decade with parts in HBO's widely watched telefilm If These Walls Could Talk 2 (2000) and the Chris Rock romantic comedy Down to Earth (2000).
Regina King, 32, distinguished herself as a skilled actress in the 1990s with a number of supporting roles in prominent films. Born and raised in Los Angeles, King first made her mark as a TV actress when she was cast in the sitcom 227 in 1985. During her five seasons on TV, King also played small parts in the Bill Murray comedy Scrooged (1988) and Charles Burnett's domestic drama To Sleep With Anger (1990). After 227 ended in 1990, King moved to films full-time with a role in John Singleton's acclaimed directorial debut Boyz N the Hood (1991). King worked with Singleton again in Poetic Justice (1993) and Higher Learning (1995). Showing her ability with film comedy as well as drama, King appeared in F. Gary Gray's cult-hit comedy Friday (1995) and co-starred opposite Martin Lawrence in A Thin Line Between Love and Hate (1996). After drawing attention with her performance as Cuba Gooding Jr.'s wife in the critically praised hit Jerry Maguire (1996), King landed substantial parts in the adaptation of Terry McMillan's How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998), the hit action-thriller Enemy of the State (1998), and the family friendly animal adventure Mighty Joe Young (1998). Though her 1999 film Love and Action in Chicago was not nearly as successful as her trio of 1998 movies, King began the new decade with parts in HBO's widely watched telefilm If These Walls Could Talk 2 (2000) and the Chris Rock romantic comedy Down to Earth (2000). Most recently King has supporting roles in box office favorites Daddy Day Care (2003) and Legally Blonde 2: Red White & Blonde (2003).
Can Sandy Beat Regina in 'Miss Congeniality 2'?
The question is: can Regina King beat Sandra Bullock in a fight?
The 5-foot-3 actress who recently made waves as Ray Charles' mistress in the Oscar-nominated "Ray" ends up taking on the nearly 5-foot-8 Bullock who's reprising her role as a clumsy FBI agent in "Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous." Each of the actresses talked separately to Zap2it.com about their fighting ability.
"Me, of course," insists King, who's introduced as a new tough bulldoggish character named Sam Fuller.
Bullock counters: "Well, she could give me a good fight. I have height on her, but she could pack a serious punch. I think that we would be equally matched, but I'd take her down though."
The sequel of the female agent who goes undercover in the beauty pageant world isn't as much a romance as a female buddy picture -- something that Hollywood isn't used to doing. But, wearing both the producer and star's hats, Bullock managed to get her way, and hopes that their teaming could branch out into a "Lethal Weapon"-like franchise.
"I wanted it to be a buddy movie whether it's a guy and a girl, a girl and girl, it shouldn't matter," Bullock says. "We're going to be like the new Mel [Gibson] and Danny Glover, I'm telling you, we're on the road."
When trying to pick her new co-star with director John Pasquin, Bullock didn't audition King, but took her out to tea.
"We blabbed about our lives, and I said, 'Oh my God, me too, me too, me too.' I just sort of loved her in the first minute. So I was walking back to meet with John Pasquin and I go, 'Oh, please let it be everything that it felt like at the table.' Like any good pairing, you need chemistry," Bullock explains. "But we couldn't tell her right then and there because we had to discuss it with the higher ups."
The chemistry obviously worked, and Ernie Hudson, Diedrich Bader, Treat Williams and Enrique Murciano joined the cast along with Heather Burns and William Shatner from the first film. Bullock knows first hand that sequels are dangerous -- just remind her of "Speed 2."
"Oh yeah, sequels are a disaster," she laughs, but she often discussed what happened to her character with writer Marc Lawrence. "She couldn't do what she does for a living anymore because she's now famous. What happens to someone when their entire life as they knew it, which to her was being an undercover agent, was taken away?"
Set in Las Vegas, Bullock wasn't tempted to gamble at the casinos. Like a good producer, she's rather frugal. With $1,000 in a casino, she'd take it to the bank rather than gamble. "As long as I broke even I'm fine, I would play fifty and lose fifty," Bullock confesses. "I'm not a big spender."
King says she admires Bullock as a hands-on producer. "Both Sandy and I are total Type A women, so we gotta do it ourselves, even the stunts," says King. "Everything was she and I. So we would come in early and do the rehearsals together. It was so much fun to work with a girl who can burp and talk about Halliburton at the same time."
A tiny starlet who's known for character roles for most of her two decades of acting, King says she built up the pent-up anger in her character by recalling what it was like to be short while growing up. "I remember when I was a kid, I used to hate being picked up," she says. "People always want to pick the little person up, 'Oh, you're so cute!' I used that rage."
In a particularly comical moment, King plays a Tina Turner spoof that was originally written for Bullock, who's a big fan of the singer. As a producer, Bullock thought the part would be better for King, and it was a good call. Turner never yet met Bullock, but sent a guitar and a note saying: "To my white soul sister, you can play backup for me any time." Bullock says she's thrilled and plans to ask an upcoming co-star about how to play the thing.
"I have the speakers, I have the amp. It's got it's stand and it's sitting there. I'm getting ready to work with Keanu [Reeves] who's a bass player and so he can hook me up," says Bullock, who's going to team up again with her "Speed" co-star for "Il-Mare" this spring.
