Regina Hall As Dawn In Showtime's Black Monday Interview
Michael Levine/SHOWTIME

Regina Hall Talks Unapologetic Blackness and Absurd Racism Of 'Black Monday'

With the first season of Showtime's Black Monday coming to an end, VIBE talks to the award-winning actress about the show's comedic authenticity and more. 

At some point within the last year of her acting career, Regina Hall called a white man a racist, he thanked her and she loved it. That's what Black Monday does to its viewers. It makes you see the humor in the horrid. The writing is so callous yet calculated. The louder the laughs, the higher the volume is turned up on the ills of the 1980s until they’re unmistakable and undeniably enjoyable. Hall's character Dawn embodies that balance as a woman who would rather make money, and sexually suggestive horse jokes, than have a child. Yet, she can still see the value of love. For the 48-year-old actress with a litany of classic roles, the choice to join in on the debauchery was easy.

“I’m a huge Don Cheadle fan. He called and said, ‘I want you to read something. I read it and I loved it. That was kind of it. It was a pretty quick and a pretty easy decision,” Hall told VIBE.

Hall has maintained the authenticity of the Black woman's voice with acting legend Vanessa Bell Calloway off and on camera, in one episode. She loves that she and Don get to make fun of white people, in another episode. And she spoke with VIBE about it all, including her thoughts on Regina King's Oscar win, and how the show made her rethink the '80s.

VIBE spoke with Don Cheadle earlier this year about the show and told him my favorite line said by Mo: "I went long on condoms because I knew [AIDS] had legs." What did you love the most about the show's writing?
Regina: I love that rapid-fire dialogue. I love that it's so honest and politically incorrect, and we get to do that because it's set in the '80s when things were that politically incorrect. And we get to have commentary on stuff people didn't know. Hindsight is everything. So now we can not make fun of it but have [lines like], "I went long on condoms because I knew that shit had legs." The writers are great about taking things and ideas that are timely but also making them funny without marginalizing the reality of what AIDS meant. But there was this callousness that existed back then.

I agree completely. With all of the absurd humor, there are some really deep commentaries on the show. One that sticks out the most is your dinner table scene with Vanessa Bell Calloway, who plays your mother, from episode “339”, which tackled Dawn prioritizing her career over starting a family. What do you think of that message?
I love Vanessa Bell Calloway, first of all. I’ve been a fan of hers since I first saw her on All My Children [in 1985]. I love that commentary about her saying, "We don't want that money. It's greed money." I loved her having that opinion. So when we shot it, figuring out that mother-daughter dynamic, and understanding what that was, was great. I loved the dialogue. I loved the relationship. I loved her Nefertitty painting and the fact that my momma wants to be an artist.

Our showrunners are so great. Before we had the scene [of my mom showing me her paintings], we talked about it. One of the things we talked about was, she was about to say the F-word and I said, "You know, as a Black woman, we can't say that in front of our mothers. So, can I take the beat where I'm almost about to say it, but then I'm like, 'I better not.'" It's those nuances like that that everyone is so conscious of and open to. It allows it to feel real even though it's a comedy. There are so many authentic moments in it that are great.

There are so many strong woman characters that carry a lot of these episodes as well. The scene where you (Dawn) and Casey Ann Wilson’s character Tiffany discuss love at her bachelorette party is probably one of the top 3 scenes of the entire season, so far.
She's so phenomenal on the show. She's just incredible to watch. She's not necessarily what I would've thought of when I first read it. But, I can't imagine anyone else. She's so rotten and likable. These people are so incredibly flawed but likable. You don't even know why you like them because they're really selfish people...but they're great!'

In the penultimate episode, Tiffany decides to betray her family and get money from it. I love that the writers of the show did things like make her parents kidnap her for profits in the prior episode or have her know all these illegal things in other episodes because she was wealthy.
Yes!

Are there any other nuances like that that you think people should look out for when watching the show?
I ultimately want people to enjoy it. I've found that different people relate to different things. There are very subtle things in the show, like what it's like growing up like Tiffany, with money. Tiffany said one of my favorite lines, "Nothing ruins a brand faster than seeing it on a bum." I'm like that is clever. I love that it's the truth for her in her world. It's why I love why Mo is so unapologetically Black. I love that they feel really Black on Wall Street. Mo does. Dawn does. They're trying to make it big in the world. But, they are being their true selves.

