Many celebrities talk about issues. But Regina King, starring in HBO’s new series the Watchmen that begins this weekend, is the rare A-lister who utilizes her fame to to take a real stand. Her unforgettable acceptance speech at the Golden Globes, after winning the award for actress in a drama film for Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk, illustrated what a force she is.
“The reason why we do this is because we understand that our microphones are big and we are speaking for everyone,” said King. “And I just want to say that I’m going to use my platform right now to say in the next two years, everything that I produce, I’m making a vow—it’s going to be tough—to make sure that everything that I produce is 50 percent women.”
Becoming the first celebrity to commit to the nonprofit organization Time’s Up’s “4% Challenge,” which urges industry leaders to hire more women directors, might be intimidating to others, but not to the fearless King.
“I just challenge anyone out there—anyone out there who is in a position of power, not just in our industry, in all industries—I challenge you to challenge yourselves and stand with us in solidarity and do the same,” she stated.
A few weeks later, King continued the dialogue, in an USA Today op-ed: “We all have the power as individuals to turn our complaints into action and our concerns into change. That’s the message of the Time’s Up campaign, and that’s why I made a commitment during the Golden Globes to ensure that, within two years, women make up 50 percent of the crew for projects I produce.”
The Awards Keep Coming
In addition to the Golden Globe Award, King also won an Oscar, an Independent Spirit Award, and the National Board of Review award, for her supporting role in Beale Street.
She has also won three Emmy Awards in recent years; one for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for her work in the Netflix racial crime drama Seven Seconds and two in the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie category for her role in the ABC anthology series American Crime, which also garnered her first Golden Globe Award nomination.
In the last 12 years, King has also expanded to working behind the camera, producing and directing episodes of critically acclaimed series such as NBC’s This is Us, ABC’s Scandal, TNT’s Animal Kingdom, ABC’s The Good Doctor, and, most recently, the Season 3 finale of HBO’s Insecure.
King is as passionate about at risk children as she is about gender parity. Even though she has been on location in Atlanta for her HBO graphic novel series, Watchmen, the recent Oscar winner flew to Los Angeles to attend the Dreamer Dinner, the I Have a Dream Foundation’s fundraising gala. The nonprofit provides social, emotional, and academic empowerment to young people from low-income communities.
“This organization is important to me for so many reasons,” King said on the red carpet. “They seek out classes in communities of Los Angeles, where I was born and raised, and I am all for that.”
She especially likes that the foundation works with kids from first grade on. “[The foundation] puts a focused amount of resources in a small group—they have been following them for so long,” she says. “And being a mother, being a daughter who loves her mother and grandmother, I know what it means to nurture something nonstop. You can liken it to a plant: if you stop watering it, it’s going to die. But when you put it in the right amount of sunlight and water it, it’s going to fly.”
Choosing to be a Role Model
King strives to be a role model for the children she meets at the Foundation and offers them life advice about persevering and working hard.
“One thing I tell all young people: don’t compare yourself to the person next to you,” she emphasized. “Your trajectory is your trajectory. Listen to that voice inside, because it will guide you. You just got to listen. So often, when that thing is telling you ‘Oh, don’t do that’ and we do it anyway, or when that voice is saying, ‘Go take that step!’ we let fear stop us. Listen to that voice inside and know that your conversation with God is yours and not the same as someone else’s.”
King has her own dreams too she wants to pursue: “Everything from wanting to speak Spanish fluently, to [building] a successful production company. I think I am a little closer to the latter than the former! But that’s the thing: I feel like we get so caught up in dreams looking a certain way, i.e. you do this, and this, and you make that money. That’s not what it is. I think the dream is envisioning yourself as the best self you can be. That’s constantly shifting and changing as we are learning.”
Susan L. Hornik is a veteran entertainment and lifestyle journalist. She is an expert at making lemonade from lemons.