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.

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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Issa Rae And Kumail Nanjiani Talk Their Black And Brown Dynamic In 'The Lovebirds'

As our latest op-ed points out, black romance films are having a moment, and The Lovebirds is adding a comedic twist to the matter. Ahead of the MRC/Paramount Pictures' premiere on streaming platform Netflix, VIBE correspondent Jazzie Belle sat down with the film's lead actors Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani to discuss the refreshing black and brown dynamic between their characters.

"I think it was just more exciting to me [to take part in a different romantic dynamic]. It was just that, and I didn't realize until later," said Rae. "Obviously with working with Kumail, it just like 'Oh, I haven't seen an on-screen pairing like this' and [I] was excited to play with him cosmetically. But yes, it's exciting to see a new and fresh dynamic in movies like this."

"When you see a portrayal of Pakistanis in American pop culture, generally, you're seeing certain lanes. You don't see us being light or funny or fun that often," said Nanjiani. "My family is very, very funny. My friends are very funny, so it wasn't even an attempt to try and show that [brown characters can be portrayed differently]. I just wanted to show how the people I know are. My mom and my dad are some of the funniest people I've ever met."

Watch the full interview above. The Lovebirds is streaming on Netflix now.

Interview's music bed provided by Gus.

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Lakeith Stanfield and Issa Rae in 'The Photograph'.
Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Opinion: Black Romance Films Are Having A Moment

It began with a kiss. Just one decade after the birth of cinema, vaudeville actors and dancers Gertie Brown and Saint Suttle gleefully embraced one another on film. They held hands and locked lips, giving the world its very first image of Black romance and intimacy on-screen. 1898's Something Good-Negro Kiss proved that love and affection was at the center of Black life. More than that, intimacy has always been essential to the survival of our people. Now, some 120 plus years later— cinema has finally reached the point where it has expanded to allow complex images of Black love, across time periods, between same-sex couples, and more recently, without being bogged down in trauma and pain.

Before Good-Negro Kiss was discovered in 2018, one of the earliest versions of Black romance in cinema was 1954's Carmen Jones starring Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandridge. Filmed in sweeping cinemascope, Carmen Jones follows a soldier named Joe (Belafonte) who gets so enamored with Carmen (Dandridge) that he becomes obsessive, even going AWOL to be with her. Though the film is sexy, and the tension between the actors is palpable — the romance in Carmen Jones is stilted to make white audiences comfortable. Hollywood was only willing to see Black intimacy through the lens of a renowned musical, wrapped in what ultimately becomes a tragedy. By the end of the film, Joe murders Carmen out of obsession and jealousy. Despite Belafonte and Dandridge's determination to showcase their sensuality, the material only allowed them to go so far. This sort of restraint would become the blueprint for generations of Black romance films.

Considering the utter chaos of the 1960s, it's a wonder that 1964's Nothing But A Man was ever made. A decade after Carmen Jones, Hollywood felt it was time to roll the dice on something different. Starring Ivan Dixon and Abbey Lincoln as Duff Anderson, a railroad worker, and Josie Dawson, a Birmingham school teacher, respectively, Nothing But A Man isn't packaged for white audiences like the musicals of the previous decades. However, the burdens and pains of the couple's relationship, namely Duff's flakiness about commitment and the rage he feels as a Black man living in the South, fall on Josie's shoulders. Moving into the 1970s with films like Claudine and Mahogany, and certainly, in the 1990s and early 2000s, Black romance on-screen would either be shrouded in comedic relief, or the relationships became the sole burden of the Black woman to bear. Often, both tropes were present.

Still, Black romance stories were always evolving. The 1980s sparked something new for Black sensuality in the movies. Though these were still heteronormative depictions, (aside from 1984's The Color Purple), films made significant steps forward in terms of diverse images of Black people. However, they still held on to sexist ideals. 1986's She's Gotta Have It used a Black woman's rape as a form of character development while 1988's Coming to America — billed as a comedy, rewarded its protagonist for lying to his love interest. This would become the formula for the many Black romance movies that came to fruition in the 1990s. Cheating, lies, abandonment, lack of accountability, and trauma are all very present in some of our most beloved films. Poetic Justice, Love Jones, Jason's Lyric, The Best Man, and Love & Basketball, all have some form of struggle love embedded within the narrative — typically leaving Black women wielding the shorter end of the stick.

Poetic Justice is riddled in misogyny, The Best Man has a serial cheater as a leading man, and in Love Jones, the lack of communication and accountability from both partners is dizzying. Moreover, women are often asked to overlook cheating, lying, manipulation, or being friend-zoned to present themselves as worthy of their male partner by the film's conclusion. Yet, in our quest to connect and see brown bodies sensually and romantically in cinema, we hold these films close to our hearts, overlooking many of the toxic traits of the characters.

Despite the mega success of Black films in the 1990s— following the debut of Gina Prince-Bythewood's Love & Basketball in 2000, Black stories in cinema, aside from a few here and there, were all but erased in Hollywood. Throughout this near decade-long drought, prolific director Tyler Perry was one of the only voices in the game. However, the quality of Perry's storylines, as well as the portrayal of his female characters, have proven to be problematic. These characters are often emotionally broken, angry, and at times unhinged. If and when they do find love in movies like 2005's Diary of An Angry Black Woman, 2008's The Family That Preys and 2009's I Can Do Bad All By Myself, it's after they suffer some dire consequence or horrific punishment. This was particularly jarring during a time when there were hardly any other mainstream film images of Black people on-screen.

