Ray is the musical biographical drama of American legend Ray Charles, a musician who went blind at the age of seven
Actress Regina King, 32, distinguished herself as a skilled actress in the 1990s with a number of supporting roles in prominent films. Born and raised in Los Angeles, King first made her mark as a TV actress. The actress gave an exclusive interview to Pravda.Ru, in which she talked about her recent role in Ray, the movie based on the story of legendary musician Ray Charles. In Ray, Regina plays Ray Charles' feisty back-up singer/scorned mistress Margie Hendricks. The film called on Ms. King to exhibit the full range of her talents.
Question: Are there some deleted scenes that you were sad to let go but which we'll see on the DVD?
Answer: Hmm, not that I remember. There could be but if it was deleted it was supposed to be. The movie is supposed to be what it is.
Q: What kind of behind the scenes material is there going to be on the DVD with you?
A: I guess for me, the most amazing thing was just to witness Jamie being able to come in and out of being Ray and being Jamie. He had such a huge job to do; he set the tone for the whole thing. And all the while that he's got to be Ray, he has more work to do than anybody, he still considering the other actors and the atmosphere. When we were shooting that one scene in the bathroom where I ask him: "Can I try?" and he says: "No," and I professed to him what I think about him and how incredible I think he is and by the end of the scene he pulls up my dress and we start making out - I didn't necessarily want to be there in my underwear with the crew, and I never really said that to Jamie but I'm sure he could sense my nervousness, so in between every take he would grab the shower curtain and put it around me or kind of just cover me up until wardrobe came. Because we were in this little, tight bathroom, us, the director and the camera crew, so it took a while for the wardrobe to get in to give me a robe, but for him to even think about that…..and we got this really powerful scene, this is a moment when he was just having a flashback, so I was just amazed the whole time. He never ceased to amaze me while we were shooting this movie.
Q: What is your favourite scene that you think people will want to watch over and over on the DVD?
A: My favourite scene in the movie is when young Ray first starts to depend on his ears. Initially he's calling out for his mom and she is tearing up inside because this is your baby, you want to go and help him but you know that helping him is hindering him. When all of this happens, it still makes my heart skip a beat when I think about this scene. It's such a powerful scene and the young man who played young Ray hadn't done any acting before but gosh, it's such a great scene and it's your first insight into the man, Ray Charles. Just how strong he is and how much he was going to have to overcome as his life progressed.
Q: Were there any lighter moments at all, are there going be outtakes with you in embarrassing situations on the DVD?
A: It wasn't too tense all the time. We had some really emotional and heavy moments, this guy lived the life of 100 men but there probably will be some funny outtakes. I hope I'm not in them. I always remember my lines, I'm pretty good when it comes to my dialogue, knock on wood. I'm not going to say that I don't forget, but usually I'm not included in the outtakes because I know that if I mess up then I mess everybody else up, so I'm really a perfectionist that way.
Q: How did you prepare for the role?
A: There isn't a lot of information out there on Margie, so I had to rely on her voice to guide me and on information Taylor gave me, because he was the only person I talked to who actually talked to people that knew Margie. I am meeting Ahmet for the first time tonight and I can't wait to ask him about Margie, he is 80 years old now, so I hope I don't scare him with all my excitement. I'm looking forward making the connection. But it feels like, in a way, that there was a connection, I feel like she was there with me; the role chose me as much as I chose it. It just spoke to me; there was no other woman in this movie that I could possibly play other than Margie.
Q: What kind of musical background do you have?
A: I love music. I never studied any particular instrument other than piano, I didn't stay with it. I can play 'Jingle Bells' and a couple other songs but I never did stay into the lessons; the acting kind of took over in my mind: ”I'm an actress, I can act like I can do it, you know?" But as far as my appreciation for music goes, my catalogue is incredible. Not to be bragging with my own catalogue, it's just usually what people say when they pick up my iPod or get to my CD collection. I kept so much, I have everything from Incognito to Miles Davis and what I'm listening to depends on my mood. I kind of let the music speak for me sometimes. Maybe that's why Margie's voice was so powerful to me.
