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From strippers to leaky TVs, Yuba County star Regina Hall revisits her best characters

Joey Nolfi
·5 min read
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A Celebration of Black Film with Robert Townsend & Radha Blank

Keith Murphy sits down with directors Robert Townsend (The Five Heartbeats) and Radha Blank (The 40-Year-Old Version) to discuss what it means for a movie to be a "Black Film."

Hollywood chameleon Regina Hall's eclectic career reaches wild new heights in Tate Taylor's bonkers crime comedy Breaking News in Yuba County (out Friday), in which she plays a (fabulously wigged) detective tracking a suburban housewife's (Allison Janney) plot to exploit her husband's disappearance for local fame. Here, Hall looks back on the parts that brought her to chaos' doorstep, from Scary Movie to Girls Trip.

Everett Collection

The Best Man (1999)

One thing stood between Regina Hall and stardom: a lap dance. The problem? "I can't dance. That's where it got bad," she says of auditioning for the small role of stripper Candy in Malcolm D. Lee's rom-com classic (her first movie credit), which only happened after the actress originally hired for the part dropped out. "I had a friend who'd stripped. She was like, 'Just go in and smack your ass!'" Hall listened, but producers cut her off, and she bailed. Still, Hall landed the role, later training with a real dancer. "That girl's still inside of me, just a lot more layered," she says. And Hall might be a star now, but has the dancing improved? Nope: "That might've gotten worse!" (she might have another chance at redemption, though, as Peacock is currently priming a limited series revival based on the film).

Dimension Films/Everett Collect

Scary Movie (2000)

From battling leaky TVs and berating preschool children to inspiring memes into 2020, Brenda Meeks is arguably the most iconic character in Hall's filmography. But she never envisioned herself playing for broad laughs. "I didn't study comedy," Hall admits, crediting the strength of the Wayans brothers' treatment of the horror satire with opening up a new career lane. "They were just all ridiculous, those characters! It was so fun…. People started thinking I was a comedian! It opened a door for comedy, which helped my career."

Alan Markfield

Think Like a Man (2012)

"You never know how an audience will resonate with material, timing, how it'll turn out, but I do remember reading it and thinking it was sweet and smart and different than the onslaught of rom-coms that had come out with predominantly Black casts in the decade before," Hall says of Tim Story's modern rom-com classic (following four couples struggling with relationship issues, based on Steve Harvey's 2009 book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man), which went on to become a nearly $100 million hit.

Hall remembers the set as having a "really fun" atmosphere with a great ensemble cast including Michael Ealy, Meagan Good, Kevin Hart, and Gabrielle Union, though she bonded most with Taraji P. Henson.

"We'd do our scenes and it was a lot of fun…. I had a lot of laughs with Gabrielle, too. I remember ease from that movie. No stress," she says. "Tim had a very easy hand. I remember laughing a lot and feeling very much like I was making a movie with all my friends."

Michele K. Short/Universal

Girls Trip (2017)

Hall's fourth film with Lee wasn't just a commercial hit; it was a cultural moment, bridging demographic gaps for post-election Americans needing a laugh. Hall says she and costars Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, and Tiffany Haddish — playing friends winding through a boozy New Orleans vacation—weren't sure if they'd draw both women and men to theaters, so they worked with their director to hone the script as an authentic representation of female friendships. "It was a comedy that was unexpected and refreshing, and a lot more risqué than people were thinking," Hall says. "As women, we don't see it [in film]…. When girlfriends talk, we use the d-word!"

Magnolia Pictures

Support the Girls (2018)

Hall's first solo leading role, as the struggling manager of a Hooters-like restaurant, courted the most awards attention of her career. She prophesied the film's success long before cameras ever rolled. "I was having a psychic moment. I'm sure he was like, 'Oh my God, she's crazy!'" Hall says of her first meeting with director Andrew Bujalski. "I started getting some intuitive thoughts. [I was like] 'These must be your gods talking!'"

Black Monday (2019-present)

Showtime's period series marked Hall's first main role on TV, as part of a band of Wall Street outcasts ahead of the 1987 crash. "I saw the world," she says of reading the script. "My character gets to be her own woman with her own drive, ambition, and ruthlessness. To do that in a half-hour format on Showtime, I just felt like it was going to be really fun."

Breaking News in Yuba County (2021)

Not much surprises Hall these days, but both the content (extra violence meets black comedy) and production process (director Tate Taylor asks cast and crew to sleep over at his house for "movie camp") for her latest film were uncharted territory. She has trouble describing the wild crime yarn (out Friday) — in which she plays a small-town detective tracking a suburban housewife (Allison Janney) soaking up newfound local celebrity after the disappearance of her husband — in simple terms. But one thing was certain: She knew she needed an absurd wig to match the tone. "I did research of police officers and detectives, and I ran across one who had a version of that hair, and I was like, 'Oh my goodness, that's her hair,'" she says of the pseudo-mullet she sports. "Yuba County needed a stylist. They were definitely dated, but I loved that!"

A version of this story appears in the February issue of Entertainment Weekly — available to order with a cover featuring LaKeith Stanfield or Daniel Kaluuya. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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