By Wilson Chapman| Variety
The 2022 Sundance Film Festival featured a Regina Hall double bill: “Master,” a thriller following three Black women at a predominantly white college; and “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul,” a mockumentary exploring the inner workings of a Southern Baptist megachurch. Hall was pumped to take Park City by storm this year — at least, before the COVID surge derailed the festival.
“I was so looking forward to it being in person,” Hall says. “When they said virtual I was like, ‘Damn you Omicron!’”
Hall is receiving the second annual Voice of Inspiration Award from Variety on May 25 at the annual Reel Works ChangeMakers Gala. Also being honored is MACRO founder and CEO Charles D. King with the Reel Works ChangeMaker Award.
Established in 2001, Reel Works provides more than 1,600 New York City youth with free filmmaking and mentoring programs each year. The org includes an intensive after-school program for high schoolers who work one-on-one with professionals to create film projects; plans for 13 middle and high schools; and a workforce readiness program that prepares youngsters for media careers through internships and job training. According to organizers, 100% of students who participate in Reel Works’ programs graduate, 83% attend college and more than half go on to a media career.
Notes Variety’s senior VP, global content/executive editor Steven Gaydos, “Hall has pushed beyond early acclaim as a character actress of great comedic gifts, to one of America’s most vital actresses and advocates for opportunities, inclusion and change.”
Both “Master” and “Honk for Jesus” are debut films from Black female directors: Mariama Diallo and Adammo Ebo, respectively, and feature Hall at the top of her game, with performances in disparate genres.
“Honk for Jesus,” in particular, was a passion project for the actor, who produced the film. Hall says she was deeply drawn to the character of Trinitie, the long-suffering pastor’s wife, and found the script’s handling of delicate subject matter such as religion, wealth and divorce thought-provoking.
Part of Hall’s interest in “Honk for Jesus” comes from her own background, as she was raised a Christian. Although she’s less devout now than she was, she still aspires to the ideals Christianity preaches, even if that ideal doesn’t quite match the reality.
“I probably have, since my childhood, broadened my idea of religion and spirituality, so that it’s a lot more encompassing than what we think of as traditional Christian beliefs. I love the study of religion, period. I loved theology in school. It’s always something that’s been incredibly fascinating to me.”
Focus Features’ wide release of “Honk for Jesus” in September will be the cap of a massive year for Hall. In March, she was one of the first hosts for the Oscars since the 2018 edition, emceeing the event with Wanda Sykes and Amy Schumer. Hall says the three have grown close since the ceremony, and she was honored to work alongside the other two women. Although their hosting job was overshadowed by the now-infamous altercation between Chris Rock and Will Smith that occurred on the Dolby Theatre stage, Hall has kept a good sense of humor about how it all went down.
“Now we can say we’re probably a part of one of the most memorable Oscars in history,” Hall says with a laugh. “We’re like a ‘Jeopardy’ question. You know, we’re going to be a part of something that’s just quite historical for many reasons.”
Hall recently wrapped production on “Me Time,” an upcoming comedy with Kevin Hart and Mark Wahlber and is filming a miniseries sequel to “The Best Man” films, the franchise that launched her career in 1999. The series reteams her with director Malcolm D. Lee, who she also collaborated with on “Barbershop: The Next Cut” and the beloved “Girls Trip” (“Malcolm’s been stuck with me for a long time,” Hall jokes).
As to what she’s looking for in projects she’s taking on at this stage of her career, Hall says her goals aren’t set in stone. Some projects she takes on because they’re fun to work on. Others challenge her and have scripts that resonate with her long after she finishes reading. Regardless, Hall says she’s happy she’s at a career stage where she can choose the projects she wants to make.
“It is nice to have some ability to choose, you know?” Hall says. “There’s a point where you just say yes, because you’re like ‘Well, I want to work.’ So it’s nice to be able to be like, where does this fit into the scheme of things in this moment in time now?”