Regina King spoke with me for AwadsDaily TV about The Leftovers, the dominance of quality on TV, and her role as Marcee Tidwell in Jerry Maguire.
The Leftovers‘ critically acclaimed second season saw a shift in setting to Jarden, Texas, a town unaffected by the Sudden Departure. As part of this dynamic new season two of the HBO series, audiences are introduced to the Murphys. The mother, Erika, is played by the brilliant Regina King who, with that recent Emmy win for American Crime, is having a wild ride of success at the moment on American television. I spoke to her about both shows but could not resist digging up the excellent work in Jerry Maguire too.
Robin Write: So to warm things up, American TV or any TV in general then. What are you watching at the moment? Or what are you trying to watch?
Regina King: I’m catching up on things. I just finished the final season of Getting On, which I love. That is what I watched last night after the basketball game.
RW: You’ve been in the business since 1985’s 227, but your first Emmy nomination and win was last year’s American Crime. Congratulations on that.
RK: Thank you very much.
RW: What was that whole Emmy experience like for you? Being a contender.
RK: Well, it was great. I am so proud of the work we did on American Crime. So excited it received that many nominations, and it was nice to bring us one home. I think it was a special year with Viola and Uzo winning. The moment was great on it’s own, but there were so many things that made it shine even brighter. With Taraji (P. Henson) presenting the award to me, we are so tight, and we have known each other for so long and been through so many things together. Not just in the industry, but outside of it. To have my sister give me that made it even more emotional.Photo courtesy of Van Redin/HBO
RW: It was a great show last year. Did that Emmy win open any more new doors for you? Closed any doors?
RK: [Laughter] No, it’s definitely not closed any doors. I don’t know if it has opened any doors. I have been working for thirty years. I’ve developed a lot of great relationships along the way that have opened doors along the way. When I see my name written in something, it has changed the way it is written. Now it’s “award winning actress,” rather than whatever other adjective they use. I will say this, I like “Emmy Award-winning actress” better than “veteran actress.” [Laughter]
RW: So you’ve got an impressive body of work, with the likes of Southland recently, the current two shows. You were also in 24, obviously you did Ray. But for me, and I don’t know if this is common, but my favorite Regina King performance ever is Marcee in Jerry Maguire. Amazing.
RK: That’s a lot of people’s favorite I think.
RW: Yeah you were brilliant in it, very funny.
RK: Oh thank you very much.
RW: What do you remember about working on that terrific movie? And that particular time.
RK: I remember that I was actually pregnant when I went to audition for Jerry Maguire. So they got the opportunity to see me, as Regina, and how she dressed as a pregnant woman. I wore athletic things. I never bought maternity clothes. I had my leggings underneath my belly. [Laughter] So they thought that was kind of cool, and that was the template for Marcee. And they shot her in mostly athletic gear. And with her husband being a football player she probably had access to a lot of athletic gear. Reebok was kind of like the sponsor. And the producers wanted her to be more glamorous and put together, which a lot of wives of athletes are. So we had to go back and re-shoot those scenes. Hair and make-up and I decided like why don’t we change her wigs all the time – what if she is that lady? That’s how came up in every scene she had different hair.
RW: Now, you and Cuba Gooding Jr could actually be reunited as you both could well be going to the Emmys. You are both in shows that could be nominated.
RK: Right, wouldn’t that be something? And both for shows that are almost the same title.
RW: Yeah, there’s a lot of “American” dot dot dot shows around.
RK: A lot of American. The Americans, American Crime Story, American Crime. But I guess The Americans was the first one out of the gate. Yeah, I would love to be reunited with Cuba in front of the camera. I think we have a great chemistry. That is something the audiences wold be interested in seeing, they loved the Tidwells in Jerry Maguire. It would be interesting to see what other characters we could explore. That is one of the things on my wishlist.
RW: What with The People v. O.J. Simpson, Fargo, Roots, War and Peace, American Horror Story: Hotel, the list goes on and on, that limited drama category is a volcanic mix. Don’t you think the excellent competition here is indicative of the high quality of TV right now and in recent years in America? And has almost taken over cinema.
RK: Absolutely. Not almost, it has taken over. To be quite frank there is not a lot to choose from in the theatrical films that are interesting. If they are not really embracing art as part of culture, then those are not acceptable. If you are not in L.A. or Austin or New York, those type of cities, people don’t know anything about, say, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. They have never heard of that. On the other side with TV almost everyone has cable, and when TV is cranking out well made material, all you have to do is pay your cable bill. You don’t have people going to the theatre as much. Cable has kind of changed the template that network TV is starting to develop. You have all these shows that have eight, ten, twelve episodes can tell a really concentrated story like a 10-hour movie. Audiences appreciate that, really great story-telling throughout.
RW: Okay, so between the two seasons of American Crime and The Leftovers, you’re getting the opportunity to play some dramatically diverse roles. What’s next for you? How do you top that lineup?
RK: You know, it is kind of tough. The bar is set so high after working with Damon and Tom. Their writing is definitely in that valedictorian category. They are just at the top of their class. And that energy trickled down to everyone else that was part of the production. I just am going to breathe and continue to spiral to the next great thing.
RW: Thank you for talking to us, good luck with Emmys, future projects, and all forms of recognition.
RK: What time is it were you are?
RW: About 6pm.
RK: Thank you for taking the time before you have dinner.
RW: No worries, I am going to go home and watch Jerry Maguire now. [Laughter]