Regina Hall Is a Trip, Now She's Ready to Show Her Vulnerable Side (Exclusive)

Regina Hall
Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images

ET sat down with the actress to discuss 'Support the Girls,' breastaurants and a sequel to 'Girls Trip.'

Support the Girls is both exceedingly timely and instantly nostalgic. The indie comedy, from mumblecore wunderkind Andrew Bujalski, revolves around a Hooters-esque "breastaurant" called Double Whammies and its beleaguered general manager, Lisa, over one particularly taxing day. Regina Hall, of Girls Trip and Think Like a Man, plays Lisa with heart and soul, displaying previously untapped vulnerability as the bar's den mother, nurturing and protecting her girls as the movie dismantles the male fantasy and touches on topics of sexual harassment and abuse.

The film may also become something of a period piece, as a purported diminishing interest in breasts is becoming bad for Hooters' business. (As one write-up put it, "Hooters Is Shutting Down Locations, Restrategizing After Recent Study Says Millennials Aren't That Into Boobs.") "I just found that out today," Hall laughs. She's perched on the couch in a suite at The London in West Hollywood, wearing a floral romper with her heels tucked underneath her, and offers up one of Brooklyn Decker's lines from Support the Girls: "'We're sort of moving away from boobs into butts.' Which is still a B! It's very true, and you know what? That was an ad-libbed line!" With Support the Girls out now, ET sat down with Hall to talk breastaurants, the holdup on a Girls Trip sequel and awarding Oscars to "popular" films.

ET: You have been working for many years and have such an established career, and then you have a movie like Girls Trip. Have you seen any changes in your career since then?

Well, I've been working. [Laughs.] Which is great! I was before, but I think the types of roles have been more varied. I feel like Girls Trip, it kind of had a life of its own that none of us had really prepared for, but it was such a fun movie to make. That was the biggest thing, is that we had fun every day.

What types of roles were you seeing before, and what are you being offered now?

I think before, when people thought of me with comedy -- and I had done dramas and smaller things -- but they thought of broader [comedy]. Girls Trip was a much more grounded comedy role for me, as opposed to, like, in Scary Movie and About Last Night. It was a lot more grounded. So, I think people were like, "Oh! Well, OK, then maybe she can play that." That became more instinctive, and then this is obviously a totally different kind of comedy, because it's so subtle and slice of life. But I think you're always trying to expand how people see you versus what they know you can do and then what you want to try to do and things you want to explore. I just think it opened up a lot more doors for that.

How did this movie [Support the Girls] come to you?

I was shooting Girls Trip and my agent called me and said, "There's a script I want you to read." I read it and was like, This is great! And he said, "The director would like to meet you." Andrew lives in Austin, so he came to New Orleans and we talked and I didn't have the part at that point, but I was like, I want the part! I like Andrew. I felt like he would be able to communicate that story with integrity -- you know, the backdrop of Whammies, those women, those girls, with such humanity that I was excited about journeying this type of role in this type of movie with him.

And especially because, I guess this was before [the Weinstein allegations and emergence of #MeToo in Hollywood]--

It was before! It was, like, a year before.

Even then, there may have been less of an emphasis, but a male writer-director telling a story about women and about sexual harassment, you do have to feel like you are in safe hands.

Absolutely. And I think people are shocked that it's a man who wrote and directed it. But his writing and his emotional intelligence was so spot-on for this role. I think it's because he was in there, talking and writing this story and researching. When you go into the places and you meet them, when we were in Twin Peaks [where the movie was filmed] every day, we loved the girls, you know? We loved the food, the girls, and you just don't notice it [the breasts] anymore.

What did the girls at Twins Peaks think about you making a movie set in their world? Because I could see it being exciting and I could also imagine them being cautious of how they're making a livelihood being represented.

They were really open! They were just like, Come on in! It was so welcoming. Austin's pretty awesome, but where we were shooting was actually right across the parking lot -- not even across the street -- we were on the same lot, the restaurant [that became "Double Whammies"] was right next to a Twin Peaks. So, we were going there every day for lunch. A couple of times we had people coming in to Double Whammies thinking it was a real restaurant. You know, the sign is outside and they're like, Oh, we're going to try something different! [Laughs.] And we're like, We're not real. We're shooting. The manager let us come in and I shadowed her. The girls actually dressed our girls and they shadowed, they actually waited some tables. They could not have been more more welcoming and supportive.

What did you take from that experience that you then put into your performance and brought to Lisa?

Just how nurturing she was. Literally she had everything for those girls. I think that before, I didn't realize how much she had. She had pliers to fix jewelry, she had extra earrings, extra necklaces, tampon, pads, Midol, Tylenol. Everything that, as a girl, you could forget, she was there. She was like, Well, anything can happen. And she was like, I love my girls. I don't let anybody mess with my girls. They felt like her girls. I think that's what I took away, that everybody maintains a level of integrity where they work. I loved that, that they had it. I was like, They really are like family! And when we were out there at Double Whammies, I was like, We think we're Twin Peaks! Like, they felt like my girls!

You are this maternal figure for the women at Double Whammies in the movie, but I have to assume to some degree on set, too. These are mostly up-and-coming actors who have probably looked up to you and were thrilled to get a chance to work with you.

Yeah, that was nice too. Watching them on set, they brought a freshness that I was excited to see them excited. And my dog was there, so they all fell in love with him. He passed away since then. That was his last movie.

I'm sorry.

That's kind of really special, and they put him in the credits. He is under special thanks. So, I'm glad that he got to be around such a great group of girls. He was a bulldog, an English bulldog. I was like, Am I going to get another dog? I'm still heartbroken for that one. But I'm sure I will.