Q: What was the connection you felt to her?
A: Well, for the first time I heard Margie's voice was 'The Right Time' but I didn't know who she was, I didn't know anything, not even her name. I read the script and then they told me that there were four women in this movie, whichever one responds to you…The first time you see her is when she comes in and she's meeting Ray with The Cookies, and as I was reading it, something interested me. We had already read a little bit about Aretha, and Della had entered the movie but neither one of them caught my eye. Then I read that and we got into the next scene and I was like:"Gosh, I kind of like Margie." And then we hit the scene of 'Right Time' and I'm like: "Oh, my god, this is her?" I had to close the script and just sat there by myself for a second. I knew at that moment that this is who I had to play. I just felt that she jumped out of the script into my lap like 'it's you and me girl'. That's what I felt when I read the script. I had to close it and hold it for a second, "Oh, gosh, this is her", I got chill bumps. After I finished reading the script I just sat there for 15 minutes because by that point, at the end of the script, I was overwhelmed and amazed by the things Ray Charles had accomplished and been through. Then, going for the audition, I don't know where the communication breakdown happened, but for some reason Taylor and Nancy thought that I was reading for Della, and he begins to tell me about Della and I'm like:” Do I have to read for Della?" and he was like:” No, darling. Who do you want to read?" and I said:” Margie!" Because to me it was 'who else?' But that's just because she spoke to me, it was the same feeling that Kerry had with Della.
Q: Did you do your own singing?
A: It's all Margie. It's all the original recordings.
Q: Do you feel that she was the 'real muse' for Ray Charles?
A: Definitely, without a doubt. That was the first thing that I captured just by reading the script, that this woman really made an impact on the type of sound that Ray Charles had. He liked rawness and Margie had that, she had an uncaged soul. That was their connection.
Q: Do you know anything about Margie's son?
A: Yeah, he is incarcerated now. I don't know what for or how long his sentence is but it's like the tragedy continues in a way. It's sad to think but it kind of makes sense because that was one of the first things I asked when I got the part: "Where is her son?" If I was going to talk to anybody I wanted to talk to him but no one had access to him. So I was kind of like 'he's not dead but no one can reach him.', so I knew there was something there but didn't know what. Now I do. It's unfortunate because in his will Ray left like a million dollars to each child because he had 11 of them but the clause was that the child has to be working and not on drugs in order to get the money which is great. So, his is in a trust.
Q: How many of the children are Della's?
A: Three only, three boys. The other 8 are from other moms.
Q: Did you meet Ray Charles?
A: No, I didn't get to meet Ray Charles before he passed away. I kind of had a dream, my vision was that I was going to get a chance to meet him at the premiere and get a chance to ask him about Margie, but it wasn't meant to be.
Q: Did you get to see any old footage on Margie?
A: There's not any really. There are some photographs of her, two video clips. The Raelettes didn't move as much as they did in the latter years. And even then they weren't about dancing. So I didn't really get to pick up too many physical characteristics from those two videos.
Q: Why do you think this film took 15 years to make, despite having a famous director and the fantastic subject matter?
A: Because everything is meant to be. If it had been made a long time ago there wouldn't have been Jamie to do it. Jamie was supposed to play this part so it had to be 15 years in the making because he was too young to do it ten years ago, not ready to do it five years ago. But oh my god was he ready for it when he got it. And most of the cast wouldn't have been involved, Universal wouldn't probably have been the studio distributing the movie…it had to happen this way so that all the right pieces came together.
Q: What was your first reaction when you heard that Jamie Foxx was going to play Ray Charles, were you surprised?
A: No, it made sense to me because, unless they were going with a no name actor, there's not really anybody out there who could do it, in my eyes. After I saw Jamie in Ali I wanted to work with him, he is incredible. I already knew that he could play the piano and that he could sing. I don't really know of any established actors out there who can sing and play the piano and is an awesome actor. So, it made sense to me, I couldn't wait to see what he was going to look like, I guess it was hard for me to visualize that. When I was trying to think who else it could be, I couldn't come up with anybody else. And when I saw him for the first time as Ray I was like: “Oh, yeah, of course." He was doing "I Got A Woman" at the keyboard and I just couldn't believe it…it seemed like Ray Charles was sitting right in front of me.