Meanwhile, Bullock has no problem diving into her work, even if it means being in a water tank for three 18-hour days in a row. "I'm a SCUBA diver so I had no problem, but we all got sick," Bullock recalls. "By the third day we reached hypothermic levels because we were in there for 17 hours. I couldn't keep my body temperature up anymore. I got out and I had that bad Barbie doll hair where it's kind of yellow and matted. It bleached out my hair. I looked at the hair girl and she goes, 'Oh my God.' "
King adds, "They told us, you're going to need to hold your breath like 15-20 seconds, so my husband and I went out in the pool, and I couldn't even hold my breath for 10 seconds. But Sandy and I did a couple of takes and we held our breaths for like 50 seconds. I was delirious that day because it was an 18-hour day."
Although they kid about who could beat whom in a fight, Bullock points out that King's hard-edged character is a key component to the sequel. "My love interest is Regina," Bullock explains. "It's a great love story there and it's about having to face who I was and what I'm not anymore and she has to learn to soften up some of her edges. I wanted an equal partner in this film to carry this film with me and tell the story."
"Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous" opens nationally on Thursday, March 24.
Did You Know?
* Regina is married to Ian Alexander, once Vice President of Qwest Records, and they have one son, Ian Alexander Jr. ( b. April 19, 1996)
* Regina owns a restaurant in Los Angeles called Paio.
* Regina graduated from Westchester High School in Los Angeles.
* Her first big acting job was on the television series "227."
* Her acting coach was Betty A. Bridges, mother of actor Todd Bridges.
* One of Regina's good friends is actress Vivica A. Fox. She was a bridesmaid in Vivica's wedding.
* One of Regina's favorite pieces of advice comes from her mother: The seven P's: "Proper prior preparation prevents piss-poor performance."
Regina studied under acting coach / actress Betty A. Bridges, mother of actor Todd Bridges. Betty was Regina's acting coach for ten years before and during her first good role on the TV series "227".
Sister of actress Reina King.
Both she and her sister Reina's first names are translations of the word "Queen"; Regina's is Latin and Reina's is Spanish.
Daddy Day Care: An Interview with Regina King
As Mother’s Day approaches, fathers will have a treat taking their kids to see Daddy Day Care, a hilarious comedy film featuring Eddie Murphy. Playing his wife and mother to their son is Regina King. Playing the mother role is nothing new for her for Regina “completed” Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character in “erry Maguire. Later this summer, she will star with Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde 2 and is currently shooting Unchain My Heart: The Ray Charles Story with Jamie Fox. In an interview with blackfilm.com, Regina King talks about her role in Daddy Day Care, her other projects, and the roles of black actresses in the industry.
LC: How’s it going?
RK: It’s going great. The film is going awesome. It’s just an incredible experience. I’m talking about Unchain My Heart: The Ray Charles story.
LC: What happened when he [referring to Jamie Foxx] got back after the incident?
RK: Actually, I was there for the incident. You can’t actually believe everything that you read or write. I will just say you have to be asked to leave some place to refuse to leave.
LC: What does that mean?
RK: It means that he wasn’t asked to leave. He was not asked to leave. He wasn’t even asked for his ID. I was actually asked for my ID. I think that I’m not supposed to actually talk about it because I don’t know what, legally is happening with it right now. But it’s just unfortunate. But that’s New Orleans. It’s a corrupt little city.
LC: Diedra Dixon, his sister was really mad?
RK: Well I mean, what can you do? I mean the press has power to do that.
LC: But he was arrested for scuffling with police officers, wasn’t he?
RK: Well I mean, if you’re grabbed and you don’t know who you’re being grabbed by, you know? Me personally, I know what a LAPD officer looks like but I don’t know what New Orleans PD looks like.
LC: And they drive in trucks down there, in concealed cars.
RK: It’s really a corrupt city. It’s just an unfortunate situation. But it’s not affecting our shoot at all. Jamie is an incredible guy. I just have to say it’s really just weird. Jamie’s a person that’s never been in trouble ever, we’ve never seen him in a light in any way other than just with another beautiful woman on his side. That’s it. You think he’s guilty of anything? And then that’s it. And then all of a sudden bam! You know?
LC: This role (Daddy Day Care) is a bit of a departure for you. We’re used to seeing you as the nice, professional, outstanding wife and you get a chance to play slightly naughty.
RK: Slightly naughty (laugh). Yes I am slightly naughty. But once again I’m a strong woman. I have to be that. But that’s one of the things when I auditioned for this role, I was like, “I gotta get it, I gotta do this” because unlike this film, I was not expecting to actually play a wife for quite some time. I kinda decided I wasn’t going to play a wife, I needed to kinda back off being the mother because it seems like that’s all people want me to do, which is a compliment in itself because people are saying you do it well. But when I met Eddie at a concert and he said that he wanted to do this movie with me so I’m not going to tell Eddie Murphy no. That’s an awesome opportunity so that’s how I changed my mind about being a wife and a mother. I didn’t want to be a wife and a mother soon but the wife of Eddie Murphy and the mother, kinda put a different spin on things.
LC: So you’re like America’s mom because it’s been well, Eddie, Cuba, yeah you’re America’s mom.
RK: I know. I know. I read in one of the Hip Hop magazines that I’m the “ultimate wifey.”
LC: Well there’s nothing wrong with that. And you’ve done it so well. But what role would you really like to play now. Obviously you’ve done this and people call you for that and that can go on for a long time too, which is a good thing.
RK: It’s a good thing you know, hey, if it came down to I need a job and I would rather need the job and it’d be the role to “well we know we can have her be the wife” opposed to “well she can be the ho’” so I would not totally turn my back on it.
