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March 2005
Miss Congeniality: Armed and Fabulous: An Interview with Regina King

Miss Congeniality: Armed and Fabulous: An Interview with Regina King

By Todd Gilchrist

Since her humble beginnings on TV's "227", Regina King always made a lasting impression on audiences; she's played a gang banger ("Boyz n the Hood"), comic foil for a pair of jobless hoodrats ("Friday"), the wife of a rising professional athlete ("Jerry Maguire"), and counterpart to a bubbly attorney ("Legally Blonde 2"), and always held her own against her a-list co-stars. With "Miss Congeniality 2", King hopes to make it to the a-list herself; as she reveals in this recent interview with blackfilm.com, she says that she's worked hard at making great movies, and looks forward to whatever success she might find, even if it's by playing totally unlikable characters.

What did you do to build this character?

Regina King: I kind of decided, just being a small person, that when I was younger, I always used to be the kid that everyone would want to pick up because I was so little- 'oh, she's so cute'- and it used to irritate me so much and I just decided what if someone took that to the next level and decided that the next person that picks me up, I'm kicking their ass? And then it just snowballed and it got bigger, and then the thing about her being allergic to things, I also think that kind of added some more texture to it. Not only do people want to freakin' pick her up, she can't do things; she can't go play soccer because the grass will make her sneeze, you know. So she's got some stuff to be angry about that she's been angry about for years. I just kind of made that conscious decision that it wasn't a specific thing, well, yeah- it was a specific thing as far as being small and having to prove yourself.

In the film you dress up like Tina Turner. Was that a tough act to follow, and did you get to meet her?

RK: I have never got to meet her, but I've never met anyone who wasn't a Tina Turner fan. I mean, look how she looks- at sixty-something years old, Jesus, she's my hero. You know, "Mad Max [Beyond] Thunderdome", with the 120 pound suit- whoa- and the super kick butt hair and those honkin' mama earrings. Actually, it wasn't so hard because Sandy brought in a choreographer, Fatima, and she basically was like, you know, 'gotta have fun with it.' At first we had this really big way-out number that didn't really match, you know, somebody coming up with this on the fly, so we toned it down and we just had fun with it. It was more a type of thing that the more fun that we had, the better it was going to come off. The more unchoreographed it looked, the funnier it was going to be. I think the beginning part, where she's behind [waving her arms], I think it's hilarious and beautiful at the same time, to see that beautiful pink and yellow thing coming out, and then her sparkly suit and hands. You know, I cracked up out loud when I saw that, because you're shooting it so you don't get to see it until you see the movie, and I thought it was great. I really thought it was fun.

What can you tell us about the scene when you and Sandra Bullock are literally at each other's throats?

RK: You know what? We're choking ourselves. If you notice that we're each holding our hand, that's us doing this to ourselves. But it does take a lot out of you. Every time we would finish a scene, we were like, 'whew!' And then John would say 'another take,' and we would go 'alright, John, this is it. This is the last one.' But that's what everyone would say- 'are you guys choking each other?' and we were like 'no- we're choking ourselves and we're killing ourselves here.'

Was it your idea to play with Sandra's prosthetic boobs?

RK: Actually, that was Sandy's idea, because we figured as much play as we can get out of those, we've got to. How we came across them is we were doing a scene, and it literally looked like her boobs were down here, and we were like, 'yo, we gotta make sure people don't think those are your boobs.' So she starts flicking them every chance she gets and the first time we did it we fell out because she had like four breasts, and it was like, 'dude, you have got to do that in the movie. You've go to do this in the next take.' So we kind of happened upon it.

Did you do any research to play an FBI agent?

