Entertainment & Arts

Regina Hall doesn’t mind being in the background. But now she’s leading.

Regina Hall is known for her work in the first four “Scary Movie” films, the network series “Ally McBeal” and the “Think Like a Man” and “The Best Man” film series, among others.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

What role do you most remember Regina Hall from?

Is it as Candy, the stripper with a heart of gold turned wife and school administrator, from “The Best Man” franchise?

Or Brenda, the hilariously sassy and classy standout from the “Scary Movie” series?

Perhaps you’re a late bloomer, first discovering her in the series “Grandfathered” or “black-ish.”

No matter the character, Hall has most often been part of an ensemble or playing second (or third) fiddle to other stars. But it’s one way she’s stayed employed and kept her bills paid.

In “Girls Trip,” she finally steps into the spotlight with a starring role in a major motion picture.

How did you get into comedic acting?

I never did [stand-up] comedy. I just went to school for acting and did theater. The first big movie I got was “The Best Man” and then “Love & Basketball” and then “Scary Movie.” I think because “Scary Movie” was the biggest [of the three], it just became the one most people remembered me for. But I was just auditioning and auditioning until somebody said “yes.”

You’ve made a career of doing both comedy and drama. Does one genre help inform how you play the other?

I always try to find, even in a comedy, different nuances and subtleties. Even in broad comedies like “Scary Movie” or those more subtle, I try to ground it and make it like a cousin or an aunt, someone you know. It’s often exaggerated but still rooted in human behavior.

As a black woman in this industry with a knack for comedy, who are you inspired by?

I think the first woman I noticed who did it, became a superstar and I was impacted by what she did because of her range was Whoopi Goldberg. With her stand-up special and then “The Color Purple” and a million other movies, she was able to marry the two [worlds].

Some people feel like if they take something, they have to be the lead, but I don’t mind playing supporting, costarring or lead.

— Regina Hall

Bernie (Kevin Hart) and Joan (Regina Hall) flirt on their date in the movie "About Last Night."
Bernie (Kevin Hart) and Joan (Regina Hall) flirt on their date in the movie "About Last Night." (Matt Kennedy / Screen Gems)

Why is it difficult for black women to become comedic superstars?

It has to do with roles available and not having the opportunity. As long as you have a [film] academy that doesn't have a category for comedy, it's harder for the industry to have the same amount of respect [for comedy] that it does for drama because it's not really recognized in our most coveted awards an actor can get. Even the Grammys eventually opened up to hip-hop.

Whoopi got roles and was able to do some of the things that white actresses did, but it’s not often easy to get there and get the opportunity. Worlds have to collide perfectly for that to happen. But you do think sometimes that “if I were white, this would be so much easier.”

I must say, though, that there are so many young girls, like Issa Rae [on “Insecure”] and Michaela Coel on “Chewing Gum,” who are writers and doing great work.

Your last few years have been the busiest moment in your career thus far. Right now, you have “Girls Trip” in theaters Friday and “Naked” with Marlon Wayans on Netflix in a few weeks.

I’ve been blessed to be steady my whole career. In the past six or seven years, I’ve worked quite a bit. Some people feel like if they take something, they have to be the lead, but I don’t mind playing supporting, costarring or lead. If like a character [I’ll do it]. It’s great to be working more while getting older, because you always think it would be the opposite.

One of the things that has been a blessing I think is I’ve been able to go back and forth between drama and comedy, which I love, because you get to work with different people and learn from them. That’s how you get better and more precise and more comfortable and more carefree.

What advice do you have for black women who want to do what you do?

I always say to study. Utilize those opportunities to prepare and know what you're doing. You can’t build a career on being afraid, because there will always be someone younger and prettier. So, build your career on talent and your craft, always be perfecting that. Make sure you are prepared and the work ethic is there so that when the opportunities come, you can give your best performance. You can't control the result, but you can control your best. And be professional. That and prayer!

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