LC: But what role do you want to play?
RK: Like any woman that’s a strong physical woman, of course I’d love to do something athletic and just show my strength physically. But I’m really interested in doing something with a group of women, powerful actresses like myself, black actresses more specifically, that’s like “The Hours” or something like that. I’d like to do something with like Latifah and Angela Bassett, just strong, character, driven, heartfelt film.
LC: There are so many stories out there that could be put together just like what you’ve said. Production wise, producer wise, have you thought about that?
RK: I’m on the mission now. I am currently looking for those stories and researching them and I do have a couple that are there but aren’t developed yet. That’s kinda the hard part in this business when something’s not developed. No one wants to write something for free and the studio, if they don’t see it, they don’t want to buy it. They can’t visualize it, they won’t buy it. It comes to dollars and cents and they don’t really believe that. But women sell, and especially black women; that’s even double. But we know that we do, we’ve seen it happen i.e. Queen Latifah, just most recently Bringing Down The House sold. Right now the door is open, you know, so I put in a doorstop.
LC: Just recently, Halle Berry was on Good Morning America, and basically said, in essence, the problem with black actors and black females is that there really is no problem anymore, that the door is open. Do you really agree with that? Are there no issues anymore?
RK: No it might not be a problem for her anymore and that’s a wonderful thing. The less problems there are for individual actress of color, the better it is for us as a group. But you know, every situation is not always for the people. Sometimes it’s an individual thing and you’ve gotta do what you gotta do for yourself and hope that, that’s going to spread, that it’s gonna open things for others.
LC: Larry Elder, I was listening to his show by chance and he brought it up, I think his philosophy is there really are no more racial problems, prejudicial problems for black people in this country. That’s basically his philosophy. So I’m asking you as a black woman in the business, I mean are we putting restraints on ourselves by that kind of thinking or does it really exist in a world that maybe Larry Elder has left.
RK: In Larry Elder’s world, that maybe so. That’s wonderful that Larry Elder has experienced that. That is great for him. Seriously, if he can actually say that then, that’s his experience.
LC: My point is Larry Elder tells a lot of people that, primarily white people, and he affects a lot of attitudes. This is no joke now.
RK: That’s why I said everything for some people is an individual thing and I think that there are times when you must approach things as an individual and do what’s best for you. But then there are moments when you do, as people of color, have to look at the bigger picture and think about things that we say before we say them. I actually read an article, not too long ago, in USA Today, where the producer/director of Deliver Us From Eva said that now if he goes into a studio and he says that he has Gabrielle Union or Vivica Fox attached to a project, it will be green lit. That’s not true. It might happen at certain studios, but that’s not true. He can’t walk into Universal and just because he has Vivica Fox attached to the project, they’re gonna say, “alright, yeah let’s do it.” That’s not true. And you are right, when you do make some of those statements, some people that aren’t black or the people who actually have the money to do everything think “oh well, you know, it’s not that bad.” So you are right, we do have to be responsible for some of the things that we say or think about them before we say them, or say them within our own groups and let us talk about it and hatch it out between each other before we make certain statements. I don’t know, I don’t think most people take Larry Elder too seriously. I don’t think so. I think a lot of white people, not to just single out white people, at least the ones I know personally, don’t really take him that seriously. To the point that some of the things that they say, they’ll even say “did you hear what uh” - and of course they’re gonna ask me ‘cause I’m black and he’s black - “what he said about. . .” I don’t remember. It may have something else silly that he said not too long ago. But I don’t think people really take him that seriously.
LC: I would not take him lightly. I really wouldn’t. This guy is syndicated all over the country. He has people listening.
RK: Yea. He’ll probably crucify me when this comes out.
LC: I’m not saying that he’s some kind of disciple and that people are going to follow his every heeding but he’s talking to people who like what he’s saying. And there are millions of people who like to hear what he’s saying.
RK: Yea, there are millions of people out there who like to hear what he’s saying but, right now, they aren’t the general consumers. The general consumers are younger than that, the ones who are actually going out and buying the movies and going to see the movies, don’t really know who Larry Elder is.
LC: But I think the real question, at least what I get from that is, when I see Legally Blonde 2, I think of Regina and I don’t think of Reese because I’m not going to be interviewing Reese. She’s not my audience. And I think the question at least for me would be, is it possible today, as you are same age, for you to have the kind of career this girl has had when your credits and resume are certainly just as and if not more so, impressive and that’s the question. Has Halle’s success, her win, has it truly broken the glass? Has Halle been offered the contract to do ten movies the way Alicia Silverstone was after Clueless? After doing almost probably a billion dollars at the box office, is Regina able to go in the studio and say “I want to do a movie on Bessie Coleman, I need $50 million?”
RK: But you’re right, no. Like I said earlier, there’s a doorstop in the door right now. The whisper of the possibility is there. I just think that there definitely are more opportunities but it’s still a “good time struggle” for us. You know what I mean? I’m not like, I can’t believe she’s getting 15 million for a movie and she’s just done this one thing. That’s what it is. I’m really happy and I really do love my life and I have an incredible husband and little boy that are my world. So I can’t hold on my back that, man we don’t get any breaks because we do, and we’re going to get more and I think all of us are trying to work to create more.
LC: Talk about Legally Blonde 2 for just a little bit, we didn’t see anyone of color in Legally Blonde.
