A few weeks before the Oscars, King — who has amassed a clutch of television directing credits, including Insecure and This Is Us — had just met with producers about helming her first feature film, One Night in Miami. “My agent called and said, ‘They’re going to roll with you, they don’t want to see anybody else,’ ” she recalls before launching into a series of big grins, shoulder shimmies, fist pumps, and a slide down in her chair. The 48-year-old L.A. native sits up with a laugh and says reassuringly, “It was my driving version of that. I did pull over. I can say it now, I was like, ‘If I don’t win the motherf—ing Oscar, that is okay. I’m about to do a film.’ ”
In perhaps the world’s best having-cake/eating-it-too scenario imaginable, King nabbed that mofo for her steely and anguished turn in If Beale Street Could Talk. And it just got better from there, with her deservedly buzzed-about performance as Tulsa police detective Angela Abar (a.k.a. Sister Night) on HBO’s Watchmen, the provocative series from Damon Lindelof that picks up the action in the world of the beloved graphic novel three decades later.
After appearing on the showrunner’s The Leftovers, King was down to suit up for him again. “[Lindelof] had the script delivered with a lovely note, saying that he sees me as this and would I take this ride with him,” she recalls on a recent Sunday morning during her EW cover shoot. “I started reading the pilot and five pages in I was like, ‘Oh, oh, he’s going here? Black Wall Street?’” she says of the harrowing opening scene depicting the 1921 Tulsa massacre. “I had to just sit with that for a second because it had been something that my sister and I, for a long time, had been like, ‘Why hasn’t this story been told?’”