Regina Hall is driving down La Cienega Blvd, past the FYC billboards, and sees the towering ad for Roma. Mid-sentence she gushes, “I like Roma, it’s a great movie.”
She is having one amazing year. From Girls Trip last year to The Hate U Give and her award-winning turn in Support the Girls, Hall has been receiving universal acclaim. She was the first African-American woman to win Best Actress from the New York Film Critics Circle.
I caught up with her to discuss her earliest ambitions, how she researched Support The Girls, and what she looks for in a project.
What’s this year been like for you?
It’s been great. It’s always nice to work with such great people. For me, I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve been doing. I loved Andrew as a director and my cast and the DPs. It’s been great having great minds to work with and to work off of. That part has been the most exciting.
I have to ask you, what restaurants did you go to research this role?
[laughs] I went to Hooters. I went to Twin Peaks. We don’t have a Twin Peaks in LA, but I went to a Hooters in South Carolina. In Austin, they have a Bikini which is individually owned, not a chain. Then I went to the Twin Peaks and we were actually shooting across from there. It was on the same lot across the way. We’d get their customers coming in thinking they’d scored a double whammy coming in thinking it was a real restaurant wanting to try it.
It was interesting to go because I had not gone to any of those places before.
What did you learn from those trips and the people there that helped you get into Lisa?
I spoke to some managers both male and female. With the female managers, it helped because I got to realize how much they really cared about the girls. There was one manager who had Tylenol, pads, and tampons. She had earrings and makeup. She said, “I keep it in case. Just so they can always feel comfortable. She, like Lisa, was very protective. To them, it really is a familial setting.
I was surprised when watching this that nothing bad happened. Like I was sitting there thinking “something bad” is going to happen because we’re kind of conditioned that way.
It just didn’t and that was so pleasant.
I felt like that reading the script. I was going through it and she’s having problems with her husband. There’s that line, “You don’t worry about leaving your husband home?” and she says, “Oh no.” You think, she’s going to come home and he’s not going to be there. But nothing happens. She’s a good woman and the people around her are pretty good too. I was just expecting that Hollywood plot thing to be like: “Gasp.”
That’s what’s nice about it being an Independent film, I think. So, at what point as you’re reading this did you think you had to do it?
I remember reading it and it didn’t leave my brain. I thought about it and told my manager that I wanted to do it. Of course, we didn’t hear back. I asked, “Did we get the offer yet?” and he was like, “No. They’re meeting with a few more people,” and I was like, “WHAT?” [laughs].
I said I had to do it. I really wanted to be a part of it.
It was refreshing to see the restaurant as the environment for female solidarity.
I thought that was so interesting that Andrew took that backdrop and made it about equality and sisterhood. I was surprised when I read it that a man did it. Usually, there would be gratuitous jokes. He really just focused on the humanity of the people working.
Talk about shooting the final scene on the roof.
It took a lot of takes and it was our last day. I guess it was smart too because he said, “They’re going to be screaming so they may not have a voice. We did a lot of angles because it was from the front and the side. There was a mix of emotions because we had been on that whole journey of the character. It was emotional ironically.
Your other film this year is The Hate U Give. From the first scene it’s raw, but that character and film was so powerful.
I remember thinking it was a powerful story. All those dynamics and those relationships in the movie. Starr in the two worlds and this family relationship and her relationship with the school. I remember having this really emotional response. It was a human response. My thought was what could I do and how could I contribute to the thinking? It made me have a desire to be more proactive in relating.
When I saw it, I was very affected by the script and then by the movie.
Your career spans comedy, drama. What makes you say yes to a project?
There’s a lot of factors. It could be the script, the character, my co-stars. Sometimes with a comedy, it’s just that I laughed. There are so many reasons. I think it’s just when I feel a connection to that part or person.
Did you always want to act?
No. Actually, I was from D.C. It’s not that I didn’t want to be an actress. It just wasn’t conceivable. It was pre-internet where worlds weren’t merging and colliding like that. Even access to knowing and understanding what it was seemed so foreign.
I remember always being affected by movies and thought it would be amazing.
I think the first thing I told my mom what I wanted to be was a Playboy playmate. [laughs]. I was six years old and there was a party on TV. I remember this specifically and it was this big party on TV with the girls walking around the pool. I thought that’s what a playmate did. I wanted to be rollerskating around the pool and that was my calling. I went to my mom and said, “Mommy, I know what I want to do when I grow up. I want to be a Playboy playmate.” She said, “Oh, that’s nice. Maybe you’ll change your mind.”
That was it. She didn’t say anything. [laughs]. I was like, “Change my mind? I’m going to be rollerskating in the sun.” In D.C. we had all four seasons. We didn’t have the sun. I thought it was such a cool job. That was my first job desire. [laughs].
I rang in 2018 watching Girls Trip with my cousin. It was a riot. What was it like doing that film? A great and funny movie about female relationships.
We’re still friends. We had so much fun. It was ridiculous because we laughed so much. It was like we had known each other. I remember talking to the producer saying, “Women do say dick when we’re alone.”
They’re like, “Would they say that?” I think men think we sit around and drink wine. We’re fun.
We let our hair down.
We laughed. That movie was as much fun making as it looked.
Why do these films resonate?
I read and think of what resonates with me and what I want to watch. I have my friends. My girlfriends are such an integral part of who I am as a woman. I thought to show friends that have gone through everything. Your girlfriends show up. When you have great girls, they show up. It’s so hard to describe that feeling that you have with your friends of people who are just there. I thought if we get to have that story and objectify some guys on camera. [laughs].
Girls do that.
But they don’t show that in movies.
Now they do because of Girls Trip.
Now they do. [laughs]