LAST NIGHT the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) hosted Regina King for an online masterclass on her career and craft of acting and directing.
A black man getting on the elevator full of white people and him having to put on a talisman to make them more comfortable just so he can have a less stressful day is a very real thing
BAFTA Masterclass: Regina King is part of BAFTAs year-round free online events series, featuring BAFTA-winning and nominated shows and talent, open to the public and industry.
King was in conversation with presenter, actor and filmmaker Reggie Yates where the actress spoke on directing her first feature film One Night in Miami; doing projects with a message of social justice; why having black characters at the centre of stories that aren’t about race is so powerful; what she learnt as a director from Barry Jenkins and why British actors should be able to play American roles.
Speaking on how directing was always in her fate she enthused: “I did not always know, but I do believe that my journey to become a director was inevitable.”
She added: “My experiences with John (Singleton), particularly in between Boys n the Hood and Poetic Justice. Once I’d gotten the (Poetic Justice) part, I reached out to John and had just so many questions and I think my excitement and the depth of my questions made him open up or inspired him to open up his entire preparation process for me.
“Up until that time, I did not realise all that entails when you’re a director to get to the moment that I’m actually spending with the directors as the actor. I was able to see his storyboards and him putting the storyboards together and watching some films with him that inspired him or that were inspiration for Poetic Justice.
“I was able to hear him having conversations, deciding what department heads would be coming on board for a couple positions he hadn’t yet hired. I was just fascinated and blown away, but I can’t say in that moment, I was feeling like I’m going to do this.
“My respect level for the director definitely moved up a notch or two.
“It’s not an easy feat to get to the space of actor and people regarding your directing hyphenate as something that’s not a thing that you’re doing out of vanity.
“It’s something that you’re doing because you truly have realised within yourself that there is a part of the storytelling process that you want to be involved in a much deeper level.
“You want to have more control of the aesthetic and the tone and the story that you’re telling and you’re able to do that as a director.
“I just think as actors, once we made that discovery on a conscious level, we were ready to actively pursue it.”
On the touchy subject of why British actors should be able to play American roles, King weighed in: “If I was moved by a performance, I really don’t care where a person’s from. Because as an audience member, to me they truly understood what they were doing, what they were embodying.
“After Kingsley’s first audition, I wanted to give him some notes. I wanted to just talk to him and get to know him and get to know what his relationship was to Malcolm.
“He said all the things that I needed to hear him say and I think it’s unfortunate that this is where we are. One of the things that I’ve truly understood or discovered throughout this process of One Night in Miami, is that upon first receiving this and reading it, I thought, “Wow, Kemp, this is just a love letter to the black man’s experience in America.
“But then taking that step back and really taking in marginalised people across the world.
“There are feelings and experiences that black people in the UK, in Brazil feel that are the same as in America.
“While the history of how a country came to be may be different, but the marginalisation of a black man is the same, colorism is the same in all of those places.
“A black man getting on the elevator full of white people and him having to put on a talisman to make them more comfortable just so he can have a less stressful day is a very real thing whether that black man is in America, in the UK, or anywhere else.
“Again, Kingsley was the best actor for that role Eli was the best actor for that role. Sure, neither one of them are American.
“But can they relate to the experience and the pain felt by a black person for being disregarded just because of the colour of your skin? Absolutely, they can.
“Can they take it upon themselves to make sure they educate themselves on the ways it’s specific to America in the history of how black Americans had built this country, it was built on the bodies of black Americans? They can definitely educate themselves on that and they did. I wouldn’t change my choices for anyone.”
This event is part of BAFTA’s year round learning and events programme. Tickets for upcoming events are available here.