When I talked to Don he said a lot of what happens on the show is improv. He let us in on the fact that you mounting Paul Scheer and thrusting in his face in the series premiere was all your idea on the spot. What went through your mind in that scene?
I thought, she's one of the guys. It's just something that guys do. I think for Dawn's character, so often in shows, the woman is the smart one but she's also the joykill. I wanted to make sure that although you can feel like she is the smart one and business-minded, she's also not uptight. I wanted to make sure that Dawn did not feel in any way like, "Oh gosh, here comes Dawn."

Even when she [interrupts] their circle jerk in [episode “339” ]. That's more about her having to find Mo in an emergency rather than saying, 'You guys are dumb.' In the sexual harassment training scene, Dawn says, 'Her a** meant nothing to me." For her, it's like she's one of the guys and she doesn’t make a thing about it at all.

You're definitely full of surprises. In episode “7042”, you started singing when Mo was mourning a death while out on the dock.
Oh my... I know (laughs). Something's wrong with Dawn.

You sounded alright.
Really? I thought I sounded crazy. I don't know. It was just a moment where we could take that moment and find some humor in it. There's all these moments where we get to see these people as people. That's what makes this show unique. It does have dramatic moments like the moment Dawn says she thinks she likes Blair. Then, of course, the finale's coming out and I can't wait for you to see it.

Black Monday's most interesting aspect, comedically, is how it uses that hindsight you were talking about to really question '80s pop culture. It shows the really bad side of movies likes Soul Man, Hogan’s Heroes, and Sixteen Candles. Were there any from the show that made you look at that time differently?
Or, I never thought about it that way. Yeah, all of them. Truth is, Hogan's Heroes was a comedy set in a concentration camp. I did see Sixteen Candles and one of the things is Jake does say while she's asleep, "You can have sex with my girlfriend," which is, like, date rape. There's a line Dawn says where she goes, "Listen, you can't go by sitcoms. There's two Black midgets playing rich, white people's kids." We're talking about Gary Coleman on Diff'rent Strokes and Emmanuel Lewis on Webster. There were strange things happening on shows back then that were surprisingly ok.

Our showrunners are amazing. I love when Dawn askS, "Is he getting weirder?" and Mo says, "He's definitely getting whiter." I love that you have two Black people talk about white people. Not in a bad or racist way. Just saying they're different. I also like the way they handled racism. A lot of the show is improv where we just make up a lot of stuff. But one of the scenes I love was the one with the Lehman Brothers [in episode “243”] that I did. They're like, "She knows what’s racist, she’s Black.” And I say back, "Guys, don’t worry. I know you're racist." And they don't say they're not racist, they say, "Thank you." I love when they go, "Listen, Dawn. You're very smart, which, normally, we find repulsive in a woman."

But then there's a genuine affection and love. I love how they handled the gay storyline with Keith. It's actually real love. It's not hot and heavy sex. He [Keith] really loves him [Mike].

I'd be remiss if I didn't get your reaction to Regina King's Oscar win earlier this year.
I was really excited. Regina's done work prior to [If Beale Street Could Talk] that's been incredibly worthy. She's been in the business [for] a long time. She's talented, kind and smart, so I was really excited. Also, Spike Lee's been a part of my whole life with his films. I was excited for him and his success. I loved seeing it. I was really happy and thrilled for them. All of it last year was exciting for Jordan Peele. I was home cheering like a fan, happy for the people I know and love.

Catch the 'Black Monday' season finale on Sunday, March 21 at 10p/9c on Showtime.

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Stanley Nelson Lays Bare The Complicated Cool Of Miles Davis

Miles Davis had it. Whatever it was, Miles Davis was the sole proprietor. The aura, skill, and style that oozed from Davis’ pores helped propel the trumpeter to stardom. His musical accomplishments were only made more striking by the swagger that garnished them. Davis’ cool, projected best on stage, was an unwavering confidence with a dollop of syrupy charisma. Even his voice, a sandpaper-like whisper, which came as a result of yelling after throat surgery, weaved its way into the mythological-like figure Davis became. To be frank, Miles Davis was a cool-ass motherfucker and he knew it.