RK: We had to do a lot of stunt rehearsal, because both she and I decided, or we're both a-type people. We gotta do it ourselves and it's gotta be good, and it's gotta be the best. So we both wanted to do our own stunts, so the majority of the stunts, she and I both did ourselves, so that means more time, more stunt rehearsals. Luckily, my husband, he's a- he likes guns, so I've gone shooting with him, so I kind of knew the hand positions on a gun. You know, that's one of the worst things, and I learned that early on with him, watching movies- 'oh, you can tell they don't shoot!' So when I got this, I was like, 'alright baby, this is right, right?' because you don't want to hold your hand where the clip can pinch your hand, or everyone will know that you don't know what you're doing. So for the most part, the most training, if you could call it that, was for the stunts.

What about working underwater? Enrique (Murciano) said he had to jump into cold water, but Sandra enjoyed a warm pool.

RK: We got to dive into a warm pool. No, Sandy, and I, every day, because we were supposed to dive into cold water, and then Bill and Enrique and Heather did their stuff in the cold water. It was supposed to be us next, and we were just like, 'is there a dead pigeon in there? John, there's a dead pigeon in the water!' So then the next day, they were like, 'okay, you guys are definitely going in,' because it was like day after day and we would run late, and then it was like, 'well, you're definitely going in today.' So we came to the set like, 'yes! I love this job! We're going to do this!' and at two in the morning John goes, 'girls, I'm not going to make you do it.' So that whole thing that if you believe it's going to happen, it doesn't, it worked in that regard, but although Enrique and Heather and Bill jumped in and got out, we had an 18 hour day. The water might have been warm, but it was 18 hours in it. We were pruny, we had to cut our hair, because they had to put bromine and chlorine in the water, because the chlorine turned the water a color that the camera couldn't pick anything up, so they had to put this other chemical in to clear all of the cloudiness up, and when I tell you, it is so hard on your body, and then you can't put lotion on to protect your body, because it's going to cloud the water again, so hair was like sticks. Sandra had that pretty, beautiful, brownish warm hair, and she's like, 'well, I guess this is all coming off. I guess I'll just get a mohawk.' I was like, 'you better not,' but we both knew that we were going to have to cut [our hair], and it wasn't going to be like a trim. It was going to be cut.

How was Las Vegas? Did you have fun?

RK: We did. I don't gamble- I don't really get the concept of gambling, I don't get it. I drank. It was so cheap in Vegas compared to LA.

So you were blotto the whole time you were there?

RK: Ha ha, I wish. Just kidding! No, my son came to Vegas every weekend and we would do Circus Circus, we'd ride the roller coasters- there's so much to do in Vegas, you know, there really is. He loves rock & roll, so we went to the Hard Rock Hotel, so I did a lot of touristy stuff.

Did he see you filming?

RK: He gets to see it at the premiere; he waits for the premiere. One of the cool things was when we were doing the drag stuff, and at first I was like- because it was summertime- and normally we would go on vacation, and he was like, 'I don't want to go to camp. I just want to hang out on set.' so I was like, 'alright.' And then we were kind of like, my husband and I were like, 'I don't know- all of these drag queens on set; it might not be a good thing.' I was like, 'well dude, it is Hollywood, you know he's going to see it,' and he's already had a couple of instances that kind of made him go 'wow, why is he acting like that?' So we have all of these drag queens, and there was Britney Spears one, and he keeps staring at her and so he looks and he goes over to her and he says, 'you know what? If you want to be a real live girl, you could be.' You know like 'whoa, you look really-' because I told him, I said, 'okay, Ian, everybody on this set that looks like a woman is really a man. If they have on make-up, it's a man.' 'Well, why would they want to?' 'They do it for a living- this is their job. This is how they pay their bills, and they like doing it.''But why would a guy want to wear a dress?' 'Baby, everybody has their own thing. Some people might say why would you want to play basketball if you're only four feet tall? Everybody has their own thing.' You've got to single something out to make him go 'oh, okay.' So by the end he would let them ride his scooter. He's such a cool kid. It was fun- he had a good time.

Haven't you been a roller coaster during these past months because of "Ray"'s success?