RK: That’s why I said about Larry Elder that I don’t think that many people take him that seriously because the director of Legally Blonde 2 and Reese Witherspoon, the character I was actually playing was actually written for a white woman and they wanted me. They saw Regina King play this part.
LC: But you can say that proves his point.
RK: No it doesn’t prove his point. That proves that they recognize a talented person and that they think I was the best person for the job. But that doesn’t mean that I can go get a movie green lit. That means that Reese Witherspoon and Charlie [director of Legally Blonde 2] recognize great talent. But neither Charlie nor Reese are financing films.
LC: Can you talk about it [Legally Blonde 2]?
RK: In Legally Blonde 2, I play the chief of staff for Congresswoman Rudd who’s played by Sally Field, an actress who I adore and seeing her work at a young age was one of the reasons that I knew that being an actress was something I wanted to do. I had been doing it all my life but not necessarily getting paid for it, just entertaining the family. My character is similar to the Selma Blair character in the vein that she is the nemesis to Elle, Reese Witherspoon’s character. Elle comes to Washington with her blonde ambition and my character is like “you gotta be kidding me.” And a lot of great stories just kinda come out. They’ve pretty much followed the same pattern of Legally Blonde and it’s funny. It’s got some hilarious stuff in there; her dog ends up being gay. It’s really funny. It’s a funny, entertaining film. I think this one, unlike the other one, is not about the big moral at the end of the day, but it is a movie that encourages people to follow their voice and make sure they have their voices heard.
LC: Mother’s Day is coming up next weekend and actually just in time for this film to open. Being a mommy, what is your big wish for Mother’s Day? What do you want? What will you be giving and how do you really think this movie will be received opening up on Mother’s Day weekend?
RK: Well, I wish for Mother’s Day, that the schedule of this movie will change so I don’t have to work on Mother’s Day. I’m flying my mom into New Orleans to be with me on Mother’s Day. And I think that this movie is going to be huge because it’s in between two really big action films and two totally different audiences. And just the climate at my son’s school, that’s all the kids are talking about, Daddy Day Care. They are not talking about X-men. They are, but they are seriously ready to see this movie.
LC: How old is your son now?
RK: He’s 7. And the school goes from Kindergarten to 8th grade. And these kids have never ever noticed me before and now the 8th graders are like, “can’t wait to see Daddy Day Care. It looks funny man!” So they’re excited about it so I think it’ll be good. Mom’s, most of the time, don’t want to see the movies their kids want to see and I think this is one of those films that at the end of the film, everyone’s like, “remember that part when he burped and the bubbles came out?” Everyone will have a nice little memory, a nice little chuckle inside of them.
LC: To go back to what we were talking about earlier about you being every mom. What are the attributes that you feel that you embody that makes people, over and over again select you to play the wife, to play the mother, to play that person?
RK: I think part of it is being a mom and a wife in real life and just knowing what my husband is needing and how much I’ve had to change from being a single independent woman to a wife. It’s a major change. And I think that a lot of actresses are single and are not aware of the sacrifices and changes that you do make in becoming a wife and a mom. Especially a wife, man! I’m not even talking about that you don’t even have any other partner; I’m talking about the day to day sacrifices that you make. So probably, not saying that any other actresses aren’t great at what they do, but it might be just that one little thing is more believable because I actually do experience it day to day.
LC: What does spirituality mean to you and how do you practice that? I mean weighing all these sacrifices, motherhood, wifedom, and a verging career. I would think there’d have to be something that keeps you a little more grounded with yourself.
RK: Well I think your spiritual foundations starts from a child, from your family, your mom usually is the one that, not necessarily creates it but brings it to your attention. To let you know about it, to let you know that you have it, lets you know what it is when you’re feeling it because a lot of times, you feel it. As children we feel some moments when we’re spiritually charged but we don’t know what it is until someone defines it for you. I just think when your heart and your mind and spirit are aligned, you’re always spiritually grounded.
LC: Regina, what moment stands out in your illustrious career ‘cause you’ve got so many things and worked with so many great people? But is there that one moment that stands out when you say “wow that was really awesome?”
RK: Oh wow, probably right now, working on this Ray Charles story. Jamie and I just shot a scene and afterwards we just like held each other, like wow. I can’t tell you because it’s going to give up the movie, but it’s just this moment in the movie where my character and his character have just gone as far as we can go and we have to leave each other and it’s sad, it’s strong. We knew it was going to be a big scene but until you’re in it and everything is bursting out of you and afterwards it’s just like “whew, damn we did that man, boy, whew, did they say lunch?”
LC: Eddie Murphy has become really good at playing these characters where he’s a father, or just a goofy kind of a guy, based on where he came from, is this where he belongs?
RK: Oh, without a doubt! He’s given me the opportunity to know how powerful it is. Although I know how much my child loves these children movies, but the fact that his mom is in one right now, you should see just how his eyes just light up. Before the commercial of a movie that I’m in would come on and it wasn’t really that much of a big deal. But this movie, and it’s Daddy Day Care and it’s about the daddy. He just loves it. And he loves all of Eddie Murphy’s movies, Dr. Dolittle, we have to buy the DVDs when they come out. So I’m grateful for him to be a black man giving our children that person, their favorite dad, their favorite funny guy. You know? He knows it. He knows what he’s doing. That man got five kids. He knows what he’s doing.
RK: Thank You.
