Regina King on Why She Was the 'Perfect Candidate' to Direct 'One Night in Miami' (Video)

Power Women Summit 2020: Oscar and Emmy winner talks about finding vulnerability in four iconic Black men and how John Singleton helped her on the path to becoming a director

There has been no stopping Regina King. After winning an Oscar for “If Beale Street Could Talk” and an Emmy for “Watchmen,” the actress has found herself back in contention for another Academy Award — this time for Best Director.

At the 2020 Power Women Summit on Wednesday, King spoke with TheWrap’s Steve Pond for the Spotlight Conversation presented by Cadillac. King discussed her upcoming directorial debut “One Night In Miami,” which is based on Kemp Powers’ acclaimed play of the same name. Set in 1964, the film tells of a fictional encounter between Muhammad Ali — then known as Cassius Clay — Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown in a Miami hotel room after Ali’s first heavyweight title victory over Sonny Liston. With all four men still on the rise toward superstardom, they have a life-changing and intimate discussion about what it means to be famous Black men in a country that discriminates against them… and what they could do to change that.

“There were so many things about [the screenplay] that spoke to me just as a Black woman… getting to see Black men have a private discussion publicly and to see men so layered,” King said. “Kemp Powers’ dialogue is so unfortunately prescient. The conversations that are happening in this film are happening in 1960, in 1950 and happening now.”

Pond pointed out the irony that King, who vowed in her 2019 Golden Globe acceptance speech to ensure that “everything I produce is 50% women,” is making her feature debut on a film about four of the most famous Black men of the 20th century. But King noted that “One Night In Miami” is a story that depicts something modern masculinity doesn’t always allow: vulnerability.

“There’s a certain amount of vulnerability that men have that all of these men show in this piece,” King said. “I feel like I was sensitive to it. I saw it immediately. I understood Kemp’s desire and vision to depict Black men the way he sees himself, in his likeness. I just felt like having that sensitivity made me the perfect candidate to direct.”

Though “Beale Street” and “Watchmen” propelled King’s career to a new level, it’s been a long road to get to where she is now. One key figure in her career was John Singleton, whom she worked with on three films, including “Boyz n the Hood.” King recalled how the director wanted her to appear in his follow-up to “Boyz,” the 1993 film “Poetic Justice,” but told her she would still have to audition for the role. That audition, King said, taught her about the value of having a work ethic and fighting for the roles she wanted most.

“Once I got that role, John really opened up his whole process for me as a director,” she recalled. “And that’s when I really started getting a clearer understanding of what a director does, because my experience up until that point was just the relationship between a director and an actor. And while I wasn’t consciously realizing in that moment that one day I will direct, I think the seed was planted and he was starting to water it.”

“One Night in Miami” will have a limited release in theaters on Christmas Day and will be released on Amazon Prime on Jan. 15.

See Regina King’s Power Women Summit interview in the video above.

The Power Women Summit, presented by the WrapWomen Foundation, is the largest annual gathering of the most influential women in entertainment, media and technology. The Summit aims to inspire and empower women across the landscape of their professional careers and personal lives. This year’s all-virtual PWS provides three days of education, mentorship, workshops and networking around the globe to promote “Inclusion 360,” this year’s theme.

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