Regina Hall shines and steals the show in the insightful, hilarious romantic comedy, “About Last Night,” that follows the adventures of four Los Angeles singles (Hall, Kevin Hart, Joy Bryant, Michael Ealy) who get a thorough workout in the ups and downs of today’s dating world. Arriving just in time to become the latest Valentine’s Day movie classic, the entertaining film directed by Steve Pink opens February 14th.
At the recent press day, Hall talked about how the project came to her, why it was a huge departure from her role in “Think Like A Man” and allowed her to venture into new territory, what it was like bringing her complex character to life while also keeping her likeable, her surprising chemistry with Hart and how well they played off each other, the directing process with Steve Pink, her mom’s reaction when they watched the film together, where she sees her career going from here, and her upcoming movie, “Think Like a Man Too.”
QUESTION: Did you have fun playing this role?
REGINA HALL: I did. I had fun playing Joan. She was great!
Q: You completely shine and steal the show in this film. Can you talk a little about the casting process and how this project came to you?
HALL: Clint Culpepper called me and he sent me a script and he said, “I have a script. I want you to look at the role of Joan.” It was after “Think Like a Man.” Actually, I don’t know if you remember, but at the press day for “Think Like a Man,” I went and our segment ended early, and the guys were in doing their segment, and I went and flirted with all the guys and it went online. Well Clint, who was the head of Screen Gems, saw it, and for whatever reason when he saw that, he was like, “I think she should play Joan.”
Q: That went viral. It really did.
HALL: Yeah. Although I don’t necessarily see Joan in that, but Clint saw it and he said, “I want you and Kevin (Hart) to play Joan and Bernie.” And then, I read the script and I thought, “Okay, great,” because she was the opposite of Candace in “Think Like a Man.” The script was written by a woman, Leslye Headland, and it was actually not written for an African American cast. And so, it became a great opportunity to show a woman of color, completely free, unapologetic, smart, professional, and empowered. Yet, they have a one night stand obviously, but she’s only with that one man in that entire movie. As crazy as Joan is, she’s in a relationship with Bernie. She’s just the one who lives through her emotions, whatever they are. I thought it would be fun to be able to do that since it’s so not me in my real life.
Q: That’s so hard to believe because it just comes off so real.
HALL: What’s interesting is Michael (Ealy) was like, “I saw you as Debbie until we shot it. I was thinking they miscast.” We hadn’t started shooting yet because of having worked in “Think Like a Man.” Joan is a wild cannon, but what a better way. I hadn’t really thought about it, but when you’re doing it, you don’t think about what you’re doing. My mom saw it in Atlanta for the first time. She watched the movie like this (holding her head down). I looked over and I was like, “Mommy!” I hadn’t thought of my mother watching it, but I guess I’m still her baby. I was like, “Mommy, we’re not having sex,” but I guess for her, it was close enough.
Q: You were so funny in this, and it’s the last thing everyone expects after seeing you in “The Best Man Holiday.” Can you talk about bringing those laughs and working with Kevin Hart? What was it like playing off of each other?
HALL: Well, that’s a big part of it, playing off of Kevin. We didn’t know that we were going to have that kind of chemistry. I think our first day we shot all the love scenes. All that stuff was just done on the day. The slap, Kevin’s reaction to the hit, he can’t hear, the screaming, the chicken mask, that’s all improv. Originally, Joan was supposed to just have on a ski mask. They had different masks so I said, “Let’s do a chicken.” And then, “Kevin, I’m going to make sounds like a chicken.” Those kinds of things we just got to do and have fun with.
What’s great about working with someone like Kevin is that he’s so amazingly talented that he wants you to shine, too. He’s not someone who feels the need to be the only one, so we had a great opportunity. He was like, “Regina, do this. It’ll be funny if you did this.” And I could be like, “Kevin, I’m gonna try this.” There was a lot of room there, and because we know each other, and we do have all those scenes in the bed, the great thing is I was comfortable. I didn’t feel like I didn’t know him. It’s Kevin. It’s awkward still, but it’s Kevin. I got up and he was like, “Somebody give Regina a towel for her sandbags.” I said, “They’re not as high as they once were, but there’s no need to be rude and vocal about it.” But because it’s a friend, you get to do that.
It was really fun especially to go from “The Best Man Holiday” to this. Probably I was more conscious, because when you’re doing movies and you’re working with similar cast members and you’re coming back, you don’t want people to be like, “Well I know what that’s going to be” or “I’ve seen this before.” You want your audience to go with it and not feel like they’re seeing you do something over and over, which is why I always try to change a look or hair so that people can at least feel like they’re experiencing a different person a little bit.
Q: How was your experience working with Steve Pink? What was the directing process like?
HALL: Steve’s great. He’s really great. He’s such a tremendous director. What I love about Steve is he gives you so much room. Obviously, he’s a professional, so we get the take that we have to do for the studio that is scripted, but then he lets you go for it. You can have such an amazing collaboration with him. And then, he offers stuff that’s funny, and then setting the look of the movie or being like, “Okay, guys. I’m going to get you. Regina, you’re going to be there. So just remember you have that whole room to work with in terms of Kevin when he’s Channing Tatum.” (Laughs) He’s pretty wonderful, and we were just so lucky to be able to have him and the sensibility that he brought to this movie so that it could feel different as well.
