How Barry Jenkins Prepared Regina King For Her Oscar-Nominated Role In ‘Beale Street’


Two months before Regina King finished her Netflix series Seven Seconds, she had already decided that in regards to her next project, “I’m not playing anybody’s mama.”

“I’m cool, don’t send me anything for five years with ‘Mama’ attached,” King recalled telling her reps.

But then Beale Street director/writer Barry Jenkins sent her the quintessential matriarch role, that of Sharon Rivers, a future-mother-in-law who literally goes the distance to prove the innocence of Fonny, her daughter’s fiance. Sharon is a woman in the state of crisis who balances the scales and possesses a great sense of empathy, particularly when putting herself in other’s shoes.

What changed King’s mind after meeting Jenkins? He “understands collaboration, and I feel like if I’m going to learn, it’s important to leave a situation better,” said the Oscar nominated supporting actress at an Awardsline screening this week. King won the supporting actress Golden Globe for playing Rivers last month.

Some intriguing insight about the director and the actress’ process is that Jenkins would shoot extra scenes, ones which would never find their way into the film, or on the DVD. It’s all a means to propel his actors to a specific emotional, dramatic pinnacle. For the most part, the director considered these extra beats to be repetitive, and not suitable for the rhythm of the film. For a pivotal scene where Sharon confronts Fonny’s accuser, Victoria Rogers (Emily Rios), there were several scenes shot that preceded this key sequence; again strictly to get the actresses to the emotional place where they needed to be. In the above video, Jenkins details a moment during production when King asked to have a specific scene she shot with Kiki Layne (who plays Sharon’s daughter Tish) on hand, just so she could watch again (if needed) and get into her zone.

Jenkins and King worked with each other before, however, she didn’t realized that: It was on HBO’s The Leftovers. Jenkins was a season 2 staff writer and King played the role of Erika Murphy.

Also, in the above video, Jenkins talks about what drew him to adapting James Baldwin’s 1974 novel, while composer Nicholas Britell, who earns his second Oscar nomination for original score after composing for the director’s Moonlight, details their shorthand.

Jenkins’ Moonlight won the Best Picture Oscar in 2017. He also won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay that year, and is nominated again in the category this year for Beale Street.

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