She won an Oscar just last year. Now she’s back in the hunt for her triumphant film debut behind the camera.
About 20 years into her acting career, one that started as a child actor on the ‘80s sitcom 227, Regina King realized she wanted more. Over the years, from supporting turns in films like Jerry Maguire and Ray to regular roles in TV series including 24 and Southland, she started to see the job of a director as more than just giving orders to actors and crew members. Once she said out loud that filmmaking was something she wanted to pursue for herself, it felt possible: “There were a lot of people who embraced that idea.”
Since 2013, the actress has won an Oscar and four Emmys for acting — all while carving out a side-gig as one of TV’s most sought-out directors, working on popular shows like Scandal, This Is Us, and Insecure. Although she’d prepared for her feature directorial-debut to be a comedy she’d developed with her sister, King eventually was led down a different path, towards One Night in Miami.
“I’m really interested in being able to tell a love story with a real historical event as the backdrop,” says King, 49, prefacing why she was drawn to Kemp Powers’ adaptation of his own 2013 play. The story takes place on the night in 1964 that boxer Cassius Clay (later known as Muhammad Ali) defeated Sonny Liston for the World Heavyweight Championship, and celebrated afterwards with activist Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke, and NFL star Jim Brown. King was floored by Powers’ creation: “[It] truly captures the conversation and the reflections of the Black man’s experience more than anything that I’ve ever seen.”
Collaborating with Powers also allowed King to focus on the visual elements of the film, as the writer had already done all the research that needed to be done to accurately portray the story on stage, and on film. “He was like the Kemp-orpedia,” King says with a laugh. “Any bit of research that I wanted to do, I didn’t have to spend as much time on Google, looking it up, because he’d already done it.”
When it came time to cast the four main roles in One Night in Miami, the director was in search of that same dedication: “I was looking for great actors who knew that they should be sleeping, breathing, drinking who they were playing every step of the way.” King found that in Eli Goree (Riverdale), Kingsley Ben-Adir (High Fidelity), Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton), and Aldis Hodge (The Invisible Man), who play Clay, X, Cooke, and Brown, respectively.
Read the full article/interview in our press library.