So many of the reviews I've seen have called this the "perfect showcase" for you--

That's very, very nice. We wanted people to enjoy it, but it's wonderful when critics like it. I remember when I did Scary Movie, critics didn't like Scary Movie. And we were like, Oh... Really? [Laughs.] But we still love Scary Movie!

Scary Movie has lasting power!

It's a classic!

Brenda is still a regularly-used meme.

[Laughs.] I know! Brenda is crazy.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

In regard to what we were talking about earlier, about wanting to show off new sides of yourself, what were you able to tap into or showcase in this film that you hadn't had the chance to before?

I think, for me, it was just a much more vulnerable side. Lisa's so different. She's strong in her way, in that she's resilient. She's a manager, but you still know Lisa's a softy. That's what was so great doing this, my scenes with James Le Gros, was that Cubby's such an a**! [Laughs.] I just think Lisa's combination of strength and vulnerability and nurturing, obviously. She's a full-fledged woman with grown kids and a husband and a divorce and now a new divorce. Also, her life isn't glamorous. It wasn't like in Girls Trip, where she had a façade, but it was a glamorous life. [Lisa] loved those girls. She just loved those girls. So it was taking something where you're driving it, but you're not driving it with your comedy or whatever, it's just your love for these girls. Haley Lu [Richardson] and her, like, bright energy, she was infectious. It's great because all of them felt like they were the characters. Shayna [McHayle] -- Junglepussy -- she was so deadpan, and even the scene where -- aw, and I loved [AJ Michalka] so much -- when she's sad and I pass her and I'm like, Oh gosh, why is she alone in the juice bar? And she's gotten that giant--

Steph Curry tattoo!

And she didn't see what was wrong with it. She's like, It's racism. That's what I love too about Lisa is that it wasn't, and no one else could have said that except her, be like, I don't know if that's what it is, baby. And yet, the issue of her race never comes up. It was kind of brilliantly written by Andrew, so there were so many things that I just liked and got to draw from that were in the script already.

I wanted to ask you about Girls Trip 2, because you've said the girls are coming back.

Yeah, maybe. Maybe!

That's what I can't quite understand. You've said you are "trying to make that happen" and whenever Tiffany [Haddish] is asked about it, she says she's "constantly bothering the studio" about it. But when you have a movie like that, that does well and becomes a moment in culture, I can't believe Universal isn't bending over backwards to make it happen again.

I don't even think it's that. I think all of us, we're just like, the script's got to be great. We certainly don't want to just do it again unless it's amazing. So, it's listening to what those ideas are and Kenya [Barris] and Tracy [Oliver], who wrote it, they're busy. And I know they're working on that and we've talked about ideas. And then, you know, scheduling. So, I keep saying when all the elements come together, but it's the elements of people working, which is a great thing -- you know Jada [Pinkett Smith's] Red Table Talk has soared. And Tiffany's, like, had the most incredible year.

What isn't Tiffany Haddish doing?

She's working movie after movie! And La's [Queen Latifah] always working, producing, plus she's got a show. So, we're trying to hone in on a date, and then be like, OK, what's the story? Where do we take the girls?

So there is enthusiasm from all sides? It's not actually you ladies pushing the studio?

No, no, no, no. There's enthusiasm from all sides. There's just, like, how do we make it work? Where fans are getting the same amount of laughter but not the same joke.

Have you been following The Academy's announcement of the "Popular Film" Oscar? [Among other changes to the awards show, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced, "A new category is being designed around achievement in popular film."]

I just heard about that! I just became a member of The Academy.

I know! Congratulations.

I heard about the popular category maybe a few weeks ago when they announced it, and I was like, Oh! I wish they had a comedy category, but...

I think we're all in favor of broadening the scope of what The Academy considers an Oscars movie.

Yeah. I don't know what "popular" is yet. Because what is popular? Is that like, it's popular but is it sh**ty? And how do we judge that? Is that numbers and box office? I don't know. Like I said, I wish they had done it for maybe a category like comedy or comedic performance. There have been so many movies where [if] there were different categories, Jim Carrey, Eddie Murphy, you know, there would have been so many more people that would have been interesting. So, we'll see what that broadening does.

I do think one motivation for change was that a lot of people were upset when Tiffany was-- Well, not overlooked by The Academy, because she ended up announcing the nominations, but that she wasn't nominated despite a groundswell of support.

It's tough, but it's just so common in history. I mean, I've seen Eddie Murphy play five characters in The Nutty Professor and you can think of some really brilliant performances -- Tiffany is one of them -- but I think we've gotten used to it, especially when it's comedic. I think probably the reason people were so shocked is because Bridesmaids or Melissa McCarthy had, so people were like, Well, why didn't this? But [McCarthy] was actually a shocker. So, I think they're figuring it out too as we enter into a new time. I mean, it's great that at least they're thinking of ways, but I definitely think-- Then I don't know! What if you have a year where it's bad? How many comedies come out? It's so...

I think I wish--

Yeah, what do you think?

Because The Academy has spent the past few years accepting new members -- yourself included -- and making a concerted effort to increase their diversity, I wish they had given more time for that influx of people to make the change from within, to see how that affects what movies are being nominated for Oscars--

I agree.

Instead of immediately also jumping to implement this other thing. If you include people of different races, of different genders, of different sexual orientations, you should see change come from within.

That's true. I completely agree, and that's why I know what they're going for, but I do believe, like you said, the inclusion should help create the solution.