Yet underneath Davis’ cool was a man equally tormented by the second-class citizenship his country forced on him, as well as his own personal demons. Standing up to the racist government sometimes proved easier than defeating his alcoholism and drug abuse. Those closest to Davis felt his venom whenever he bit, and graciously allowed their love for him to be a balm for the wounds he left. How could the same man who composed and performed Kind of Blue be responsible for the cruelty of those who loved him so?

Well, it’s complicated.

Director Stanley Nelson lays Miles Davis bare—his good, bad, and beautiful—to a new generation while crystalizing the jazz musician’s legend to longtime fans with Miles Davis: The Birth of Cool. Nelson’s latest demonstrates Davis' complexity and all that he endured.

Nelson invited VIBE to his 5,000-square-foot Harlem office to discuss Davis. Before getting into the nitty-gritty of the nearly two-hour film, Nelson offers a firm handshake and an even stronger espresso. He apologizes for not having much sugar but makes up for it with a Wicker basket full of snacks that sits atop his white granite kitchen island. I opt for cookies and sneak the last bag of white cheddar popcorn for the train ride back to the office.

As we walk past the stainless steel appliances and through the dining room, the September sun shines bright through windows striking the white living room walls. Several books about Frederick Douglass are neatly stacked on the dining room table. Nelson reveals the writer and abolitionist will be the subject of his next feature, but for now, the 68-year-old director is entrenched in promotion for Miles Davis, an artist he says “transcends music.”

In between sips of tea, Nelson explains why Davis will always be a figure worth examing,

VIBE: What is your definition of cool? Stanley Nelson: I think the definition of cool changes with the times. I think cool is a certain calmness and being ahead of the times. It’s also a certain sophistication, I think Miles Davis had for so much of his life personified.

What do you think are some of the ingredients that go into making a Miles Davis? I don’t think there are very many people, across all genres, who can compare to Miles Davis. Miles Davis did what he did for five decades and was a leader in so many different movements in music and in jazz. Miles Davis transcends music.

What do you mean when you say "Miles Davis transcends music?" Miles Davis transcended the music because he was a leader in the way he looked, in the way he dressed, in things he demanded as you can see in the film. He demanded that he be treated with an amount of respect. The fact that he had black women on the covers of his albums, all those kinds of things made Miles Davis so different from so many other jazz musicians, who we love and admire for their music. We love and admire Miles Davis for his music, but it wasn’t just the music that made Miles Davis special.

Miles was also undeniably a beautiful looking man, and this was in the 50s and 60s. Miles Davis had very dark skin which was something that was not in the general public how it was thought of, so Miles kind of flipped that on its head.

This is going to sound like a dumb question but I have to ask it anyway. Why did you decide to honor Miles Davis with this film? There are a lot of reasons for making this film. There are a lot of reasons for making any film so whenever filmmakers tell you there’s only one reason they’re probably just lying, or saying whatever their publicist wants them to say. For one, his music is so incredible I would say he is easily one of the most important musicians of the 20th century, maybe the most important, you can argue that in any genre. Two, I’m a jazz lover and three Miles Davis is a very complicated individual so it makes for a better film. It’s not a simple story. I also think as we got into the film that Miles Davis’ story isn’t only about music, but it's about being a black person in the second half of the 20th century in the United States and I think that’s what makes the film work on a different level than a lot of other jazz films.

Veering off from Mr. Davis for a bit, how do you decide which topics or events you want to turn into films? You’ve done the black press, you’ve done a story about The Black Panthers, you did a story about Emmett Till. How do you choose which one to make into a film?

One of the great lessons for me was the first film I made called Two Dollars and A Dream. It was about Madame C.J. Walker and it took me seven years to make the film and I realize at that point films can take a long time to make, to raise the money and actually get the films made, so it's really important that the film be important to me, at least, that’s part of how I think about films when I think about what to do next. I’ve also been afforded the opportunity to paint on a big canvas so I’m trying to make stories that are big. I’m not just making small stories.

Did you always have this mentality of making big stories? I think so. I think part of that was unspoken, not really something I thought of. If you make something you want it to be a success, you want it to be a big success especially if it's going to take seven or 10 years of your life.

Why was Carl Lumbly the one you picked to voice Davis? Carl Lumbly is a great actor and he’s someone that I knew. Carl did the narration for one of our other films a long time ago, so Carl is someone I thought of. We sent him a bunch of tapes of Davis’ actual voice, and he practiced and we got back to him in a week and asked him to give us his Miles Davis voice over the phone and when he did, we were like, that’s good. It wasn’t perfect, but we could make it work.

