When I catch up with Regina Hall via Zoom, it’s a busy, sunshiny day for her in New York City, full of photo shoots and interviews. I can’t help but compliment the jovial actor on the chic headscarf she’s wearing, and when I do, she leans toward the screen with an infectious laugh and says, “It’s Zoom. Girl—the wig is right here. But I was like, ‘I’m not gonna have time to put the wig on. Whoever they are, they’re gonna have to get a little scarf today.’ So how are you?”
Hall, 51, has had a long and celebrated track record of box office successes since she ascended to widespread notoriety as Brenda Meeks in the Scary Movie films over 20 years ago. Over the next two decades, Hall established herself as a prolific character actor with an uncanny ability to convey everything from joyful ebullience to biting wit to searing trauma in a variety of contexts. Her TV credits include stints on Ally McBeal, Law & Order: LA, Insecure, and on last year’s critically acclaimed Hulu series Nine Perfect Strangers—a show in which she played a seemingly buttoned-up single mother searching for inner peace at a lavish retreat center led by a new-age guru played by Nicole Kidman.
On the big screen, she is best known for anchoring projects that have since entered the Black film cannon—including The Best Man franchise; Gina Prince-Bythewood’s iconic first feature Love & Basketball; the aforementioned Scary Movie series that made her a household name; feminist buddy flick Girls Trip; and the 2018 comedy Support the Girls, a role that earned her the distinction of becoming the first Black woman to be awarded the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress.
“It’s Zoom. Girl—the wig is right here. But I was like, ‘I’m not gonna have time to put the wig on. Whoever they are, they’re gonna have to get a little scarf today.’”
And now, in the wake of her Nine Perfect Strangers success, she’s starring in multiple high-profile projects at once. Her Netflix comedy Me Time, co-starring Kevin Hart and Mark Wahlberg, premieres August 26. The following week, the film Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. will be released theatrically and on Peacock September 2, starring Hall alongside Sterling K. Brown as the first lady of a huge Southern Baptist megachurch rocked by scandal. And then, on December 22, she’ll be returning to Peacock with The Best Man: The Final Chapters, a limited series that reunites both the cast of the Best Man films and the original director Malcolm D. Lee, who previously cast Hall in his films Barbershop: The Next Cut and Girls Trip. “It’s everyone from the original gang,” she says of the reboot. “Our growing babies are in it. And—it’s been good, it’s been fun. It’s so rare that you get to see everyone at the same time. It is kind of like a nice family reunion, with castmates and our director. Plus, the weather in New York has been beautiful, and we’ve been here since March.”
The wide-ranging performer also says that over the past few years, she has been prioritizing collaborations on projects with other creative people that allow her “to be of service.” To that end, she has been laser-focused on creating “more space for compassion and nonjudgment” by playing complicated characters in comedies, thrillers, satires, and dramas that uplift “what it means for us to be human,” she explains.
For instance, in Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul., Hall’s character, Trinitie Childs, welcomes a film crew into the home she shares with her disgraced pastor husband in an attempt to rid them of the residue of scandal and rebuild their congregation. Hall says she hopes audiences will learn from Trinitie and her navigation of the world she inhabits. “What do you do when your identity and your worth is connected to something that you now have to question?” she asks. “And as audiences, where does [that feeling] live? Where do we live when we think of abundance and charity? And then, a big thing in the church—and in the Black church especially—is sexuality. I’m not saying how someone should look at it. But I’m saying, perhaps we should look at it. Right? Wherever you arrive in your thought process, we always have to expand our way of thinking,” she continues. “It has probably been a long time since the evangelical community has done that. And perhaps this film will open up that type of dialogue.”
Our discussion around Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. and its ability to impact how we consider our own experiences with faith, spirituality, and religious institutions, eventually leads to questions regarding Hall’s own Catholic upbringing in Washington, D.C. She reveals that she actually considered becoming a nun when she was in her teens and then again at 40 after a painful breakup. “Nuns are quite radical,” Hall explains. “Back in the day, they decided, ‘I’m not going to get married to a physical man.’ They were sometimes even regarded as feminists.” When asked to elaborate on her own relationship with feminism, Hall is thoughtful. “I’m a feminist if you say being a feminist means being pro-woman,” she says. “I would also say that it does not mean that I’m anti-man. [Feminism] means both can exist and they don’t have to be opposing. But women have had so many centuries of living under patriarchal systems. And yet, we have so much wisdom. To be a feminist is to be pro-human. We come from an energy that is feminine. We are birthed from a woman. When you really think about it, women are walking miracles. That’s not to say that a man is less. I’m just honoring women and hoping that we are able to realize and actualize our full potential and see how that could serve humankind.”
