Regina King Dishes on New Movie, Family, and Running for President

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NEW YORK (AP) — So, Regina King walked into a 99-cent store. And what’d she get? A prophecy on her life.

No joke. King was shopping around — “sometimes people will say, ‘You at the 99-cent store?’ I like a bargain too” — when a woman walked up to her with something of a prediction.

Regina King Portrait
This Feb. 13, 2019 photo shows actress Regina King, nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in “If Beale Street Could Talk,” posing for a portrait at Sofitel in New York. (Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP)

“She said, ‘You don’t know it but you’re going to run for president.’ And I was like, ‘President of a company?’ She was like, ‘No… of the United States,'” King recalled, adding that she thought the woman was a clairvoyant.

“She said, ‘Close your eyes. You are. I see it,'” King continued. “I was like, ‘Girl, I appreciate that but no— that’s not happening. I like my life too much. I like my family too much. I like my friends too much.”

The idea of King, 48, running for presidency isn’t too far-fetched. Rather, it’s not a stretch for people to jokingly ask her to: The seasoned actress is one of the most likable and genial celebrities in the industry, and one fans and peers are constantly rooting for. Remember Taraji P. Henson happily screaming at the top of her lungs when King won her first Emmy in 2015?

King has picked up two more Emmys since — earning acclaim and praise for her riveting roles in John Ridley’s anthology “American Crime” and Netflix’s “Seven Seconds,” where King stunned on-screen as the mother of a son killed by police.

Now King is hitting new heights with her first big screen role since 2010: Her portrayal of a devoted mother in Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk” already won her honors at the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice Awards. She’s up for best supporting actress at the Academy Awards, pitting her against Oscar winners Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz; Amy Adams, a six-time Oscar nominee; and first-time Marina de Tavira, who co-starred in “Roma.”

“(Regina) has been stalwart in this industry for so long. For a long time, she was doing the work to do the work and I think the industry sort of catches up to wonderful artists like Regina. She shows up and does the work, whether it be in front or behind the camera, and the industry is taking notice,” said Colman Domingo, who plays King’s husband in “Beale Street.” ”I think it’s not only an Oscar nomination for ‘If Beale Street Could Talk,’ I think it’s also for her body of work.”

King called the nomination “extra-special” since it’s her first; the film also is also competing for best adapted screenplay and best original score at the Oscars on Feb. 24.

King has shined on-screen since she appeared on NBC’s “227” in 1985. Her credits include films like “Jerry Maguire,” ”Friday,” ”Ray,” ”Boyz n the Hood,” ”Enemy of the State” and “Miss Congeniality 2.”

But King traded movie roles for TV ones so she could easily raise her son — her regular date at awards show — in Los Angeles: “I wasn’t interested in homeschooling my son.”

“I had the conversation with my team,” she said, “and they felt like TV was going to be the best space for me to live in.”

She landed a starring role in TNT’s “Southland” in 2009, playing Detective Lydia Adams — a part originally not written for a black woman.

“Everyone at the agency had been put on notice, ‘Do not treat Regina King like a black actor. She is an actor,'” King said. “I hadn’t even quite seen it that way, but that’s what they felt. It kind of started with ‘Legally Blonde 2.’ That was the reach out, like, ‘You know what, why don’t you guys consider Regina King?'”

More TV roles came to her, including “The Big Bang Theory,” ”Shameless,” ”American Crime,” ”The Leftovers” and “Seven Seconds” — all while film stars turned to TV and found success, from Nicole Kidman to Matthew McConaughey to Viola Davis. Even Meryl Streep is heading to the so-called “small screen.”

“I think of myself as a trailblazer for film actors going to television,” King said.

But no matter the screen, King always comes through. She’s known for digging deep into her roles, giving a dramatic, stirring performance that leaves audiences wanting more.

“I’m doing my research. I’m talking to real life people who’ve had these horrific experiences,” King said.

One of the real people was Marion Gray-Hopkins, whose son was killed by police officers. King spoke extensively with Gray-Hopkins as she prepped for “Seven Seconds,” which also earned her a Golden Globe nomination.

While King is usually able to leave the drama on the set, she said it was hard to escape the madness of the TV series.

“I called my son so much (for) just like random things. He couldn’t watch all of ‘Seven Seconds.’ He saw the first episode, and he tried to watch the second. He was like, ‘I can’t.’ He said, ‘It feels like that’s me,'” King said. “And he was like, ‘Now I get why you were calling me with just like weird stuff, like, ‘Did you remember to put the clothes in the dryer? I’m like, yeah mom. I put the cleaning towels in the dryer. Did you feed the dog?’ I just wanted to hear his voice.”

King’s son, Ian Alexander Jr., will be by her side at the Academy Awards on Feb. 24 to cheer her on — just like so many others.

“I feel the love,” she said. “I can just be anywhere, from the grocery store to wherever. Sometimes, it’ll be the sweetest thing, I’ll get a woman that’s just like 70, 80-years-old say, ‘Just thank you. Thank you for just representing us.'”

“I’m just living my life and trying to remain a good person and give what I get and remain open so that what I get is good, so that’s what I can put back out. But you’re not thinking about how your walk always effects people that you don’t know,” she added.

But still, she’s not running for president.

“When you make the choice to be in the public’s eye, you are letting go of anonymity. You’re letting go of some things that you want to hold dear and protect. …For a president, that’s on level 9 million,” she said. “I am all here for sacrifices, but not that one.”

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