What I personally loved about the film was that you didn’t glance over Miles Davis’ bitter personality. I loved the interviews with Frances Taylor, but it broke my heart that the creator of Kind of Blue forced his dancer wife to drop out of West Side Story. Miles was not an easy guy.

That’s putting it mildly. I think it was important that we tell that part of the story. I think what makes his story so rich and emotional there’s that dichotomy with Miles. The man that made some of the most beautiful music ever created and then was so rough for so many people. How do those things exist? Miles basically ruined Frances’ career by pulling her out of this show.

Yes! He was abusive to her, and after a few years they broke up. Her career had been ruined. I think one of the things that was so great for us while making the film was that Frances was so resilient and so beautiful and so funny in the film. You realize he tried but he couldn’t break her. I should say that Frances passed away Thanksgiving of last year. It was such a joy to be with Frances and interview her.

What do you hope people who don’t know Miles Davis will take away from the film and what do you hope people who do know Miles Davis will learn? One of the challenges of making any film, especially a film about Miles Davis, some people come in thinking there’s everything to know about Miles Davis. Some people come in and say "Miles who? Why’d you drag me to the theater?" You’ve got to walk that line and tell everybody something new and also be entertaining.

My mission in this film is partly to entertain. I don’t care how much you know about Miles. If you walk into this film and it’s two hours long you’re going to learn something new, or it’s going to be told to you in a different way. Certainly you’ve never been exposed to Frances. Just being exposed to Frances in and of itself is a trip. Part of the job is to entertain and frankly, that’s what we’re trying to do.

Miles Davis: The Birth of Cool is in select theaters. Click here

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'The Boondocks' To Hit HBO Max With 24 New Episodes

On Wednesday (Sept. 18), forthcoming streaming service HBO Max revealed plans to host The Boondocks canon on its service. According to Variety, the cult classic will also premiere 24 new episodes set to premiere in Fall 2020.

"There's a unique opportunity to revisit the world of The Boondocks and do it over again today," creator and animator Aaron McGruder said in a statement. "It's crazy how different the times we live in are now—both politically and culturally—more than a decade past the original series and two decades past the original newspaper comic. There's a lot to say and it should be fun." A 50-minute special will also debut alongside the two-season return.

The show aired for four seasons on and off from 2005-2014. It was known for its witty and comedic yet serious take on political and social issues. A few standout episodes referenced moguls like Oprah Winfrey, television networks like BET, and controversial celebrities like R. Kelly. An episode of a fictional fast-food chain running out of its new special dish recently returned to the limelight when Popeye's decided to place a halt on its chicken sandwich offering.

McGruder will pick up the helm again as showrunner and executive producer. The new season will follow Robert "Grandad" Freeman and his grandson's Huey and Riley as they navigate life in suburban Maryland under Uncle Ruckus' "neo-fascist regime."

 

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“Old Town Road” Music Video Director Tapped For ‘House Party’ Remake

“Old Town Road” director, Calmatic, is ready to make a name for himself on the silver screen. The music video director is set to make his feature film debut with the House Party remake which will be produced by Lebron James and his business partner Maverick Carter, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

In addition to helming the visual for Lil Nas X’s record-breaking single, Calmatic has directed music videos for Anderson .Paak, Khalid and Vince Staples. The South Central Los Angeles native is touted as a “filmmaker, historian and artist,” per his website. “Old Town Road” has so far become Calmatic's most popular music video credit garnering over 176 million views online.

The film’s script was penned by Atlanta writers, Stephen Glover and Jamal Olori. James’s and Carters’ SpringHill Entertainment will produce the project for New Line Cinema. House Party was originally released in 1990 and starred rap duo Kid ' n Play alongside Paul Anthony George, Martin Lawrence, Tisha Campbell, Tischina Arnold, A.J. Johnson, John Witherspoon, and more. The hip-hop cult classic spawned the sequels House Party 2 in 1991, and House Party 3 in 1994.

The latest installment promises to offer a new take on a '90s classic. "This is definitely not a reboot. It's an entirely new look for a classic movie," James told The Hollywood Reporter last year. "Everyone I grew up with loved House Party. To partner with this creative team to bring a new House Party to a new generation is unbelievable."

 

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