Thursday, December 15, 2016

In Character: Regina King

Regina King has been stealing scenes since her film debut in Boyz n the Hood. Her energy, wit, and unwillingness to be outshadowed by her male co-stars has long-since made her an actor who demands (and keeps) your attention. I’ve been a fan of her work from the beginning, and am thrilled that she’s currently finding so much success on TV. Here are a handful of roles I’ve enjoyed her most in.

Five Essential Roles
Boyz n the Hood (1991)
There isn’t a weak link in John Singleton’s astonishing first film, Boyz n the Hood, which is impressive, given that Singleton was 23 when he directed it. King herself was only 20 when she made her fiery film debut. As Shalika, King provides some of the movie’s best comic relief. She’s a gal who can hang with the boyz – cutting up, talking shit. Actually, King is responsible for one of the film’s most amusing moments. As she and Ice Cube pass a 40, Shalika downs what’s left, and attempts to hand Cube the empty bottle. Cuba looks at it and blurts out, “You better take your ass to the store with that.” There’s playful fuckwithery about that moment that I’ve always appreciated. 

Ray (2004)
Margie Hendricks
In early 2005, when Ray was making the awards rounds and Jamie Foxx was winning everything, several people made the case that King should’ve garnered awards attention as well. Her explosive work as the talented, drunk, impassioned Margie was the best supporting performance in the film. Who can forget Margie and Ray getting into a lover’s quarrel, which immediately inspires Ray to create “Hit the Road Jack”? Instead of Margie storming off, she picks up Ray’s tempo and begins belting out the lyrics the way they would eventually be recorded. I love female characters who stand up for themselves, especially against such iconic, albeit flawed, men.

Year of the Dog (2007)
Most of the roles in this post display the intense side of King’s acting. Whether through power or subtlety, she always comes strong. Yet her relaxed, supportive turn as Layla in Year of the Dog is the antithesis of the fire we often see from King. This performance shows a tender, loving side of King’s acting that is important to highlight. Layla is the best friend of a distraught woman named Peggy (Molly Shannon). After Peggy’s dog dies, Peggy slowly realizes how emotionally immature she is, and friends like Layla encourage Peggy to get out in the world and create new experiences. Layla is a small part, but a significant one. It quietly shows King’s range as an actor.

The Leftovers (2015)
Erika Murphy
The strength of King’s work in the second season of The Leftovers can be found in the concluding showdown she has with Carrie Coon in Episode 6. Erika and Nora (Coon) sit across from one another, alone in Erika’s living room. The two passionately defend their respective beliefs concerning the “departures” of their loved ones. Erika blames herself for her daughter’s disappearance, which Nora labels “pathetic.” Much of the scene is the two actors asking each other a series of questions, followed by prolonged stares of silence. It’s a quiet but emotionally devastating scene that utilizes the best work of each performer.

American Crime (2015-2016)
Aliyah Shadeed/Terri LaCroix
Regina King has won two Emmys for playing two different characters on the anthology series, American Crime. In the first season, King plays Aliyah Shadeed, a devoted member of the Nation of Islam who is trying to get her drug addicted brother exonerated of a murder rap. Aliyah is strong, but contained; fully aware of how she’s perceived. It’s a understated turn, but skillfully played. Season Two’s Terri LaCroix is the showier role of the two. Terri is a stern, well-to-do woman who is fiercely protective of her teenage son, Kevin. But when Kevin is accused of sexually assaulting his teammate, Terri’s strict sensibilities are tested in new ways.

American Crime goes for the jugular. Most every scene is filled with uncomfortable intensity. The show aims to stir debate by proposing situations few network television shows are brave enough to depict. Thankfully, King has proven to be one of the series’ most valuable assets.

The Best of the Best
Jerry Maguire (1996)
Marcee Tidwell
“He deserves the big four - shoe, car, clothing- line, soft drink. The four jewels of the celebrity endorsement dollar. I majored in marketing and so did my husband. We can to play.”

