The 10-episode Showtime comedy series Black Monday is set in 1987, when the worst stock market crash in Wall Street history hit. At the Wall Street firm The Jammer Group, headed by Maurice “Mo” Monroe (Don Cheadle, who’s also an executive producer on the series), a team of misfit traders – which includes the no-nonsense Dawn (Regina Hall, in one of the stand-out performances of the season), the very eager to please Keith (Paul Scheer), and the young wide-eyed trader Blair (Andrew Rannells) – they attempt to take on the old boys’ club of New York finance, as the world’s largest financial system comes crashing down.
While at the Showtime portion of the TCA Press Tour, Collider got the opportunity to sit down and chat 1-on-1 with actress Regina Hall about what she’s learned from her current career success, what she loves about Black Monday and her character, her reaction to getting a call from Don Cheadle about doing the role, that their goal is to make people laugh, all of the denim and eyeshadow that comes with playing Dawn, the Dawn and Mo dynamic, and adjusting to the fast dialogue. She also talked about the experience of making the upcoming feature film Little (out in theaters on April 12th), and being a part of Shaft (out in theaters on June 14th).
Collider: You’ve been in this business for awhile now, but it feels like, in the last couple of years, especially since the success of Girl’s Trip, that things have been on fire for you. Have you noticed a shift in people actually recognizing what you can deliver in a role?
REGINA HALL: I think so. I was telling my publicist that I’ve found out about a lot more parties that I didn’t know about. I was like, “Wait, what are these events? Where are these invitations that I’ve never heard of?” There’s a whole other level to the business. So, yeah, I think so. It’s an ongoing thing for any person because, yes, it’s been a great year, but there are still so many incredibly talented people out there that are also great for different roles. It’s wonderful. It’s been an incredible time of opportunity. That’s what I loved about this show. I felt like this show just fell right in line with what I want to do. It’s a world that I haven’t been able to play in, being a woman and being on Wall Street. It’s an irreverent world, and I love that Dawn is a feminist of the ‘80s. It’s just been really great. I’m really grateful for all of the opportunities, for Black Monday, for Don Cheadle, who thought of me for this role, and our creators, who try to figure out ways to write for all of the characters and who make sure that we are putting together a project that’s really our best effort. That really has a lot of integrity, in what it’s seeking to do. Obviously, it’s a comedy, so our goal is to make people laugh, and that’s what we are trying to do. It’s just been a great couple of years.
It must be nice to be able to get a phone call from someone, like Don Cheadle, who offers you a role and you don’t have to worry about auditioning.
HALL: Oh, my gosh, I thought it was a mistake. I was like, “Are you sure?! Are you sure that Don Cheadle wants to talk to me?” It was amazing, and it was scary because when you do get that phone call and you say yes, it means that you want to show up because someone like Don Cheadle is entrusting you and vouching for you to a large group of people. You certainly don’t wanna be the one where they’re like, “Don, that was a sucky choice you made!” So, there’s a lot of responsibility that you feel, but it’s incredible. I’ve loved Don’s work for decades. He’s never not amazing, so it’s a challenge to work opposite Don Cheadle. One of the things that’s great is he makes everyone he works with better. Who wants to be the weakest link in that kind of show? Andrew [Rannells] is amazing, Paul [Scheer] is amazing, and Casey [Wilson] is so great in the show. She’s so hysterical. Another thing that’s wonderful is seeing all of these different actors who’s work you love, and after they call cut, you get to laugh and be like, “You are fucking out of your mind!” I love that. That’s what’s really great about this show.
Are there a lot of ruined takes on this show, where you just can’t help but laugh?
HALL: A lot of times we laugh after. During it, you’re oddly taking it very seriously and believing the nonsense, but then you stop and you’re like, “I can’t believe you said that!” In the moment, you’re just in it. Mo and Dawn are sometimes at each other’s throats, like when he renames her Tyrone. That was ad-libbed. I was like, “He named me Tyrone!” After the take, I just cracked up. I was like, “Did you call me Tyrone?!” But, that’s what makes it great. You never know what’s gonna happen. Our creators come up with lines and they’re like, “Say this!,” and they push the envelope, too. It’s just a collaborative environment.
Did you have any idea just how much denim and eye shadow you were going to have to wear for this role?
HALL: Oh, my gosh, that acid wash outfit! It was a set. They didn’t stop at just a bottom. And the eye shadows continue. There’s an episode where I have four different ones on, and they go vertical. It’s to the point where the men are like, “Your eye shadow in Episode 6 . . .” because even they’re noticing the eye shadow. And that’s some big hair that Dawn is wearing on set, but that’s what they wore. You had it, too, didn’t you?
Oh, I did. I had a perm.
HALL: The perms were done to make it even bigger. My roommate in college, in the ‘90s, had a perm. Whenever she would come back from getting one, I’d be like, “It looks so good!” And she couldn’t wash it for a few days, but she would tease it. It was so good! With the hairspray and the bangs, I think back and am like, “Wow, everyone was doing it, and it was awful,” but it looked good to us. If you didn’t have a perm, you had to sit with those rollers. And then, my roommate cut it and had a bob-perm. She was committed.
Have you had a favorite outfit that you have worn?