Regina, the Queenly King - The Ray Interview
Regina King was born on January 15, 1971 in Los Angeles. “Regina” is from the Latin word meaning “queen” while her surname has its own obvious regal significance. So, her aristocratic airs should come as no surprise. This classy lady got her start in show-biz after studying acting with Betty Bridges, mom of Todd Bridges of “Different Strokes” fame.
After 10 years of classes, Regina landed a recurring role as “Brenda” on the TV-sitcom “227.” Next, she appeared in blaxploits like Boyz N the Hood, Poetic Justice, How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Friday.
She found a break-out role as Cuba Gooding Jr.’s wife in Jerry Maguire. Since then, she has often been cast as the romantic lead, whether as Will Smith’s spouse in Enemy of the State, as Eddie Murphy’s in Daddy Day Care, or as the object of Chris Rock’s affection in Down to Earth.
In Ray, Regina finally gets to play the “other woman,” holding her own opposite Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles’ feisty back-up singer/scorned mistress Margie Hendricks. The film called on Ms. King to exhibit the full range of her talents, a challenge she more than met in a most impressive outing.
Kam Williams (KW): How did you decide how to play Margie Hendricks?
Regina King (RK): Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of pictures or videos of her, so I couldn’t really get her body movements down. I had to rely on the information that Ray and a lot of the band members had given Taylor [writer/director Taylor Hackford]. When you hear her voice on the records, it’s so strong and powerful, so I kind of just went on that and a prayer.
KW: The movie implies that the song “Hit the Road, Jack” had to do with her relationship with Ray. Was that accurate or artistic license?
RK: I think that was artistic license. I mean, that’s the difference between real life and movies. That’s what makes movies, movies. In Taylor’s case, he really uses the music to help tell the story. For example, the song “What’d I Say”—the way it played out in the movie is not really how it came to be, but the film made it more dynamic.
KW: You usually play the wife. What was it like being the mistress for a change?
RK: It was so much fun. When I auditioned for the role, they actually thought I had come to read for the part of Della [Ray Charles’ wife]. I sat down and Taylor was telling me about Della’s character, and I said, “No! Do I have to read for Della?” He asked me who I wanted to read for and I said, “Margie, of course!”
KW: Had you gotten sick of being typecast?
RK: Don’t get me wrong. I would not change my resume for anything. I guess it’s really a compliment in a way that people constantly want you to play a certain type of role. But I leapt at the opportunity to not be the wife.
KW: Which is your favorite scene in the film?
RK: There are so many great moments in the film. The one that stands out for me is when young Ray begins to trust his other senses, when he finds the cricket. I love that scene. That stands out the most.
KW: How did you summon up the depth of emotion you exhibit in the painful moment where your character tells Ray she’s pregnant?
RK: I can’t really say I called on any similar situation, it was just heart-wrenching enough for me to know that another woman could have been in this situation. It was even sad simply reading it. The idea that you’re pregnant with this man’s child and you know in your heart that he’s not going to be accepting of it, that alone was painful, especially knowing she wanted to be more than a mistress whenever they were on the road.
KW: What did you think of the completed picture?
RK: It was so emotional. Kerry [co-star Kerry Washington] and I broke down crying at the end of the screening. When we were shooting it, we knew that we were doing something special. But seeing it, I just feel blessed to be a part of the experience. I thought that it really captured Ray, and that’s all Ray had asked, that the picture tell the truth.
Regina King: Ray’s Women
Kerry Washington and Regina King talk about playing the wife and mistress of Ray Charles.
Very rarely does an actor remain emotionally close to a role a full year-and-a-half after saying goodbye to the character. For Kerry Washington and Regina King, who play Ray Charles’ wife Della “Bea” Robinson and his background singer-turned-lover Margie Hendrix respectively in “Ray,” in theaters Friday, watching the completed film touched some nerves neither knew were still exposed.
“We’ve seen the movie twice together, and for me, this second time around, it just all sank in about how much turmoil I caused in this woman’s life,” King said regarding her character’s effect on Della. “There were a lot of other women, but from what I understand, Margie in particular, I don’t even think in real life Mrs. Robinson says Margie’s name. She calls her ‘that other woman.’ When she talked to Kerry after she saw the movie, she said, ‘That other girl was good too.’ I was like, ‘You know you saw me on “227,” I’m not that other girl’,” King laughs. “But seriously, I take that as a compliment. Just seeing all what Della endured through these years was just like, wow, what made you stay?”
In a separate interview, Kerry Washington agreed that watching the scenes involving Ray and Margie were difficult, “because I really felt like she was the other woman,” Washington said. “Particularly those moments when Margie talks about my character. It was like a year-and-a-half later [after filming wrapped] and it hit me very personally. That surprised me, a lot, and I think it’s a testament to what an incredible actor Regina is. I was concerned for Mrs. Robinson because I knew those would be the hardest parts for her. I was like, if these are hard for me to watch, I can’t imagine how hard this is going to be for her to watch. But she did okay.”
Not much is known publicly about Margie Hendrix, the powerful singer who had started out in the ‘50s all-girl backup group The Cookies before the quartet became Charles’ background singers, the Raelettes.
Charles said in the liner notes of the CD box set “Ray Charles Genius & Soul: The 50th Anniversary Collection”: “As time went on, I thought it’d be hip to have all-girl voices behind [me]. I liked the idea of being the only man with lots of women…Well, I heard a group called the Cookies and asked their leader, Margie Hendrix, if they’d sing with me. She said sure, and that was it.”
