Regina King can do no wrong. A favorite of the Television Academy with back-to-back-to-back Emmy nominations for John Ridley’s American Crime—an anthology series in which she played a different character every season—the actress is back in the running this year with Veena Sud’s Netflix drama Seven Seconds. But there is something different about this season. With the role of Latrice Butler, a Jersey City mother whose son is killed by the police, King finally made the jump to the arena of the Lead Actress.
Topical in its examination of police brutality and American race relations, Seven Seconds is a project that will always have great meaning for King, for what it so poignantly relates about deep-seated societal issues. “I feel like it’s something that will never leave me, just because the narrative still exists in our country. It’s not just a narrative, it’s a fact; it’s actually happening,” she said.
Sitting down with Deadline’s Dominic Patten last week following an AwardsLine screening of the series, King described the weight of responsibility she felt in taking on the role of Latrice, placing a spotlight on a pain that is very real for so many.
“It was my job as an artist to honor [that] pain,” she explained. “When opportunities like this come up, I feel like it’s the perfect union for your philanthropy and your artistry to marry.”
While King was captivated by Sud’s series from the get-go, she originally saw herself in a different role—the role of KJ Harper, which eventually went to Clare-Hope Ashitey. To King, this was a role that would offer up a new kind of challenge. “I was like, ‘That’s something I’ve never done, someone that’s just drunk all the time, a loose canon, irresponsible. No one’s actually seen me do that, and I haven’t seen myself do that,’ ” she said.
But Sud stood firmly behind the idea that King was her Latrice, something for which King was ultimately grateful. “In hindsight, what I realized is that the emotional depth, the emotional place that I would have to go through with Latrice, was terrifying for me,” King admitted. “The definition of an actor is just being vulnerable, and that was a level of vulnerability I had never experienced.”
With Seven Seconds, the actress is proud to have fostered empathy through cinematic experience. “I feel like stories like Seven Seconds or American Crime allow people to see a different perspective that they would never see, just because it’s not their circumstance,” she said. “I feel like if you have any bit of humanity in you, if you see someone else’s experience, you can’t help but go, ‘Wow. I had no idea.’ And that’s fair.”
In conversation with Deadline, King also juxtaposed the qualities she’s experienced in the series creators she’s worked with, and touched on her experience with Jonathan Demme, in what turned out to be the iconic helmer’s final directorial outing.
“[I’d] never worked with Jonathan before, and I feel that we had no idea how sick he was. He was walking with a cane, but he has this f*cking energy that’s so youthful. I think the majority of us out here are fans of Jonathan, whether we know it or not,” she said. “Talk about a director that really appreciates the process of working with his actors, allowing them to fly, and creating the space to fly. He did that, and I’m getting emotional because he was just so lovely.”
For more from our conversation click above.