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Regina Hall's well-ordered life as an actor, not a nun

 Regina Hall's well-ordered life as an actor, not a nun
Regina Hall (Christina House / For The Times)

When you're in your 20s, actress Regina Hall said, you think, "I'm going to do this, and I'm going to do that."

And then, she said, "life kind of happens."

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Hall stars in the romantic comedy "People, Places, Things," which opens Friday in theaters and is available as video on demand. But the actress — who has appeared in the "Scary Movie" series, "The Best Man" and the sequel "The Best Man Holiday," and "Think Like a Man" and "Think Like a Man Too" — once planned to be a journalist.

"I loved to write," the youthful 44-year-old actress said in a recent interview. "I still write articles sometimes, but I actually wanted to produce segments for shows like '60 Minutes.' "

While getting her master's degree in journalism at New York University, though, her father died of a stroke.

"When you are young, you don't necessarily realize life's brevity," Hall said. "But I think when you lose a parent — my dad was never sick — it was quite shocking. It wasn't like I didn't want to do journalism. It was more like, you live once, life is short."

She finished school because she knew her father would have wanted her to get her degree, then she segued into acting.

Even with a successful career that has included dramatic turns in the 2009 film "Law Abiding Citizen" and in 2010 on NBC's "Law & Order: L.A.," Hall nearly gave up her career at age 40.

She had gone through a breakup and said she considered becoming a nun.

"I had wanted to be a nun in junior high," she said, and as an adult she realized some of the things that made her happy were meditation and going to church. "I thought, 'I have missed it all. I have been all wrong. I am suppose to be a nun.'"

But she wasn't. Hall realized it's not easy being a nun. And she was also too old for the order she was considering. "Thirty-nine was the cut off," she said, adding with grin that she also had had too many sexual partners.

The nuns' loss was cinema's gain.

"I've always been a fan of Regina's," said "People, Places, Things" writer-director Jim Strouse. "She cracks me up. I think she's so funny."

In the indie comedy, Hall plays Diane, a rather snobbish Columbia University professor and single mother of a college student (Jessica Williams). Her daughter sets her up with offbeat professor Will (Jemaine Clement), a graphic novelist and a father of twin daughters.

"I read the script and thought it was really lovely," said Hall, who shot all of her scenes in just three days. "You look at the two of them being awkward at first, and you could kind of see how she could like him because he's really a good guy."

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She initially wasn't sure what character she was supposed to be playing.

"I was reading the script and was waiting for the line of description — 'African American.' Many times they will have a description in the script because, I think, sometimes they are conscious this is who we are looking for. Not that that's a bad thing."

The script didn't have that kind of description. Strouse just saw Hall as an actress who was capable of anything. "She is so smart," he said. "I thought she had really subtle instincts for every moment of the story we were telling. I can babble on and be inarticulate in my direction, and she figured out what I was trying to say."

Hall said people always have thought she was funny. She wasn't sure.

"I don't think you necessarily see yourself as funny," she said. "When I came to Los Angeles, I thought, 'Oh, I am going to end up doing sitcoms.' I didn't do well at those auditions. I wasn't that good at punch lines. But I do love to create a character."

Hall recently returned from Atlanta, where she made the comedy "Barbershop 3." Accompanying on location, as always, was her bulldog, Zeus.

"I got him when he was a puppy," she said. "I was looking at him, and he was looking at me. I said I guess we should go everywhere together."

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