It might appear at first glance that Regina Hall’s wheelhouse is mostly comedy. There’s Girls Trip, Black-ish, Insecure and Black Monday coming up on Showtime, and now the latest incarnation of Shaft in the offing, but Hall’s sleeper hit feature Support the Girls is a stark reminder that she can do pretty much anything.
A slice-of-life look at life for women working in a Hooters-type Texas bar, Support the Girls is far from the sexcapade its double entendre title might suggest. Hall brings a nuanced and moving performance as Lisa, a bar manager dealing with a rage-afflicted boss, misogynistic customers, thieving kitchen staff and a team of scantily-clad 20-something women she must protect at all costs. Here she discusses what attracted her to Andrew Bujalski’s project in the first place, and why it’s been a fantastic ride.
Support The Girls was not what I expected. There was no a neatly tied-up message or big dramatic crisis and I loved that about it.
Oh, I’m so glad, thank you. When I read it, it wasn’t what I expected either. I think that’s what drew me to it so much. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that. It wasn’t something so heartwarming, and so still. I just read the script, and it stayed with me. I didn’t stop. I thought about it, and I thought about Lisa, and that world. I thought it was really interesting to have the backdrop of this restaurant, which I had my preconceived ideas about, and that he created as this idea of sisterhood, and integrity, and they love each other in this workplace.
Lisa had an optimism about life that was so beautiful, and it didn’t use any of the same things that the studio movies do. It wasn’t like this setup, and then big second act, and then resolution. It just moved along, and I cared about the characters. It wasn’t tragic. It was just people doing the best they could. It’s the frustration of what life is, and I just liked that it was unique, and different.
Then of course once I got the part, and started doing more research, and really talking to the women who work in [those] places, and the managers, we just wanted to make sure that we showed the humanity of everyone in the script, and not have caricatures and boob jokes.
The scene where you argue with your boss Cubby (James LeGros) in the car is incredible. He goes from racism to misogyny to being punched in a road rage incident–and every second of it shows on your face.
I loved James LeGros as Cubby. He’s such a curmudgeon. His clothes, just everything about him, I loved him but, thankfully James Le Gros is really great at driving. And so we literally drove with the cameras in the back seat. We’re driving, and he was so out of control and remember we had that big boat on the back [in a trailer]. It was sad because you saw the dynamic of how many times he’s tried to fire Lisa and he really didn’t ever appreciate her.
We were in the middle of a high-speed chase, so it was fun but it was a little scary because we were really driving and I was like, “James, you’re gonna turn these corners with that big boat?” But there was no way to have a stunt guy. He could back it up and I was like, “This is crazy.” I was on the edge of my seat, I was like, “Oh my god.”
What he says about tailoring the numbers of women of color working in the bar, and their specific ethnicities and body types was so horrible that I wondered if it was true-to-life?
We researched to find out how they cast. They do call it casting and not hiring, and so those places are not bound by the same laws as most employers. They call it entertainment so they’re not bound, and of course he can be like, “I want one version of this…” He’s so like, “The lord only knows we don’t hire fat girls.” He’s such a pig. There’s something wonderful about him getting punched in the stomach, but you don’t expect it.
You’ve previously said the script appealed because it wasn’t specified whether this was written for a woman of color. So it didn’t feel like, “here’s a white guy writing for a woman of color.”
I read it, really, just to read it, and I noticed that it didn’t have, “Lisa. 40s, African American’. It said her name and her age, which also made me wonder after the meeting, are they going to go black with this character? Sometimes you almost feel like if its not specified, maybe they won’t do it. But what I loved was that he wrote her with a sense of humanity and sensitivity.
They don’t ever need to write for her to be black because I’m going to bring that. That’s who I am and how I vibrate in the world. That’s never anything that needs to be written for. It just has to be respected, and you have to understand that that comes with things that may not resinate as true for me to say or for me to do, or this character.
Your performance has been noticed by critics and you have an Indie Spirit nom, but do you have the sense the film’s strength has been a surprise and and so came a little later to the awards conversation?
I think one of the things that’s interesting is that when we originally made the film and script hoping to get into Sundance, it was right at the beginning of the #MeToo movement when the film came out and Sundance was like, “No.” I think people got a little nervous because they thought of Support The Girls, like breasts. I think they thought women were going to be objectified, so they were actually afraid to go to support the film. But when you watched it, it was actually absolutely nothing like that.
I think we were a day-and-date film, so I think everyone was so excited and shocked by the critical reception. It’s really been the support of writers and critics that have even kept it alive this much. Of course it would have been great if more eyes could have seen it, just for the story’s sake and for Andrew, but that’s just what happens, and the timing is great for the people who do see it with the #MeToo movement…we’ve been really grateful just for the reception that we have gotten. It’s been exciting.
How’s the new Shaft been with Samuel L. Jackson? What can you say about it?
Well Shaft was great and Sam was so amazing. He’s so badass in the film and it’s funny. It was great to work with Tim Story again, who’s so great and wonderful and fun. That was a great project. It’s interesting for people to see where she fits in the movie.
And you have Black Monday–about the ‘80s stock market crash–coming out on Showtime.
In Black Monday, Don (Cheadle) is crazy. The thing about the ‘80s is its really pre-pre-pre-pre-#MeToo movement and you get to see where we’re coming from. It was really creating an understanding, a tone, it was just so fun to do. It was such a collaborative process. Don Cheadle, I love, and Andrew Rannells, and Paul Scheer. It was interesting because I went from a movie, Support the Girls, with all women, and now I’m the only woman. It’s a boys’ club. I think people are really going to have a lot of fun watching it and really care about the characters too.