Speaking more practically about feminism and how it manifests in her everyday life, Hall notes that Master, the Prime Video psychological horror film about a haunted university that she produced and starred in prior to its release back in March, was led by female director Mariama Diallo and was created by an all-women crew. It was a rare example of a more inclusive Hollywood landscape, and she says she hopes projects like that one will continue to spur on creatives who may be struggling to reach their goals. “There will always be barriers in all things, right?” she says. “But you really can’t focus on that. You’ve got to focus on what you want, not what could get in your way. And then you also must be open to how and what it might look like, how it’ll happen, and what your role might be. I don’t know that my intention was to be an actress—that’s the truth. But life happened.”
After pausing for a moment of reflection, Hall confides that one of the central obstacles of her life—the death of her father—led her to acting. Her mother Ruby was a teacher, and her father Odie was a contractor and electrician. Both parents encouraged her passion for education and personal development, and she shared their love of learning and aspired to become a journalist until tragedy struck. When Regina was in her 20s, while studying for her master’s degree at New York University, Odie died suddenly from a stroke. The event was pivotal in Regina’s life, inspiring her to pivot and try to make her mark in Hollywood instead. “Events in my life happened. Those events led me in this direction,” she explains. “The loss of my Dad led me to being open and aligned with life—to a place where I could say, ‘Well, wait. This feels right.’ You’ve got to really be in touch with that sixth sense, that knowing, that is really powerful. And then, obviously, it’s going to be a lot of work.”
“To be a feminist is to be pro-human. We come from an energy that is feminine. We are birthed from a woman. When you really think about it, women are walking miracles.”
Now, 25 years after making that first big leap from journalism to acting (her first credited role was in an episode of the TV series New York Undercover in 1997), Hall is clear that the road to fame requires patience, endurance, and dedication. “Things aren’t always quick,” she says. “And everything that’s quick isn’t always worth it. Sometimes, there are so many incredible lessons in ‘nos,’ in waiting, in change, in failures. [When] I used to not get a job, I’d cry as if that single audition was going to end my acting career. But you learn to adjust to ‘nos,’ and not personalize them. And then you also learn to adjust to ‘yeses.’ There will be a ‘yes’ and a ‘no,’ and what’s for you is for you. You just need to keep working hard at being great.”
Hall’s penchant for finding lessons and opportunities under a variety of circumstances eventually led her to make history when she co-hosted the now infamous 94th Academy Awards in March with fellow comic actors Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes. When asked what it felt like for Will Smith’s slap-heard-‘round-the-world to completely overshadow the fact that three women were hosting the broadcast together for the first time, Hall says, “It was a historic night for many reasons. I thought about it. And I thought, ‘Wow. That’ll be a Jeopardy question in 20 years, maybe.’ Do you know what I mean? ‘What three women…?’ Hosting was very exciting. And scary. But in a good way. In the best way that scary can be. The scary that makes you care.”
“[When] I used to not get a job, I’d cry as if that single audition was going to end my acting career. But you learn to adjust to ‘nos,’ and not personalize them. There will be a ‘yes’ and a ‘no,’ and what’s for you is for you.”
As the show aired, there was some debate online about whether it was appropriate for Hall to joke about wanting to give several single male celebrities “a PCR swab test with her tongue,” before pretending to pat down presenters Jason Momoa and Josh Brolin as a part of the gag. When asked about the discussion that erupted on Twitter that evening amid accusations of “reverse sexism,” Hall takes the question in stride. “The reality is that the power dynamic is not the same,” she says. “It’s kind of like talking about reverse racism. You can’t make an even comparison because that’s not reality. The guys were really so great and so much fun. And the truth is, we had permission. The guys were a part of the joke. And I think that’s very important. Later, other guys came up on stage—Bradley Cooper and Timothée Chalamet—and that was so much fun, too, but I didn’t touch them. Because that wasn’t discussed. All parties involved needed to feel comfortable and know what was happening. And it’s not my fault Jason Momoa and Josh Brolin are such handsome guys,” she says with a burst of laughter.
Before Hall and I part ways, I ask her if she has any words of advice for readers who not only may want to go into acting, but who also may just want to build a more purposeful life, since it’s something she seems very skilled at. She thinks for a minute, and then she surprises me. “There’s a lot you can learn from dogs,” she says. “I learned so much from my English Bulldog Zeus—about patience and living in the moment. When Zeus died shortly after Girls Trip came out [in 2017], the loss was deep. But the gift that he gave me was profound. I lived with this little creature who didn’t talk, but we communicated with such depth, with so many degrees of love. He left me with lifelong gifts. We think we rescue a dog. But what they teach us rescues us so much more. We think intelligence is supreme. But they’re so in the moment and so connected to life. We are so disconnected sometimes in our thinking. But dogs release, and release connects us more to God. There’s more room for manifestation when we release.”
Photographed by Lia Clay Miller
Styling by Marisa Elison / Makeup by Lewina David / Hair by Shornell McNeal / Fashion Assistants: Serena Orlando and Marinela Lamar; shot at Coffey Street Studio
Top photo fashion credits: Coat, Tights, Gloves, and Platforms: Valentino
This article originally appeared in BUST’s Fall 2022 print edition. Subscribe today!