The two became lovers while traveling on the road, but boozing and drug use distorted their already unstable relationship. Hendrix died of a drug overdose soon after she left the Raelettes. Portraying their relationship proved a challenge for King and the man who plays Ray Charles Robinson - Jamie Foxx.
“[Director] Taylor [Hackford] told us that Margie and Ray had passion; passion in the studio and passion in the bed,” said King. “That’s one of the things that we had to draw on. When we would do those scenes, we would do a take, then go in our corners, because you kinda gotta like [she exhales], you know, just take a breath. Jamie and I have such a respect for each other that I think the chemistry…it just wasn’t forced.”
Margie’s distinctive, soulful belt is on prominent display in a number of Charles’ songs, including “Tell the Truth,” recorded in 1960, and his wider-known 1958 classic “(Night Time Is) The Right Time.”
“After Margie left the group, Ray didn’t perform ‘Night Time’ anymore,” says King. “You won’t find recordings of ‘Night Time’ without Margie because he said there was no other Margie Hendrix.”
The woman’s voice falls just beyond description. She pulled up a guttural, throaty accent to emphasize words; her runs were completely free of pretentiousness and all of this was wrapped in a brazen sassiness that reflected her personality. Now imagine having to lip-sync that kind of vocal style in a feature film.
“Because Margie adds so many things in, and holds notes longer, and squeezes them out, it was kinda hard to just catch every last “mmph” and all those little things that make it look like it’s really coming out,” says King.
Another challenge for King was wrapping her brain around Margie’s devil-may-care attitude toward Ray’s marriage, and the complete disregard for his wife Della and their children at home.
King says the key to playing this particular “other woman” is, “You kinda just have to go for it because it’s not going to be convincing if you’re not. As Margie, I never felt that she thought of it so much as the other woman. I think she felt like she was Mrs. Charles on the road, so she had this special place. So for me, I was just playing it as a woman who was in love and infatuated and just totally submissive to this man. She didn’t care about his children, she didn’t care about his wife, she just cared about what they shared.
“When I did ‘Enemy of the State’, what I remember a lot about [co-star] Will Smith was that he really had a problem being the man who had cheated on his wife,” King says. “And we had like countless conversations – me, Will and [director] Tony [Scott] – I’m like, ‘Dude, you read the script man, come on’. And [Will] was like, ‘He’s just such a stupid guy’. But he was really having problems with that. And I’m glad I experienced that with him because coming into it now in this project, I was able to come from a different frame of mind so that I wasn’t dealing with, ‘Oh, she’s a home wrecker, oh God.’ It was just, she’s in love and it was about her and Ray.”
Ray’s wife Della Bea Robinson, a former Gospel singer and mother of three of his children, kept a warm and loving home for Ray through it all – until his outside activity and drug use made their relationship unbearable.
"In building the character, I often had to ask myself, how does someone endure this?” said Washington. “And it’s not that strange. I mean, people always say, ‘Oh, it was such an amazing thing she did,’ but I mean, we all know people now in 2004 who are dealing with this very same situation, whether it’s the wives of athletes, or - it just happens. But I think we do things for love, and we make choices in life about what our priorities are, in terms of our children and our comfort. We just do the best we can.”
According to Washington, Della has stayed away from interviews and public attention throughout the years. In fact, her first interview with anyone about Ray Charles was given to James L. White, the film’s screenwriter. The second was given to Washington.
“The fact that she let me interview her, spend time with her and portray her life, I knew it was very, very intimate, and special for her,” Washington said. “We talked about her past, her life, her dislikes and likes, we talked about her relationship with Ray and with her kids; we talked about her relationship in the Black community.
“I got nervous that my respect for her would get in the way of me creating a character that would have real vulnerability and humanity; that I would be drawn to just play her as a hero, which I think is often the problem of bio-pics,” she continued. “That’s why I think this one is so good, because it doesn’t do that. What I did, the very first day of shooting, I spoke with her that morning, and I said, ‘I’ll talk to you in a few months’. I knew I couldn’t talk to her while we were shooting, because it would’ve really held me back.”
After their numerous discussions, Washington found Robinson’s life to closely resemble that of President Kennedy’s wife, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
“She held a very similar position in that she was married to this man that everyone in the world loved, she had to share this man with other women, she had to maintain a family while he was often on the road and in other countries, she held her family together and raised beautiful children – and also in a fashionable sense, she was very much the hostess with the mostest in her time, with kids in the neighborhood. She always talked about Ike and Tina’s kids coming to her house, like she was very much the Black Jackie O of her time.”
Their 20-year marriage ended in divorce in 1977. While her reflections helped Washington provide invaluable insight into the role before production, it was playing opposite Jamie Foxx that both Washington and King say helped refine their performances.
“When two artists come together and they’re both giving, there’s magic there,” says Washington. “I think the same is true for the whole film. I don’t think there’s a weak link in the whole film because everyone who was there was not there for a paycheck. People were there because they really wanted to be. So that spirit of giving, you can really feel.”
“He kept us all laughing, he kept us all in awe,” said King. “Every single one of us were just amazed at a person who has as much that he had to do playing Ray and to still be so giving as an actor. He better get an Oscar nomination.”
A Q & A with Regina King
What do these blockbuster films have in common: HIGHER LEARNING, ENEMY OF THE STATE, JERRY MCGUIRE, POETIC JUSTICE and HOW STELLA GOT HER GROOVE BACK?
Answer These films all showcased the talents of Regina King. You better pay attention because Regina King is a superstar and you should know that.
