Regina Hall sees the bigger picture with ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ and ‘Forensic Files’
By Sandra E. Garcia
Many remember the scene in 2000 slasher-comedy “Scary Movie” in which the character Brenda Meeks, played by Regina Hall, is at the movie theater loudly and hilariously talking to the screen. “I think I paid my money like everybody else up in here,” Meeks responds to an annoyed moviegoer. Eventually, the killer finds Meeks at the theater, but the rest of the audience gets a stab at her as well.
In real life, Hall, who has delivered many more unforgettable comic performances since, is not as animated when watching her favorite television series, the true-crime show “Forensic Files.” She is usually rapt, and sometimes can’t tell when one episode ends and the next begins. “Because they start that next episode, and you don’t know so you’re like, man, I’ve been watching ‘Forensic Files’ for hours,” she said in a recent interview, before breaking into a warm laughter. “I always feel like, I hope I wasn’t a killer in the past.”
Hall’s latest project is “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul,” which debuted at Sundance this year and premieres on Peacock and in theaters Sept. 2. In it, she stars as Trinitie Childs, the wife of a Southern Baptist pastor, played by Sterling K. Brown, who serves a megachurch. Hall’s character supports her husband as he tries to bring the congregation back after it loses faith in him. Behind the veneer of dutiful, encouraging wife is someone who knows the truth but needs to play along for her own sake.
There are many ways Hall builds characters like Trinitie, but she compared the process to one of her favorite pastimes: hiking. “It’s like, there are moments where I hope I can do it,” she said. “I want to stop, you know? You pause, but it doesn’t work without the doing.”
These are edited excerpts from the conversation about her 10 favorite things.
1. “Freedom in Exile: The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama”
I think something about the journey of that little boy turning into the Dalai Lama and hearing about the things he didn’t get to do in his childhood. I just think of someone being faced with those mounting decisions and then having to ultimately flee for safety. It’s just very compassionate. I try to approach all of my characters with compassion.
2. “Sleepless in Seattle”
I like that because it makes me happy. It’s a really happy ending. How many times they missed and crossed paths and just didn’t make it. There’s something beautiful about destiny. A lot of times we’re always doing, doing, doing, and maybe there’s a bigger hand at work.
3. “Forensic Files”
I’m always watching some “Forensic Files.” I get worried about me. It’s hard because you’re watching people go through such tragic things, but you also want some sense of solution. Of course, it does not make up or negate the loss. There’s also something about watching the scope of humanity and what we are all capable of. I mean, if one of us does it, it means that it’s a human trait. It does not mean we will do it, but it exists a little bit within the human condition.
4. “Free” by Prince
It is not one of Prince’s dance songs, and it’s not a ballad. It’s about the right to be free in whatever capacity, free to change your mind, go most any place, any time. There’s a sense of spirituality for me in that. It’s a great song when there’s periods of uncertainty, and that can really be when building a character. I love Prince’s dance songs, too, don’t get me wrong.
5. NPR’s “Up First”
I love the news. I got my masters in journalism from New York University, so that started there, and I just got into the habit of the news. I read this book, “Democracy in America,” in graduate school. The whole point of that book is that you can’t have democracy without a free press. It’s crazy, because back then, it just seemed like, why do we have to read this book? We used to just be able to assume that if it was on the news, it is fine. But now there are so many information sources.
6. Places Near Water
For me, it doesn’t really have to be a beach; I can look at the lake. I love it when it’s blue. It’s not really about the space. It’s the natural element of water and its borders. How does the water just stop? It’s like there’s just oceans and oceans, and then it stops and there’s the beach. It’s fascinating, even though I’m someone who’s kind of nervous about water.
7. French Fries
I’ll take anybody’s french fry. I’m a fry whore, that’s the problem. It’s the one food that’s very hard for me to turn down. When there are french fries in front of me, I know I’m going to have one.
My baby passed away. His name was Zeus, the best dog in the world. He was just turning 12, and he was an English bulldog. They’re loud. They breathe loud, they exhale loud. They walk loud, and you feel their absence, too. He was pretty rotten and stubborn and drove me crazy, but I just loved him so much. That was my guy. His nickname was Handsome.
9. Anything From My Mother
The biggest thing I have is this mirror that was my mom’s mirror. It was in every house that I can remember. I don’t remember not having it. It’s the first thing when you walk in. When I see it I feel gratitude and sadness because I wish it were still in her house. I wish she was still here. I just miss her, it’s constant.
I go on hiking trips with a group called the Ranch. I guess they went like 13, 15 miles or something where I was like, this has got to be abuse. But it was pretty great. Hiking is such a love/hate. It’s incredible, but it’s also kind of really challenging. It kind of reminds me of God.