Interview: Regina Hall On What Shaft Represents In 2019

Hall’s enjoying the fruits of her labor.

Actress Regina Hall first came to my attention in the cult classic Malcolm D. Lee film “The Best Man, and later on the defunct Fox comedy series Ally McBeal. The latter instances especially stood out to me because, other than a few buffoonish urban comedy shows, Fox was overwhelmingly white.

Now, dozens of films, award nominations later, Hall sat across from me at the recent press junket for the upcoming Shaft film, which also stars Samuel Jackson, Jessie T. Usher and Richard Roundtree, the original Shaft.

Though her character clearly isn’t the axis around which the story revolves, her portrayal of Maya Babanikos is a counterbalance to the almost throwback masculine tendencies that Shaft exudes.  Her role required a strength, fire, and depth that one may not expect in an action comedy.

“It was great. I think what Shaft represents, and what he has represented, is specifically for black culture for almost five decades, the fact that that has resonated to other cultures, is tremendous,” said Hall of the experience.

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“I walked into it as his counterpart but also able to match him, you see there’s a great deal of love and respect there. Then, to have his child, maybe I raised him too much the other way.”

“But she was trying to create a net of safety, love, and protection around him, which is what Mommys often do. I thought it was great. I just thought it was a wonderful opportunity.”

Though she has some serious chops and accolades, the experience of being onset is still relished by Hall.

“I’ve learned so much from Sam, and Jessie T. Usher is so great. He’s completely not the son you would expect Shaft to have, and I think that’s what makes the movie so unique.”

Over the years, Hall’s ability to portray women that are equal parts intelligent, fiery and alluring has been an earmark. She has risen from small roles to being one of the most highly sought after actresses in Hollywood.

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“I’m really grateful and I think it’s been really helpful to be able to do comedy and drama, and some of its luck and some of it is who knows? Because there are really talented people who for whatever reason have had different trajectories, know what I mean”?

“I don’t know what it is, but I’m always grateful for work. It’s not always about taking a leading part. I may take a supporting part or an even smaller part. Everybody else might not like the role, but I always find something to keep me motivated and excited.”

When asked of any advice she could offer to a young actress to replicate her success, Hall was at a loss for words, and understandably so. Self-reflection is difficult, indeed.

“It’s hard to judge yourself. Usually, we judge ourselves but not in a good way. I always try to be authentic in whatever it is. My biggest thing is to always try to bring humanity to the character. There’s something in all of our existences that is important and relevant and worthy. Whether it’s a drama or a broad comedy, audiences can look and say “I know THAT part of the character.”

Shaft hits theaters Friday, June 14th. You can catch Regina Hall as she hosts the upcoming BET Awards.

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