Isn’t it a treat to see a young actress grow into a bonafide full-time Star? Of course there are some that grow into problems but not this former 227 star. Not only has King starred opposite Chris Rock in DOWN TO EARTH, she is also co-producing a film called MY TRIBE IS LOST.
What’s it like working with Chris Rock?
It is great. Chris is one of those comedians that doesn’t push hard for the laugh. He has a natural, funny perspective. Being able to talk to him, converse with him is great because you feel the conversation is real as opposed to someone talking at you because they’re performing for you as they’re talking.
Had you seen the 2 previous films that this film is based on?
No I haven’t. I saw HEAVEN CAN WAIT before we shot the movie about a month ago and have yet to see HERE COMES MR. JORDAN.
Do you have a preference between comedy and drama?
I would say that I’m more of a dramatic actress. I don’t think I’ll ever do like over the top comedy. I do like dramatic pieces that have a comedic edge, like ALMOST FAMOUS.
What are you doing next?
I’m co-producing a movie, a coming of age piece called MY TRIBE IS LOST and although I was trying to stay away from playing a mother again, this role spoke to me. A charming story that is told through the eyes of a 9 year old boy during a couple of years of life (69-70) in Chicago. His parents moved from the south side of Chicago to the north side. This is a true story. Steven Spielberg bought the rights to this before he bought Dreamworks, but it got lost in the shuffle.
Who plays the boy?
We’re still casting and the actor will have to be 9 years old. It will be a great opportunity to come out and shine.
You got your start on TV playing opposite Marla Gibbs on 227. How difficult was it making the transition to films being a child star?
It wasn’t really that difficult because it was never like a transition I had to make. My mother kept my life pretty normal by sending me to a public high school and doing extra curricular activities.
Did you always know you wanted to be an actress?
Oh yeah, definitely. Probably when I was 6 or 7. I was always reciting poems or putting on some type of show or recording myself and playing it back for myself or acting out characters from soap operas. Just always performing.
Do you find that a lot of roles come to you because of the exposure you had with high profile actors such as Will Smith, Martin Lawrence and Cuba Gooding Jr.?
Well, I had to audition for ENEMY OF THE STATE. Will Smith said that when he and Tony Scott sat down, Tony asked him who he would want to play his wife and Will said Regina King, but I still auditioned. I auditioned for JERRY MCGUIRE. For this film, I read with Chris. I like reading parts that are different from my last role. This role is different than POETIC JUSTICE. This was an opportunity to add another character to my work.
What surprised you the most about working with Chris?
Nothing really because I was getting to know him. You go into the experience very open-minded. I’m very proud of his dedication to the things he does.
What’s your opinion on your character dating not only a white man but, a guy well into his 60’s?
Him being white was no issue, being in his 60’s is another thing. I had to remember that I’m falling in love with Chris. It’s just that his physical appearance is white. Honestly, normally this wouldn’t happen with Regina but with the character.
What is next?
I don’t have anything coming out. This is the first movie I’ve done since my son was actually in school. He’s 5 years old now. I was flying in and out. Not enough time cooking dinner. I just sat and enjoyed being a mom.
Fast DVD Release Set for 'Ray'
Universal's Ray, starring Jamie Foxx and Regina King, remained in the box office top ten last weekend, making Universal's announcement that it plans to release a DVD version of the movie in just eight weeks all the more surprising. Trade reports indicated that the studio was rushing the release of the DVD to put it into the hands of Oscar voters. The single-disc DVD will carry a price tag of $29.98, while a two-disc special edition will sell for $44.98. The studio gave no indication what the special edition will contain.
Resurrected: The life of Ray Charles
When Ray Charles died in June last year, he had ascended to the most rarefied level of fame: no longer merely a celebrity, he had become an institution.
There is no doubt that he deserved this status nor that he enjoyed it, but universal esteem is not always a blessing for an artist. Some of Charles' music has become so familiar that we risk growing deaf to the audacity and innovation that made it great in the first place.
The opening bars of Hit the Road Jack can be heard at every ballpark in the land, whenever a hapless pitcher heads for the showers -- a clever enough joke the first hundred times you hear it but a curious fate for a song that crackles with so much high-spirited sexual drama.
In Ray, the new film biography directed by Taylor Hackford, some of that drama is restored, and you hear some of Charles' best music -- the signature rhythm 'n' blues hits of the mid-1950s, the astonishing forays into orchestral pop and country-and-western of the early 1960s -- as if for the first time.
In the movie's account, Hit the Road Jack emerges almost spontaneously from a hotel-room lovers' quarrel between Ray (Jamie Foxx) and Margie Hendricks (Regina King), one of his backup singers. This episode may be apocryphal and is no doubt embellished, but Ray succeeds to an unusual extent for a movie of this kind in presenting a vivid, convincing portrait of an artist.
If it falls into some of the lacquered conventions that bedevil so many biopics, it also has some of the sly candor that makes Charles' memoir, Brother Ray (written with David Ritz), such a delight to read. And though Ray occasionally strays into sentimentality and facile psychologizing, Hackford and screenwriter James White, have hit upon an insight that eludes most filmmakers who try to put the lives of artists on screen, namely that the real story lies in the art itself.
So while Ray occasionally flashes back to Charles' childhood in Florida, recounting the twin traumas of his younger brother's death and his own blindness (the result of glaucoma), and while it does not shy away from his womanizing or his heroin addiction, its main concern is his music.