RK: They have been very- it's been like a roller coaster. It's been a lot of stupid questions, you know, like somebody asked me 'what's Jamie wearing to the Oscars?' and I was like 'dude, are you serious? Shouldn't the question be what am I wearing?'

They don't seem to realize you aren't your character.

RK: Yeah. 'Guess what? I never slept with Jamie, or Ray. It's been very interesting, it's been beautiful, the audience has just embraced the movie. Like, I've had people say 'I've seen that movie eleven times, no lie, swear to God, eleven times,' and I'm like, 'wow, you've got a lot of time on your hands.'

Has its success meant more opportunities for you as an actress?

RK: Yeah. I think that there's probably a possibility that Warner Brothers kind of changed their marketing campaign a little bit and decided to include the ol' girl a little more, you know, which I'm not mad at at all. It was just really interesting to see the Miss Congeniality commercials- I've never been in a commercial like that before, so I'm like, you know, like my Mom but in myself, like, 'ooh baby, look! Miss Congeniality meets Miss Personality!'

Did you work to augment the female buddy picture aspect of the film?

RK: Yeah. That was something that Sandy really fought for. As a producer, she really, really fought to not have a love interest. They wanted her to have the love interest, and she said, 'you know what? We can do a great movie that's entertaining, funny, that has emotional weight without me kissing on a guy. It doesn't have to have that, and if I find the right girl, we can do it.' So then she found me and they still actually had, you know I don't know if they want me to tell you this or not, but they still actually kind of wanted a love thing in there, and she's like 'no, me and Regina King can do it.' So she really like has been my partner and every step of the way, she's not scared of the next woman; she truly believes that if every single aspect of this movie is good, then it makes me better. 'I'm not the one that has to shine and have every joke and have every badump-bump. That's not what it's about. It's about doing a great movie, and a lot of actors don't look at it that way. They look at it as like, 'whose name is above the title?' where she's like, 'if this shit doesn't work, then I don't work, so I want ti to evolve from every line, every wardrobe choice.' Kudos to her, because I've worked on movies where actors have been producers and I really couldn't tell.

You share a great scene when you're having your 'slumber party.' How did you develop that scene?

RK: Well, you know, it's like we need this moment where if we want the audience to believe that they really start to dig each other, we don't want them to boom-boom-boom 'oh, they're friends! Can we do hair?' It needed that moment to help sell the audience, because you've got an hour and thirty minutes to sell the audience. Some of the sells are hard sells, and some of them are easy, but the idea is to make it as easy as possible, to make the audience not be like, 'okay, I'll take that leap.' That's the whole idea of it all. I think we did a pretty good job at it, I really do. I think that it's a movie that guys, if the girl says 'I want to go see that,' guys don't feel like they;re having teeth pulled sitting through.

Who would you say is a major female influence on you, besides your mother?

RK: Actress-wise, oh, anybody. Early on, probably Marla Gibbs, because I was kind of starting my career there, and I got to see a woman that was my first time in the business, that's the first female hands-on producer I ever saw, and she taught me how important it was to be a professional. She taught me how important it was to hit my mark. She taught me how important it was to speak my mind when I am feeling something, but do it with respect, you know, that you get more done not being a loudmouth. You get more done if you say, 'you know, I don't feel this is right,' but have a reason behind it, not just 'no, I don't want to do it.' You know what I mean, but let them know and have an alternative. Not just say 'I don't want to do this,' say 'I don't think this is right; I thought maybe if we did this,' and I learned that from her at fourteen.

Did you get a chance to talk to Jamie after the Oscars? What did you say?

RK: No, we kept missing each other at parties, but I left him a long message about how much I loved him, that he deserves every single thing that he has coming to him, and, man, ride it 'til the wheels fall off. And when they fall off, get out and push. He deserves it all, he really does. He was the best performance to me, and I'm not saying it because I was in the movie. He's incredible.

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