Q: At some point Margie tries to win Ray back with booze. What's your no fail way to charm a guy?
A: Hmmm, I guess with my husband, letting him think that he is right and that he is in control, pretty much. Just being a lady and pretending that I need help with something that I could do myself. That usually makes him feels like (singing):"Here I come to save the day!" He just feels like 'oh, baby come to papa'. And I can be like:” All right, daddy."
Q: With what kind of stuff do you ask his help?
A: Things like...I'm trying to think of a recent thing.
Q: Like how to balance your cheque book?
A: No. He's not the one to balance his cheque book at all but things like:” Baby, I don't know what I should wear to the such and such. What do you think I should wear?”
Q: What if he suggests something that is a really bad choice?
A: He won't. He is big on fashion, seriously. This way when we're out and in it and someone compliments it, he cannot wait to say: "Oh, yeah, I picked it out. Looks good, huh?" If you inflate their ego it helps to wrap them around your finger.
Q: As long as you knock them down a little bit as well, right?
A: Yeah, I do my share of that too. Sometimes he is like: "Jeez, woman, can I get a break now?", "No, you can't, because if I take breaks as much as you, what would we do?" And other times I kind of say: “Oh, baby I'm so sorry, can you?" Or just come up and rub his shoulders or give him a special touch when he thought I was mad, that kind of gets him too. And he thinks:” All right, I'm not in trouble any more!"
Q: And he probably has no idea that all this manipulation is going on?
A: Yeah, yeah, that's it. And you know what, for us it matters if we are being manipulated but they don't care (laughs). They really don't. That's one thing that I've learned in my 8 years of marriage, the things that are humongous to me, he forgot about it 20 minutes ago. The thing where I think I really have to prepare for or go all out to do something for him, he is really not even thinking about it. When I do it, yes, it's big but those times when you go out of your way and you shouldn't be because you are putting too much on your plate, usually if you had just given them a little, special, soft kiss on the cheek, it would've been just as great as planning and coordinating this dinner and doing way too much.
Q: What does your husband do, is he also an actor?
A: No, my gosh, no. I don't have the energy for that!
Q: What do you mean?
A: I just think that the male ego is enough but the ego of an entertainer is just, oh, gosh. I just can't just imagine how Jamie's girlfriend handles him, because he is wonderful to be around, such a gentleman but that's me, a married woman who doesn't have to deal with that. She has to deal with him giving all this energy to all these different people.
Q: She also has to deal with him describing to people that he is single!
A: Did he?
A: Well, you know what, seriously, this is really a new thing this girlfriend. Damn, Regina! She is very new, it's new to all for us but he is taking pictures and everything with her in public, so, no, I don't feel bad. But my husband, he used to be in the music industry he was an A&R at Warner Bros. and Interscope and now he is doing music for video games. Actually today he is recording a song with Black Eyed Peas for a new Sony Playstation game. He's got a cool little thing going.
Q: What's next for you?
A: Miss Congeniality 2, which is an action-comedy-buddy story, a buddy story with two girls, you don't get to see that too often. Sandy and I had a ball doing it; we were in Las Vegas beating the guys up. She is just a cool chick. We have scenes where I'm flipping guys over my back and we're really putting it on. We had a good time, so I'm looking forward to that in March. Next month I start working on a cartoon called The Boondocks and I'm playing an 8 year old little boy name Riley.
Q: How do you sound like an 8 year old boy?
A: Just by bringing my voice up higher, it's probably hard to do now because I'm so hoarse from talking for the past three days but it's a higher voice and talking quicker. I have an 8 year old son, so I get a lot of the deliveries from him. "Ian, say this!" My character is a larger than life type kid who gets very affected by pop culture. He calls himself Riley 'Escobar' and there are two little boys who move from the Southside of Chicago to suburbs in Chicago and they've grown up with nothing but black people all their lives. And here they are in the white neighbourhood so they have got to be tough. That's going to be a lot of fun, we shot the pilot for that and I'm seriously looking forward to that. Funny thing about that is that we were picked up for 15 episodes but it takes 72 weeks to do 15 episodes.
