Several comic book adaptations challenge the notion that these projects are little more than “theme parks” (and some… do not), and Watchmen certainly feels like, when all is said and done, it’ll live at the top of that list. In fact, it’s the show’s depth and creative approach (and the talent behind the scenes) that attracted Academy Award-winning actress Regina King to the part of Angela Abar (wife, mother, and retired cop) and her alter-ego, Sister Night (costumed bad-ass hero and arbiter of justice). Uproxx spoke with King in New York City ahead of the premier about what made Angela’s story connect with her as well as the look and challenge of playing Sister Night. We also discussed the evolution of King’s career, her initial worry that she had taken on too much while filming due to a packed schedule, and the support she found from co-star Don Johnson.
What was it specifically about this character that appealed to you?
Oh gosh, everything. The fact that Damon [Lindelof] wrote this amazing journey. It started there. Just when he reached out. And then, when I read this script, I kind of felt like she represents… just people. Like, all of us. We have to switch our masks all the time in life; whether it’s to adapt, whether it’s to protect ourselves, whether it’s because we don’t want to let people in. We’re constantly doing that. And it was just kind of amazing because it was the first time I had ever seen that happen in just 60 pages. Usually, when you see someone that is wearing a mask or a chameleon, it’s over the course of time. But in those 60 pages, we meet her at her son’s school. That’s not the Angela that is truly Angela. And then the Angela that she is with Cal, which is truly the essence of Angela, I think. And then Sister Night. I just felt like that’s just a great representation of human beings and how we move.
Something impactful like that, is that a prerequisite for you at this point when you’re looking to take on a project?
It’s interesting, because I’m asked that question, and I know I’m asked that question because pretty much from Southland on to now, one would say that was the case. But I really look for great storytelling. I’m reading anything that I get as an audience member before I’m looking at it as an actor. But I will say that I matured along the way to where I look at things that way. I would say in the first few years of my career, like [in my] teens and early twenties, if something came my way, I would scroll until I got to my character and read [it] first. Just to read through. “Okay. What is it that I will have to do before I go on this audition?” l just think I’ve gained a certain amount of wisdom along the way that has me… I look at things in totality as opposed to just the character.
Have you looked at comic book adaptations in the past?
This is the first time. I always wanted to play a superhero, but I’d be lying if I told you that I’m a huge fan of comic books and that I follow them. I would say the first big superhero story that was my favorite was Spiderman And His Amazing Friends, as a kid. But at that time that I was loving it, I did not realize that it was a comic book before it was a cartoon, you know? I did know that Wonder Woman was a comic book. I was a fan of Wonder Woman. I loved Wonder Woman so much because I felt like, while she did have on that little costume, for some reason, to me, it didn’t feel like she was being objectified. I feel like, even as a little girl, I would always be able to see when a female character was being objectified. You know, like… While we loved her, I felt like Farrah Fawcett in Charlie’s Angels was objectified. But Diana Prince didn’t feel like that to me. So I will say, as much as I’ve wanted to play a superhero or a bad-ass woman, I never wanted her to feel like that. The universe does things exactly the way it’s supposed to be. So it was supposed to take this long for that: a superhero that’s as complex as Angela is to come along.
Speaking of the look of the character, what was your reaction when you saw the costume for the first time?
I was blown away the first time I saw it. We went through so many different versions of this costume until we got to this. The skirt as a cape. To bring on that feeling of the Caped Crusader was always part of Sharon Davis and Damon’s idea. They wanted to give that nod to the old school caped superhero, but not have it look old school. Still feel sexy but be strong. And sexy is not the first thought. But like, a dude is like, “Shit, if I was a woman and I was wearing a costume, that’d be the one I’d wear!” [Laughs]
[Laughs] Honestly, yeah. It looks good. It’s a great costume.
Can you take me through the hero montage in episode one and how that spoke to you? Because you talk about being a badass and that just defines it right there.