Thankfully, as we pressed forward into the second decade of the 21st century, Black filmmakers, writers, and producers were knocking down doors in Hollywood once again. In 2012, Ava DuVernay stepped onto the scene with her stellar film, Middle of Nowhere. The film follows Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi) grappling with the choice to leave her incarcerated husband, Derek (Omari Hardwick), to follow her dreams and possibly find new love with a bus driver named Brian (David Oyelowo). Though this was a significant shift in the way Black intimacy, sensuality, and romance was depicted in movies, the real transformation happened in 2016, with Barry Jenkins' Academy Award-winning, Moonlight.

Loosely based on screenwriter Tarell Alvin McCraney's real life, Moonlight puts the Black male coming-of-age story center stage. However, instead of honing in on the violence and despair of the inner city, like the hood homeboy films of the 1990s — Moonlight focuses on Black love between Black men. First, there is the relationship protagonist Chiron (Alex R. Hibbert) has with his father-figure, Juan (Mahershala Ali). Later, Chiron explores his queer identity with his classmate Kevin (Jharrel Jerome). The film is a sumptuous duality of hypermasculinity against lush sensuality. With this film, Jenkins effectively shattered our expectations regarding Black intimacy on-screen, while unraveling why Black love in all of its varied prisms deserves a spotlight in cinema.

Moonlight would pave the way for 2019's Queen & Slim and 2020's The Photograph. Two vastly different films, one— a harrowing dramatic thriller, centering Queen (Joe Turner-Smith ) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) who are forced together by circumstance. A dull Tinder date paves the way for a standoff with a racist police officer who eventually lays dead, prompting our leads to run for their lives.

Penned by Lena Waithe and directed by Melina Matsoukas — the film is almost an antithesis of what we've seen before when it comes to Black romance in the movies. Instead of the tried and true formula of a meet-cute, conflict, and resolution, Queen & Slim unites a Black man and a Black woman through Black radicalism. They come to lean on one another, inadvertently building a foundation when there is no one else either of them can trust or turn to. The weight of their relationship rests equally on both of their shoulders, as they become each other’s ride or die.

In contrast to Queen & Slim, writer/director Stella Meghie's The Photograph, is a much-deserved presentation of soft Black romance, without the trauma or brutality. The film follows Mae (Issa Rae), an art curator grappling with the death of her estranged mother, and Michael (Lakeith Stanfield) — a journalist who crosses paths with Mae's late mother's work. The film follows the typical romance formula, but the conflict and resolution aren't gut-wrenching or emotionally tumultuous. Mae and Micheal deal with real-life issues without being battered or broken. Both parties —like the lead characters in Queen & Slim, share the weight of their missteps and miscommunication. The Photograph is a recognition of straight-forward Black sensuality and love without the heaviness of Black pain. Despite all of this, the film has garnered mixed reviews. Since there isn’t any toxicity between the main characters or much comedy in The Photograph, it appears foreign to us. As a community, we’ve been conditioned to only recognize Black Love shrouded in chaos. Presently, Black women in particular, are asking Black people to look beyond archaic examples of love that are rooted in sexism, misogynoir, and rigid gender roles. Instead, Meghie presents two grown people who must hold themselves and each other accountable to have a chance at a loving and modern relationship.

Black women are also getting the opportunity to be seen as romantic leading women, in the broader scope of cinema alongside leading men from different cultures. Following the footsteps of the 2006 film Something New, where Sanaa Lathan's leading man was Australian actor Simon Baker, Issa Rae will become a leading lady once more in Netflix's The Lovebirds. The Insecure actress stars as Leilani, opposite Pakistani-American actor Kumail Nanjiani. Rae is a woman who is grappling with her strained relationship with her boyfriend, Jibran (Nanjiani). The couple's commitment to one another is hilariously put to the test when they suddenly find themselves in the middle of a chaotic murder mystery.

Black film, and undoubtedly Black romance film, has come a long way since that very first kiss was captured on-screen in 1898. With more women filmmakers at the helm, diverse projects, and the current wave of Black cinema in Hollywood, Black romance movies have the opportunity to give the next generations more nuanced depictions of connection, sensuality, sex, and intimacy. With films like Queen & Slim, Moonlight, The Photograph, and The Lovebirds — we have witnessed Black people from all walks of life and sexualities dive into romantic relationships with love, accountability, and self-awareness, which are truly the ultimate relationship goals.

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Black Thought And Questlove Secure First-Look Deal With Universal

Amir “Questlove” Thompson and Tarik “Black Thought” Trotter landed a three-year first-look deal with Universal. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the founders of the Legendary Roots Crew will create scripted and unscripted content for Universal Television Alternative Studio and Universal TV under the duo's Two One Five Entertainment imprint.

“This deal is very important to us as we've been content producers and storytellers for our entire career,” Questlove said in a statement on Wednesday (May 13). “A significant investment from Universal Television Alternative Studio and Universal Television in our vision allows us to share these stories on a much larger scale. Tarik and I see this as the next chapter to our careers, and we are very involved in the entire process. I'm directing, Tarik is writing and we both are producing.”

The deal extends the Roots decade-long relationship with NBC, first on Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night talk show in 2009, and serving as the house band for NBC’s Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, which premiered in 2014. Questlove is also music director for the Tonight Show.

“Many of our initial projects have been music-centric content, and one of our goals is to become the premiere hub for music storytelling — a safe space for these stories to be shared across a variety of platforms,” added Black Thought. “Eventually we will expand outside of music with our stories. However, as we all know, every story has a rhythm and Two One Five Entertainment will harness that rhythm and create well-produced, compelling content.”

Two One Five Entertainment's roster of projects include the AMC docuseries, Hip Hop Songs that Shook America, along with Black Woodstock, chronicling the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. The company has also had a hand in the Broadway productions, Black No More and Soul Train the Musical.

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