Regina King is no stranger to drama. She won two Emmys for American Crime and was part of the ensembles of Southland and The Leftovers. Her latest show, Seven Seconds, may be her most harrowing work yet — at least until she appears in Damon Lindelof’s HBO adaptation of Watchmen.
On Seven Seconds, King plays Latrice Butler, a mother whose son Brenton (Daykwon Gaines) is injured in a hit-and-run by a police officer (Beau Knapp). With Netflix vying for Emmy consideration for their dramatic series, King spoke with Rotten Tomatoes by phone about why Seven Seconds was her toughest role yet.
But first, King shared her near-total conversion from on-the-air television. Find out what’s on her DVR and streaming queues, and the one thing she makes an exception for on live TV.
I am totally converted. I do not do any appointment TV unless it’s a playoff game or a game final.
Oh, I know what’s on my DVR that I have not watched yet: [American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni] Versace. That is all queued up and ready for me to watch all of them. I have not seen one, so that’s going to be one of those over-at-four-o’-clock-in-the-morning nights.
So much. I want to see Ibiza. That’s on my radar to watch. I haven’t seen the last two Dave Chappelles, so that’s on there, and Chris Rock’s Tamborine is one that I want to see. Obviously, I’m in this space where I want to see comedies and things that will make me laugh. I’ve been doing TV lately that is so heavy that something light, comedies are the things I’m looking forward to. Another Netflix show I like is Atypical. I’ve only watched three episodes, and I haven’t finished that one. That’s a really good show. It’s funny and it has a little emotional weight to it which I dig. My son turned me onto it. There’s another one my son turned me onto that I’ve watched just the first two episodes which I thought was genius, it’s a cartoon called Big Mouth. I thought that was just awesome.
Fred Topel for Rotten Tomatoes: I’m sure you’d hoped for a fourth season of American Crime, but when there wasn’t, was it nice to find another show that really had something to say?
Regina King: Yes, absolutely. When I came onto Seven Seconds, I only came on for a season. This story is a one-off story. It was never something for me that was supposed to continue. That story was a story that I felt needed to be told. Some people may feel like it’s a told-again story, but unfortunately, this is who we are as an American culture. It’s unfortunate, but for me, the storytelling that is not scared of holding a mirror up is fascinating for me as an artist.
RT: Is there a specific episode you’re submitting for Emmy consideration as an example of your most powerful work?
King: Oh my gosh, I have not gone back to watch the shows, because it was so emotional that I can’t go back to watch. It’s already hard for me to watch myself, because as an actor, the times I’ve watched things that I’ve done, I always feel like, “I wish I would’ve made this choice. Oh, I know I did a better take than that. Why didn’t they use that?” I find myself in this space of shoulda/woulda/coulda and that really is ridiculous. That’s just crazy thinking, but because I do that, I tend to not watch things that I’ve done, unless it’s just something that’s really specific to the press tour, and I need to really know it very well. This one, even if it was specific to the press tour, it was such an emotional place to live for six months that I just can’t go back there. I just can’t.
RT: Is Watchmen going to be that emotional for you?
King: Damon Lindelof is so brilliant. It is going to be emotional in another way, but I don’t think in that way. Because I’m a mother — I’m a mother of a son — I know what it feels like just when your son goes out to a party. If they’re five minutes after curfew, I’m looking at the clock nervous. That alone, I think a lot of parents can relate to that. That’s why [Seven Seconds] was such a raw place for me to be, but Watchmen is going to have some emotion for some different reasons that I can’t say because Damon is so brilliant. He is doing some things in this show that, if it has been done before, I haven’t seen it.
RT: They haven’t said who you’re playing yet, but what is it like to play a new character in the Watchmen world?
King: Well, I start on Monday, so so far we have just been going through all the wardrobe design and all the different things that come along with developing who the woman I’m playing is. I am being very careful, because I am not messing up anything. I’m still so honored that Damon is calling on me again. I just want to show up and show out.
RT: Does reading the comic book help when it’s a new take on Watchmen?
King: I am not reading it. Damon’s asking for me to wait and read it after we finish the first season.