HALL: I have a couple of favorite outfits. There’s a pink romper that I wear with a side pony. There’s even one where I wear a banana clip. The bow placement is what I love the most. There’s a little Madonna like outfit that I wear, that’s pink with some little lace fingerless gloves. I thought, “Can you imagine, if Dawn really did this every single morning?” This would not be an easy task because there’s a lot of shadow. But what’s interesting is that I don’t wear fake lashes. I guess they weren’t wearing fake lashes in the ‘80s, but I’ve got shoulder pads, belts and panty hose. That’s the hardest part. I run at least one or two pairs of pantyhose a day. I do the nail polish to try to keep them from running, but it’s hard to put those things on. And with those control tops, Dawn is mad. But with no bare legs, you don’t see cellulite. I was on that set, eating and going, “You can’t see this! Hand me that Krispy Kreme! I’m about to put these little thighs in some panty hose!” That’s nice.
What have you enjoyed about the relationship between Dawn and Mo? What do you love about getting to play that dynamic?
HALL: Don is so quick and so good that it’s like playing ping pong. Their relationship is so layered. As the shows air, people will see the context of their relationship, which you got to see a little bit of in Episode 2. I love that they have an intensity. There is a respect, but they know exactly what the other one is gonna do, most of the time. It’s this chess game, and everyone else is irrelevant except Mo and Dawn, and what they are doing to each other. I love that. They give as good as they get. They give it to each other, so no one is a victim. Otherwise, it would feel mean. You see him take her ideas and take the credit, but you realize that she knew he was gonna do that. And then, you realize that when he does give her the 15%, there is an awareness that he needs her. He just won’t make it easy. He did tell her, “You’ve gotta take it.” In a world like that, you’ve gotta have balls, and Dawn has got a set of balls.
Was there an adjustment to delivering all of the fast and sharp dialogue, on a consistent basis?
HALL: I’ll tell you one thing, you couldn’t really be high (like the characters are) because you have to memorize all of those lines. It’s not the type of dialogue that is slow. It has to move, so you have to be certain that you have all of the intention and emotion behind it. It’s a mouthful. Sometimes I’m like, “I hope people get it.” They may have to watch it twice. And you can get the world without knowing how to be a trader ‘cause it doesn’t seem like they know that much about what they’re doing. I don’t think I would come to this group and trust them with my money. Maybe Dawn, but those other ones, I don’t know.
I love that we also get to see her at home, with her family and with her husband (Kadeem Hardison).
HALL: She has this husband who is very successful, and she doesn’t want to be a housewife. She’s in the ‘80s, and she doesn’t wanna be a mom yet. And who knows if she doesn’t want to be a mom yet, or she doesn’t wanna be a mom with Spencer. It’s really wonderful to see a woman who is as focused as we usually see a man. That’s what it would take, in that world. It would take her being that hungry. I don’t think she could have a dual focus. That is her focus. She’s gonna make it, and that’s what makes Dawn as good as the guys.
You also have Little coming out in theaters on April 12th. What was that experience like?
HALL: Marsai Martin is so great. We shot that in Atlanta. Obviously, I’m never in it when Marsai is in it ‘cause she’s little me, but I was an executive producer on it.
Did you have conversations with her about the performance?
HALL: Yeah, we did. She watched me and we talked about things that I would do, as an older Jordan, so she would know to mimic that, in her little Jordan self. It was fun. It was so great to watch her and Issa Rae, who is so incredibly talented, and a creatively wonderful and lovely human being and lovely woman. And Marsai is such a beautiful girl. It was actually her idea to do this movie and to be little. The whole process, watching it come together, was really wonderful. It’s just been really great. People have had such a great response to the trailer, and that’s always really helpful ‘cause you don’t want people to be like, “That looks awful!” It’s great when people are like, “I liked that trailer,” and they get what the movie is. That’s a movie that’s important. And it was fun to play someone so rotten. Big Jordan is a monster. I loved it, yelling at everyone in the office. Jordan is just so mean. It was horrible, but also really fun to do. Sometimes men are afraid about, “Is she gonna be likable?,” but there are mean guy bosses, all the time. She’s gotta be rotten, or what’s the point of her going little? She wouldn’t need to go little. So, it was fun to play and to work with Marsai and Issa, and Tina [Gordon], our director. It was very much girl power on that set.
Was it also fun to be a part of Shaft, where you’re surrounded by three generations of Shaft?
HALL: Yeah. Our tagline is, “More Shaft then you can handle.” It’s so great. Jessie T. Usher was great, Sam [Jackson] is so amazing, and Richard Roundtree, who I had never met, was really great. I’m Shaft’s baby mama. Shaft has a baby. That franchise has been around for so long. My brothers watched Shaft and were so affected when they were little boys watching that. So, to be a part of something that’s really been legendary, especially culturally, during that whole Blaxploitation era, and that broke out and still continues to succeed, and to watch the franchise be handed over, but watch Richard still be in it, and then Sam, and now Jessie, is great. You’ll get to see who she is, and who she was to Shaft. I’m really excited. It’s really funny. It’s a merge of different generations, and you can’t change Sam’s Shaft. You get to see how that works together. And I think Tim Story, who directed it, did an awesome job.
You’re working with some really interesting directors and filmmakers. Do you have a dream list of directors that you’d like to work with?
HALL: Yeah, I think everyone does. There are some incredible directors that I wouldn’t even wanna name them because there are so many. I look at the work, even this year’s awards season and the movies that were nominated and there are such varied stories. So many, you know what I mean? The Favourite is so different from BlacKkKlansman, which is so different from Roma. And then, there’s A Star is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody. I love Chris Nolan. I always talk about him. I’ve tried to stalk and meet him, but it hasn’t worked out yet. I’m gonna find him, though. And Martin Scorsese is great. There are just so many. It’s like naming who you want to work with that’s an actress. I would leave the room and think of five more that are amazing and be like, “Dang, how did I not say them?!” But I’d love to work with those greats whose work impacts you.
Black Monday airs on Sunday nights on Showtime.