Hackford trusts the audience's taste and intelligence enough to assume that, much as we might be curious about Charles' mother (Sharon Warren) or his marriage, we are most interested in learning -- in hearing -- how Charles went from Nat King Cole-style crooning to a raucous fusion of gospel and blues and beyond, treating the whole range of American vernacular music -- black and white, sacred and secular, urban and rural -- as a cornucopia of musical possibilities. We hear a lot of what he made of this bounty, and Ray lets us appreciate Charles' genius and eclecticism in a way that no CD boxed set could.
This is partly a result of Hackford's judiciousness, generosity and the deft way he weaves Charles' recordings through the behind-the-scenes set pieces that fill out the narrative. But what makes Ray such a satisfying picture, in spite of some shortcomings and compromises, is Foxx's inventive, intuitive and supremely intelligent performance.
That this erstwhile comedian possessed formidable acting chops was evident even back in the days of "In Living Color," but it was not always clear how far he would go in developing them. It's clear now. He has mastered Charles' leg-swinging gait, his open-mouthed smile and the tilt of his head, as well as the speaking style that could sometimes sound like a form of scat singing.
But there is much more than mimicry at work here. In his best big-screen performances -- as Drew (Bundini) Brown in Michael Mann's Ali, for instance, and as the young quarterback in Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday -- Foxx has displayed an intriguing blend of quick-wittedness, bravado and sensitivity, and his recognition of those qualities in Charles is the key to his performance.
You get the sense that he is not just pretending to be Ray Charles, but that he understands him completely and knows how to communicate this understanding through every word and gesture without explaining a thing.
Great popular art speaks for itself. "I'm not one to interpret my own songs," Charles wrote in Brother Ray, "but if you can't figure out `What I Say,' then something's wrong. Either that, or you've never heard the sweet sounds of love."
And Ray, at its best, partakes of both the directness and the incomparable sophistication of his music. Apart from the flashbacks to Charles' youth in rural north Florida (where he was born Ray Robinson in 1930), the film concentrates on a two-decade span -- roughly from the late 1940s until the mid-60s -- during which time he made his way from rough-and-tumble clubs and chitlin'-circuit dance halls onto the top of the pops.
Regina King as a mom
Most women in Hollywood fear motherhood, figuring it might delay or even derail their careers. Not Regina King. If anything, the 27-year-old has seen her fortune soar since becoming a mom.
King gave birth to son Ian not long after she finished Jerry Maguire, the Tom Cruise vehicle in which she played the wife of flashy wide receiver Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.). And now, believe it or not, Hollywood is showing her the money.
You can find King in a trio of high-profile films this year, starting in July with How Stella Got Her Groove Back, a romance from the writer of My Best Friend's Wedding and Waiting to Exhale, also starring Angela Bassett and Whoopi Goldberg.
She'll also be featured in Mighty Joe Young, a remake of the King Kong-like classic, in which she plays Dr. Cecily Banks, a wildlife expert who goes ape for the simian.
King then caps her big year with Enemy of the State, a political-conspiracy thriller starring Will Smith and scheduled for a holiday release.
Not bad for a gal who began her career back in 1984, as Vanessa's nameless friend on The Cosby Show. This time next year, it's safe to say King will have made quite a name for herself indeed.
Regina King - said
Versatile actress Regina King is an undisputed master of the Hollywood game. Just ask fellow actors Chris Rock and Will Smith, who demanded that King be their leading lady in Down to Earth and Enemy of the State, respectively. Her smart, easy way of playing women we know has earned King respect from her peers as well as her fans. When you combine her skills with a work ethic that has made her one of the hardest-working actresses in the business, you understand why this woman--who's had starring roles in blockbusters like Jerry Maguire and Legally Blonde 2--is a favorite.
Acting is truly an art to me, so I approach it that way. I choose projects because they interest me, not because I need to pay a bill. I understand that many entertainers are in that position, so I'm not saying that to put anyone down. But I've been blessed enough that I don't have to choose roles just for the paycheck. When I look back at the films I have done, I can honestly say that I enjoy watching them again.
I've had some great role models in the industry. I admire Queen Latifah for the smart and interesting choices she's made and for her ability to maintain a consistent career. I love her for taking her career to levels that no one expected her to.
My mother and grandmother have been role models for me. They always look out for our family's mental and spiritual well-being. It's the reason we're a happy family that genuinely loves one another. If I can do half the job they did, I'll be an awesome mom.
As of this April, I will have been married seven years. My husband is a great father. I couldn't imagine raising my child without him.
Becoming a parent has really changed me. My son has such a big heart that he has taught me to be a more tolerant person.
Everybody who knows me always asks, "When are you gonna do something where you're kicking somebody's butt?" Like any other actress who works hard to stay in great shape--I ran track and played volleyball for years, and I work out regularly--I want to play a character who will show off my athletic ability and physical strength.
Directing is something I definitely want to do, but it's a future goal. The greatest directors are the ones who totally commit themselves to a movie for at least a year and a half. Directing consumes you; it's your baby. So I probably won't direct until my children--I'd like to have another baby--are teenagers.
Many people in the entertainment industry have families that consume a lot of energy--financially and mentally. They have "always something" families. I don't have that. I have a family that is small, supportive and, above all, honest.
If a Black actress is going to make it in Hollywood, she needs plenty of talent, patience and a thick skin. If I were asked what the best thing about being a Black actress in Hollywood is, I'd probably say at least I get more roles than if I were Latina or Asian. That's terrible I know, but it's true.