What an intelligent, business-savvy, self-assured woman Marcee Tidwell is. Cameron Crowe wrote a strong character, but Regina King absolutely crushed this performance. Every time she’s on screen, Jerry Maguire is alive in such an exciting way. Marcee is a firestorm; a strong, independent woman who loves her husband, Rod (Cuba Gooding Jr.), and has nothing but his best interest in mind. There’s no scandal with Marcee, no ulterior motive or sinister doings, she’s an extremely smart woman who will fight for what is best for her family.

Of course, in addition to Marcee’s wise business tactics, King makes the character whole with genuine emotion. It’s impossible to forget Marcee’s impassioned, tearful plea to Jerry (Tom Cruise) as Jerry watches Rod lying unconscious on a football field. You really believe that Marcee has to have her husband. The two live for each other. That’s love.

Other Notable Roles
in Southland
227 (1985-1990)
Poetic Justice (1993)
Higher Learning (1995)
Friday (1995)
A Thin Line Between Love and Hate (1996)
How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998)
Enemy of the State (1998)
Down to Earth (2001)
Daddy Day Care (2003)
Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (2003)
Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (2005)
The Boondocks (2005-2014)
27 (2007)
Southland (2009-2013)
The Big Bang Theory (2013-2014)
Shameless (2014)


  1. Regina King. Definitely one of the most underrated actresses working today. It's not just Boyz N the Hood she was great in but I also liked her in Poetic Justice where she pretty much stole the film a bit from Janet and 2Pac. I liked her in Miss Congeniality 2 as I'm sure every film buff were giggling over the fact that her character is named after a revered filmmaker.

    I'm pretty much avoiding Cameron Crowe's films at the moment after the horror that was Aloha as I do like Jerry Maguire though I think it's kind of overrated but her performance in that film I feel is overlooked and she's the best thing in that film that still stuck with me.

    1. The Sam Fuller name is definitely a nice touch in an otherwise blah film. I did appreciate that.

      I can't even comment on Aloha. I have no idea how a movie like that gets greenlit, let alone made... with big stars, no less. Baffling. I did enjoy parts of Roadies and was sad to see it canceled.

  2. I've been a fan of Regina King for a long time. Jerry Maguire is a good choice for the top pick. Mine would probably be The Leftovers because there was so much to the character that only grew during the season. It's sad that I haven't seen more of her signature roles.

    1. She's sooo good in The Leftovers, no question. I've just always been drawn to the fire in her Jerry Maguire performance. But she is killing it on TV right now.

  3. YES YES YES! I absolutely adore Miss King and boy am I happy as to how she is taking television by storm.

    1. Right?! She's so damn good on American Crime, and every other show she's in.

  4. I have Boyz in the Hood on my Blind Spot list for next year. I can't wait to see it.

    I loved her in American Crime, I only watched the 2nd season, and I hated the finale episode with the fiery passion of 10,000 suns, but she was great in it. Especially the "what can you do for me?" line.

    1. That's one of my all time favorite films. It's a remarkable achievement. Everyone was so young! And King is sooo damn funny in it.

      Yeah that final episode was definitely controversial. But I loved how bold that season was.

  5. I'm ashamed to admit I only recognize her from The Big Bang Theory but she is so great there, she plays a very serious character but she is so funny

    1. I haven't seen her in that! But I love hearing that she's good in it.

  6. I love Regina King. She makes everything she's in better. I haven't seen American Crime yet but when she won her first Emmy, I was so happy because she was finally getting her due.

    1. Hell yeah, couldn't agree more. She's so damn talented. Love that she's in a great stride on TV.

  7. I must admit i haven't seen her in a lot, but i thought she was great in both Boyz n the Hood and Jerry Maguire. American Crime is yet another show i want to watch, but just don't have the time for. Hopefully i will get around to it some day.

    1. It's a damn fine show, but I'm still thrilled that you dig her work in Boyz and JM!

  8. Glad to see you give Regina King the spotlight. She is a fantastic performer. For me, her work in Ray is her best, but her scene-stealing in Poetic Justice is not far behind. That's on the big screen. I haven't seen any of her most recent, award-winning work, but I have a special place in my heart for what she accomplishes as Riley, a thugged-out 8 year old boy, on The Boondocks. She kills it.

    1. She's so good in Ray. Takes every scene she's in. And I do love her work in Poetic Justice as well. Very close to including that here. Glad you're a fan of her work!