There’s something about when you put on a costume, it changes the way you move.
Confidence. The rosary was always part of it [that scene]. And I’m like, well, it needs to be a weapon. So, when we were doing that one scene, I just decided how about if I take it off and just wrap it around my hand before I go in? And Damon, who happened to be on set that day, was like, “I fucking love that!” And that wasn’t anything that was written, but there’s no way you can have that on and not… And our props department felt like, okay, yeah. This does have to be a weapon. So, they made sure that those beads were strong. There are so many parts to the puzzle that played into that sequence from all the different departments. And my stunt double and I really worked together to make sure what we did was seamless. Mirroring each other’s moves so that those moments where she comes in and I go out, or I come in and she goes out, it just never looks like there was a cut. And I’m a very physical woman. I always stay fit. All the way from the years of being on Southland, being physical, fighting. And all of that is not foreign to me.
Do you have to amp that up for this, though?
It’s not so much amping it up. It’s figuring out how to do it and make it look cool in leather, in a skirt. We took a lot of falls, both of us, in that skirt because you’re trying to move and do stuff how you would normally move. And sometimes the skirt would wrap around your foot and you’d go down. Or sometimes the skirt would end up over you still and you go down. We were also trying to figure out times in some of the fights to keep the hood on so the continuity can keep up and it falls off in the same place every time. So there, that’s where the little details came in. And the hood actually has magnets in it. The hairstyle is braided magnets in my hair. So the hood can stay on it. And we have to put the mask up before… There’s so much detail to every scene.
There’s one scene when you’re pummeling a guy. How do you get into the headspace (beyond being in the costume) to kind of just get ferocious and throw hands like that?
It’s tiring. It really is.
Physically, emotionally, or both?
Both. A little bit of both. Not a lot a bit of both. Those days are always a good night’s sleep. And you’re punching furniture cushions. You’re not actually taking that out on someone. I don’t know what everyone does, but for me, as an actor, it’s trying to remain present in the moment. And in that moment is, she is releasing a whole [lot].
Can you tell me a little bit about working with Don Johnson and the chemistry that you and he had. It’s really great.
Don and I had a lot of really great conversations and I really got to know him. He got to be with me and gave me a lot of advice because we were together throughout this award season when a lot of stuff was happening, and I was getting pulled in a lot of different ways. I’m promoting the film (If Beale Street Could Talk), and also on this awards campaign. And I was feeling a little like, you know, “am I making the right choice?” And he took a moment. It was like, you know, lightning strikes one time. And if you’re lucky, two. And he was like, “just breathe, listen to your heart. And from my vantage point, you’re not doing too much. Just grab it by the horns.”
When you say making the right choice, you mean with regard to taking the show on?
There were some times where it would be like 25 days of me not having a break because I would work Monday through Friday, get on the plane Friday night, land in New York or LA to promote the show on Saturday and Sunday, then get back on the plane for work Monday. And it got to a point where I felt like maybe I’m doing too much. Maybe I’m asking too much of myself because I got on set one day and I was wasn’t really strong with my dialogue as far as with memory, and I got really frustrated. Like, “Okay, I’m failing on this commitment that I’ve made to the show because I’m promoting this or I’m on an awards campaign. Am I letting vanity take over?” Because, of course, I would love to win an award, and I understand the purpose of the awards campaign because it’s also bringing people in to see the film. But I was tired. And so he just, because he’s been through all of that, you know what I mean? So just having him there to say “you can do it, you can get through it.” And he would just send me little texts here and there. And just to get the text signed DJ… just to know that even though we’re not even on set together, and he’s thinking about me sending me a little love line, a little love tap. That was just great. And it just was a reminder that I’m a part of a wonderful community. A community of artists. And that has no gender, has no color. It’s just… We are a community of artists. So it was kind of cool to get to know him in that way.
‘Watchmen’ airs Sundays at 9pm ET on HBO