The phrase “hardest working woman in show biz” is generally not something you hear in reference to African American actresses. It’s not that they don’t work hard, they do. It’s just, as Viola Davis stated in her Emmy acceptance speech two months ago, they can’t work if they don’t get the opportunities. Well, veteran Regina King, who has been working since she was a child, also took home an Emmy that same night for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie. That moniker most definitely can be applied to her.
She is working hard—all the time.
“Oh my gosh, I’ve got a lot going on,” King said during a telephone interview from Austin, Tex. “There’s a couple of things I can’t talk about now because we’re just starting to negotiate, but I’m pretty much working non-stop until August of next year.”
King, who is currently playing Dr. Erika Murphy in HBO’s quirky drama “The Leftovers” (Sunday, 9 p.m. ET), is working it in front of and behind the camera. In addition to her Emmy-winning role on “American Crime,” the LA native has also been spending some time over in Shondaland (Shonda Rhimes’ production company) directing an episode of ABC’s “Scandal”; and journeyed to Atlanta to helm four episodes of Mara Brock Akil’s “Being Mary Jane” for BET.
It’s a rare opportunity that an actor gets to pursue both passions with as much frequency as King does. So, what does she enjoy more?
“I have to say both,” King said. “The intention was always to do both and I’m really grateful that I am. When I wrap ‘American Crime’ in December I go right into directing a couple more Shonda episodes on ‘The Catch’ (Rhimes’ newest show, which will air next spring) and ‘Scandal.’ Sometimes I have to pinch myself. I can’t say that one is better than the other. They’re working in harmony right now.”
Getting that nice piece of hardware at the Emmy’s was personally validating, especially after she had penned an article entitled “The Emmys are as White as Ever” for the HuffPo five years ago.
“I think I kind of chalked it up to it wasn’t going to happen and that’s what made it more shocking,” she said. “After doing that piece in the HuffPost I thought you might wanna kiss that Emmy goodbye (laughs)! The fact that I had so many people who supported that piece and agreed with what I said…and that I could speak up for the obvious and still be recognized, I think that’s how this country is supposed to be.”
She can apply that same sentiment to “The Leftovers,” a multiracial drama in which millions of people have inexplicably vanished from the planet. The Murphys and others, however, are alive and well and living in perfect harmony three years later in small-town Texas. In Sunday’s show King’s character will be prominently featured.
“It’s a very powerful episode, very Erika-Nora (Carrie Coon) heavy,” she says. “People who are true fans of ‘The Leftovers’ will get a lot of questions answered but new ones come up.”
One of the things King finds most appealing about the show is that race is not an issue.
“I like the fact that the Murphys are a black family but that has nothing to do with who they are,” she says. “There aren’t any references to their skin color and that’s kind of art imitating life. People have next-door neighbors from different countries and are different races.”
With such a full working schedule King admittedly has little time to do anything else, but she is planning to scratch something off her bucket list in the near future. The single mom of a college-aged son, is going on a life-imitates-art journey.
“I think I’m going to go on my “Eat, Pray, Love” trip next year,” King said. “I’ve never been to Italy and it’s about time. You know you always want to go away with the person you’re in love with and I’ve realized that person is me. I feel like I owe this to myself to do by myself.”