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Oscar nominee Regina King says 'Beale Street' a reminder of black resilience


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Judy Woodruff: Now let's step back and continue our look at the big screen.

This week, we are siting down with Oscar contenders.

A veteran of films and TV, Regina King is up for best supporting actress for her work in "If Beale Street Could Talk."

Jeffrey Brown met her recently in New York to discuss bring a renowned novel to life.

It's part our series on arts and culture, Canvas.

Regina King: Remember, love is what brought you here. And if you have trusted love this far, don't panic now.

Jeffrey Brown: In "If Beale Street Could Talk," Regina King plays Sharon Rivers, the mother of two daughters, including Tish, who falls in love with her childhood friend Fonny. When Tish becomes pregnant, her mother shares the news.

Actor: What's going on?

Regina King: This is a sacrament. And, no, I ain't lost my mind. We are drinking to new life. Tish going to have Fonny's baby. Drink.

Jeffrey Brown: Set in the 1970s New York City, "Beale Street" is Oscar Award-winning director Barry Jenkins' adaptation of the James Baldwin novel of the same name.

It's a love story, but one almost destroyed by racism and hatred, as police frame Fonny with a rape charge.

I asked Regina King what she saw as the story's essence.

Regina King: It is, as a black American, just a reminder of how resilient, you know, we are, when you look at our history, and that love is a universal thing, love pushing through trauma.

While this can be looked at as an urban tragedy, surviving tragedy usually is because of love that has surrounded you, support. And all of us know what that looks like, no matter what we look like in our exterior.

Jeffrey Brown: Even in the face of trauma.

Regina King: Yes, yes. So I feel like, while this is a story with a black family, a black couple in the center, it's an American story.

Jeffrey Brown: She says she found inspiration from strong women in her own life, and as a single mother raising her son.

Regina King: The hardest thing about parenting is holding on tight, and letting go, and knowing when is the right time to do either. So I can relate to that, from an experiential place. So it was just applying all of these experiences into the performance.

Jeffrey Brown: King has enjoyed a long career on the screen, from TV sitcoms and films in the early 1990s to the Ray Charles biopic "Ray," and most recently, back on television, winning Emmy Awards for work on ABC's "American Crime" and Netflix's "Seven Seconds."

Regina King: God didn't run my son down in the street and leave him to die.

Jeffrey Brown: "Beale Street," she says, offers a portrait of American life not often accurately captured by Hollywood.

Regina King: I feel like, even, not just with black matriarchs, you don't get to see it. We don't reflect, in film and television, how our mothers or our fathers care for us so deeply. We sometimes get caricatures of that.

What I hear from people, no matter what color they are, what gender they are, that, yes, you know, Sharon reminds me of my mother.

The child is coming. It's your grandchild.

Jeffrey Brown: In perhaps the film's most powerful scene, King's character defends her daughter to Fonny's mother.

Regina King: The child ain't got nothing to do with that.

You have an example with Mrs. Hunt and Sharon Rivers of two women that are very, very, very strong. And you have one mother, her strength is motivated by fear, and then another mother whose strength is motivated by love.

It's fire in both of our eyes when we're looking at each other. We are both fully -- we -- our conviction is so strong. Our beliefs are so strong.

Jeffrey Brown: Is it fun to do a scene like that, or hard, or what...

Regina King: Oh, yes, all of the above, hard, fun, rewarding, because, when you have an exercise like that, you sleep so well that night.

Jeffrey Brown: In recent years, King has begun to direct TV shows, and has her own production company.

She's been a prominent voice for gender equity in Hollywood. And, last month, winning a Golden Globe for best supporting actress, she made a pledge.

Regina King: In the next two years, everything that I produce, I am making a vow, and it is going to be tough, to make sure that everything that I produce, that it's 50 percent women.

Jeffrey Brown: Is this something you feel you can achieve?

Regina King: Absolutely. I have to believe it. I mean, I challenge myself to do it. And I have been successful at the things that I have challenged myself in the past. You know, one would have said that, oh, really, you want to be a director, and you haven't gone to film school?

Well, film school has been my life. I have been learning. I have been on the set, you know, most of my life, more years than I haven't. So, yes, I know that I can do it. It's not going to easy. Didn't say that. But I know that I can do it.

Jeffrey Brown: All right, Regina King, thank you very much.

Regina King: Thank you.

Jeffrey Brown: And, again, congratulations.

Regina King: Thank you.

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