Since her debut in 1999’s The Best Man, Regina Hall has consistently charted one of the most diverse and accomplished filmographies of any actor of her generation. In roles spanning the gamut between slapstick comedies to sophisticated dramas, Hall’s relatable, charismatic presence has anchored projects as antithetical as Scary Movie, Girls Trip and The Hate U Give and currently, she’s up for a Film Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead—for 2018’s spunky service industry dramedy, Support the Girls.
Written and directed by famed indie auteur Andrew Bujalski, Girls follows one long, hard day in the life of restaurant manager Lisa Conroy, the harried den mother of a suburban Texas “breastaurant” (think Hooters) staffed by a daffy-but-well-meaning menagerie of young waitresses, each with their own unique set of issues—which soon become Lisa’s issues, too.
Hall can also currently be seen in the Showtime original comedy Black Monday, which was shooting at the time of Film Independent’s We The People inclusion summit at the LA Film Festival in September. Joining moderator Elvis Mitchell at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, Hall took 60 minutes (or so) away from her busy shooting schedule to deliver the summit’s keynote conversation. Watch the full event or read some of the key highlights below.
REGINA HALL KEYNOTE
The first big role. Mitchell began by asking Hall about her debut, Malcolm D. Lee’s The Best Man. Hall joked, “I swear, in every role, I think it’s the [director’s] wife who casts you. I think he takes these tapes home and says, Honey, what do you think?” A non-dancer, for her role in the film as stripper “Candy,” the film’s choreographer told her: “All you need to do is turn around and slap your ass.” Said Hall to Mitchell: “I’ve met the most interesting people!”
The actor’s process. “I have to read something over and over. Because every time I see it, I hear something differently.” Namely, do the work. Mitchell asked: “You mean saying it over and over until you find a way that [the words] make sense to you?” Hall confirmed. “Yeah, totally,” she said. Nevertheless, Hall considers herself primarily an instinctual performer on set, saying that she “lives in the moment” and can’t necessarily repeat specific actions if asked.
Roles sparking a response. Mitchell praised Hall’s eclectic choice of roles. “One of the things I’ve always liked about you is you go where the good work is,” he said. Said Hall: “It’s not conscious. I didn’t really have discretion as a younger actor.” She simply reads scripts, and sees if she has a response to it. “Wherever I can find humanity, that’s what I like to do”—including roles not written (explicitly or otherwise) to be black. According to Hall, she’s “trying to authentically fill the space without making that [race] an issue.”
Supporting the girls. On her Support the Girls character Hall said, “She’s so committed to being this person, the center of common sense, to lead these young women to the right place and protect them.” Mitchell praised the film as a portrait of something trying to live hour to hour. But, Hall said, Lisa is human—e.g. not a perfect person. “Sometimes the person that’s always the most helpful, there’s something self-serving in it.”
The serious business of comedy. Arguably known best for her comedy work, Hall said, surprisingly, “I’d never thought of myself as funny,” saying fans frequently—and erroneously—assume she came out of the stand-up comedy world. “But whether it’s a dramatic character or a comedic character, it’s the same process” of building a character, she says. On working with Keenan Ivory-Wayans on the Scary Movie series: “Keenan is great. He lets you do, he’d let improvise if [what you’re doing] is funny.”
Not every role will be right for you. The conversation shifted to the casting process and Hall’s advice for young actors. It’s important not to be discouraged by rejection, she said. “We think it’s because [we] didn’t do well, but it’s not that. It’s just that you could give a script to everybody in this room and they’re going to interpret it with what they come with.”
Vanity, pro and con. Hall admitted that she finds it difficult to watch herself onscreen. “It used to be, oh, I missed that moment. Now it’s like, shit, my ass is getting old up on that screen.” The rise of hi-def cameras and TVs hasn’t helped, she joked. But despite pressures, she’s resisted getting any cosmetic work done, saying that she wants to “remain expressive.” But sometimes being on display does have its perks, she said—citing an example of having a billboard of herself conveniently obstruct the view from an ex-boyfriend’s apartment.
The bad thing about Black Monday. In the midst of shooting last September, Hall had high praise for her Black Monday co-stars Don Cheadle and Andrew Rannells. She also relished the opportunity to be a black woman on a show about 1980s Wall Street. That her character is “just as awful” as the white male characters is refreshing, she said. The only thing she didn’t like? “I have to wear pantyhose every day. They are not comfortable.”
To see who else is nominated at this year’s 34th Film Independent Spirit Awards click here. Hosted by Aubrey Plaza, the 2019 Film Independent Sprit Awards will be held Saturday, February 23 back on the beach in Santa Monica and broadcast live EXCLUSIVELY on IFC at 2:00 pm PT / 5:00 pm ET. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.