Q: Do you know if they tried to find a boy actor first?
A: Yeah, there were auditions for that. After the second audition I got the part for Riley and it's so funny. There were everything from little boys to little girls to women. Women tend to be the best voices for little boys…sometimes when my son answers the phone people think that it is me. And he's like:” I’m not my mom! I don't sound like a girl!" (laughs). But, yeah, Aaron McGruder is a brilliant writer and Boondocks is actually a comic strip that comes out in a lot of publications here in the States, something like in 200 newspapers like the New York Times, the L.A. Times and so on. And he still writes the comic strip, so check it out.
Q: What do you think is the biggest misconception about Ray Charles that
this film will erase?
A: I think one the biggest misconceptions all the people around him had was that he had it all together. Watching this movie you know that he was always struggling inside but he just remained a consummate professional in his business and in his music, that's what came first. If you deal fully emotionally with all these other relationships, he would have had to deal without the inner things that were going on inside. That's my perception of what I read and what I saw. Probably still even more so because I know so much about him. He is one of the most brilliant artists who ever set foot on this earth, just an international phenomenon, to me, musically. He just did things with music that no one else had heard before, no one had ever thought about using different genres of music together and now, the reason why we have alternative music is because of recordings of Ray Charles. You can link the two. People did it in between Ray and now but he was definitely the godfather of it.
Q: A lot of people didn't know about his political work, like that he refused to play to a segregated audience. Was that a new thing to him then and how much did he actually do?
A: I think that particular thing was new but from there he donated to a lot of colleges. I think at the end, he donated like over $20-30 million but he didn't do it to be glorified or so that people could say: “Oh, he's doing this." We didn't even know about things that he did as far as helping other people until he passed away which I think says a lot about the man, that he was, a very giving person, although at times it seemed like he was the coldest person you could ever know.
Q: Do you think there is still discrimination today in this country?
A: Of course. There is always going to be ignorance. It is just impossible to ignore (laughs) ignorance, that's kind of funny. I say this and I know a lof of people are going to say:” Do you really think so?", I think that just being in this computer society, that more of the baby boomer start to die off, it sounds so harsh but I think that we start to see even less racism because there are more interracial kids, teenagers and young adults now than ever. You very rarely see anyone who is not mixed in some way and a lot of that is because our generation put a stop to it and is more accepting. A lot of the baby boomers who still have the head in the South kind of go away and you have more people that are free to express how they feel.
Q: What about in Hollywood, can you go to read for parts that are not
specifically written for black people?
A: No, not always. With Legally Blonde 2, that was a cool situation because it was originally written for a white woman. But in Hollywood it still remains that a white person gets paid more than a black person. I think that is the same in a lot of industries, not just Hollywood but complaining about it doesn't really do much if you don't physically try to do something about it. And most people I deal with in the industry, we're all trying to put ourselves in more powerful positions which means producing and writing our own stories and mostly, really bigger than that, most of us don't have the financial power to do it but being able to distribute our own stories and projects really is the key to difference right there.
Q: Do you have aspirations to write and direct?
A: Yeah, I have a couple of projects that I am producing but it's not easy to get these types of movies done, like the project I'm trying to get done, its a coming of age story. When you go to a studio to talk about a coming of age story you get the same response as when you talk to them about a biopic:" Really? But the numbers just show." It's hard but we're down to the fight.
Q: But when they know that the money is coming, like when Will Smith or
Jamie Foxx are attached to a movie, it's different?
A: Yeah and the thing about it is that one of the biggest things I want for Ray is to perform well at the box office. If it performs well that's just three more steps forward. "Look, it didn't have to be a romantic comedy, comedy or action in order to get people to the movie theatre." It's looking good, the response we're getting right now. It looks like people are going out to see it. The trailer is moving people and not just people who are from that era. That's a good sign.