Q: Your character is so complex, but the way you play her, it’s hard to hate you. How was it playing that and finding a balance?
HALL: It was difficult a little bit with Joan because Joan is comedic, but she has to be grounded enough for you to care about her. You have to care about Joan ending up with Bernie or it’s kind of for naught. She still has to service the comedy in the movie, but then she also has to service being a friend to Debbie. Joan is slightly a narcissist, because in her moments she can only think about Joan. She does genuinely care about Debbie. I think the part that is true is that she loves her friend. She doesn’t want to see her hurt. She does want to see her happy, as long as she’s happy, too. (Laughs) Then, she wants to see her really happy. There’s the dynamic of who Joan is and coming into herself. Joan loves Debbie, and the scene where Debbie is moving out, it all is happening so quickly for her. Debbie is moving out. She’s gone through a break-up. She can’t get away from it. And yet, it never stops her from going to any function that Debbie has. It’s always a moment.
The key for me with Joan was to realize that Joan lives in whatever emotion she’s having at the moment, but it’s not in any way an indication of what she truly feels. In the moment, she’s mad that Debbie is moving out, but her friend is leaving. You see what her roommate ended up having to be. At the same time, if she needed her, needed to come back and needed someone to talk to, she’s going to be that friend that’s going to be there, too. And so, it was trying to balance something that women could resonate with, but maybe it wasn’t fully them. Maybe no one is as crazy as Joan, but maybe they have moments where they have been. They’ve had moments where they’ve been that angry. There’s a moment where I looked when they showed us the screening. Debbie is having a moment where she’s like, “Do you think…?” in the kitchen, and Joan just can’t stop looking. She can’t hear Debbie in that moment because she’s too focused on Bernie’s new love, which is a choice I had made because I thought Joan wouldn’t be able to focus on Debbie.
The other thing is Joan is like Debbie. Debbie rants, too. They’re so opposite, but what makes their friendship work is that they’re both accepting of the other being who they are. They can count on that honesty. So, you really wanted to just show genuine friendship and how women communicate. There’s no judgment and that’s what I liked. They’re very different. She calls her boring, but she doesn’t want anybody else calling her boring. There’s that protective nature that she has, and you wanted to create that they’ve been friends a long time.
Q: I was curious about what kind of preparation went into the role, particularly with the comedy aspect of it, the improv and that sort of thing?
HALL: Really just figuring out who Joan was is what I do. Improv-ing is really just in the moment because that comes off of what the other person is going to give you. When you really figure out who Joan is, then you can know how Joan is going to react. It’s kind of like you know that Joan is someone who is just… She’s intelligent though and I think that’s really what I wanted people to see was that Joan was a professional. She was not just a woman picking up a man. She didn’t need him financially. There was nothing that she had that was…what’s the word? She was not agenda ridden when it came to Bernie. She liked him. What hurt her was that she thought he liked her, too. Their break-up was something that fueled all the insanity that came. He did like her, too. But they had a ying and a yang. Some people didn’t get it and asked, “Was she trying to poison him with the cake?” and I’m like, “No. That’s their thing.” It’s just slightly wrong. Maybe Bernie will have a little rash. She gets to run ointment on Bernie.
So, it was to try and figure out every little nuance of how I thought Joan talked and walked and how she used her femininity or sexuality in the world, but that she really was just a hurt girl inside. That’s why there are moments when she throws the hanger. There’s always that little girl that remains in us that you always have to nurture. It was making sure that that was still alive in her, and it was maybe how I used to be in my twenties. I used to approach the world really uninhabited and not in my head at all. I think it was to really map out who Joan was just as a person. I always try to write everything out and daydream a lot. Then I could just be free, so if Joan is in this or that kind of circumstance or they throw something out, I can react as Joan more than I would react as Regina.
Q: Where do you see your career going from this point? With so many great actresses getting chances to play leading roles, where do you see the climate going and what do you see for yourself in the next couple of years?
HALL: That’s so hard. I always look for that thing that challenges me or can capture what I can give, and I never know what that is. I mean, Joan was quite a surprise. I look forward to it. I mean, I welcome it. I watch so much stuff on television. I love Gabrielle Union in “Being Mary Jane” and Kerry Washington in “Scandal.” You’re watching all this amazing work. Maybe something comedic would be great. I don’t even know because I haven’t thought about it beyond this. I just saw the movie for the first time with my mamma and her head down. I’ll have to re-watch it again so I can watch it without my mom’s voice in my head. She said she enjoyed it. But she put her head down in “The Best Man Holiday” because I had my head under the covers in the scene with Harold (Perrineau). I said, “Mommy, he was my husband.” “I know, but…” I was like, “Really?” My dad’s probably in heaven somewhere smiling. So, I don’t know. We’ll see. It’s an exciting thing to at least have people want to know what that’s going to be.
Q: You have “Think Like a Man Too.” Is there anything else we should be looking out for?
HALL: No. “Think Like a Man Too” and then a doggy line that I’ve started, a pet product that’s environmentally friendly called “Puff Puff Paws” which will launch this year.