'Black Monday': Regina Hall on the Importance of Not Being a Scold

“She’s not a victim of her gender, and she’s not a victim of her race,” Hall says of her ambitious trader Dawn.
Erin Simkin/SHOWTIME
[This story contains spoilers for episode three of Showtime's Black Monday.]
 
Black Monday has no shortage of compelling comedic performances, from Don Cheadle’s irreverent and cynical Mo to Andrew Rannells’ hapless rookie Blair. But three episodes in, Regina Hall is emerging as a clear standout in the role of Dawn Darcy, the ambitious head trader at Mo’s firm who is deeply conscious of the odds stacked against her as a woman of color on Wall Street.
 
Sunday's episode sees Dawn’s domestic life colliding with her work in uncomfortable ways, as her artist mother questions the morality of her job, while her father and husband both not-so-subtly suggest that her time would be better spent having babies than trading stocks. It's also clear that her marriage to Spencer (Kadeem Hardison) is a compromise and exists under the shadow of her prior relationship with Mo.
 
"Sometimes you want to get the opposite of what you were close to having or had," Hall tells The Hollywood Reporter. "Mo is not a safe space, and Spencer is steady. He's not a roller coaster."
 
Hall discusses the systemic obstacles facing Dawn, her push-pull dynamic with Mo and how an upcoming episode will address sexual harassment in the workplace.
 
Despite being the only woman in a very alpha-male room, Dawn is never forced into the role of the nag. Was that important to you in developing the character?
 
Yeah, one of my first discussions with [showrunners David Caspe and Jordan Cahan] was that she wasn’t this auxiliary character. She’s not precious, and she’s not sitting there like, "You guys, we need to get back to work!" She’s just as raunchy as the guys, she’s just as cutthroat, but she is smart and she knows when it’s time to get down to business. When Mo throws the chair, she’s not mad about it, except that she’s like, "Shit, we just fixed that wall!" It's just numbers. I love that, because usually in comedies the woman is the straight one who doesn’t have any fun. Dawn's laughing at the penis on the shoulder just as much as the guys are! She’s just practical. You also get that she is very smart, and you get why she’s the head trader and why she deserves a promotion.
 
The overwhelming whiteness of Wall Street comes up a lot in the show, and as a woman of color Dawn is doubly disadvantaged. How much does that shape who she is?
 
Hugely. The 1980s on Wall Street, and we still see it today, was just a boys club, and Dawn has it double. I think most women can resonate with her because outside of her race, her gender is her biggest flaw, it's her biggest impediment in this world. Mo knows that she’s the smartest person at his firm, but he also knows she wouldn’t get hired anywhere else. And yet she’s the one with these big clients, and they need her, and she has that line where she says, “God forbid it ever looks like you guys need a woman.” She’s so aware of that, and I think that’s still a big thing that women face today.
 
 
It’s refreshing that Mo doesn’t go easy on her at all, despite their history.
 
Oh yeah, he’s like, “If you want something, you gotta take it.” And she can do it, which you see in that scene where she sets Mo up to insult the client whose wife died. One thing I love that the writers did is that Dawn is not a victim. She’s not a victim of her gender, and she’s not a victim of her race. She will figure out a way to win. 
 
In Sunday's episode, Dawn’s parents are completely underwhelmed by the news of her promotion. 
 
They want her having babies. Yeah, but I think Dawn is goal-oriented, and she's not ready to have a family and that's not what defines her. I don't think being a mother is what she figures as the definition of who she is as a woman, but it's hard because she has a husband who certainly can afford it, and she's in a situation where she can afford it, but it's not what she wants. It’s interesting because she's got pressure at work, and she's got pressure at home. She doesn’t get to walk out of the doors at work and go home and say, “Phew, I can be me.” Now it’s the other me, where you have a husband who’s asking when we’re gonna have kids. That’s coming not just from her spouse, but from her parents, not to mention the fact that her mom doesn’t find her job to be one that’s filled with integrity. 
 
Dawn has an interesting line to her mother when she says that her way — capitalism — is the answer to inequality, rather than activism. What do you think about that argument?
 
Yeah, her mother's talking about the neighborhood changing, and Dawn's perspective is, “This is the way, mommy, it's money.” There’s truth to that, I think, and there’s also truth to what her mom says about Dawn’s job. They both have arguments that are completely valid, but I think her mother's obviously talking from a point of moral integrity, and Dawn is talking logistics: This is what it is, and this is what I'm doing. Morality-wise, there’s a line at the office where Dawn openly says they have to get people to hide these shares, “people who we don’t mind fucking over…basically our dearest family and friends.” And then you see them all going to the closest people to them! This mentality they all have at work is like its own separate world.
 
 
Dawn and Mo clearly have a past, but it’s left fairly ambiguous in the first three episodes. Did you have a sense of what that relationship was early on?
 
Don and I had a lot of talks about that, because it does get revealed; you will find out what happened. That moment at the end of episode two with the tape, when you realize she hasn’t told her husband [about her past with Mo], that’s important. That opens up a whole other can of worms, and it sucks, because it was such a great day! But that’s the first moment that I think lets the audience know that there’s something more to this. You can see that her relationship with Spencer is not filled with heat. It's the opposite. Sometimes you want to get the opposite of what you were close to having or had. I think for Dawn, Mo is not a safe space, and Spencer is steady. He's not a roller coaster.
 
Andrew mentioned that you and he have more to do together as the season goes on.
 
Oh yes! He and I have a great storyline which I love, and I can’t wait for people to see where it goes. We got to do a lot of stuff that is just — it’s so crazy, where the show goes, it’s completely unpredictable. Every week as I would get the scripts I’d be like, “Ohhhh! No!” 
 
The show was heavy on improvisation. Were there any particular scenes where that was more the case?
 
I think we improvised in every scene, especially the scenes where Dawn and Mo are together. That whole thing in episode two where we’re going back and forth with "You’re Tyrone, and the door is Chris," that was improv, and it’s ridiculous because Mo is ridiculous. We improvised a lot in our group scenes, too; there’s a sexual harassment meeting coming up, where Mo calls this thing to teach us about sexual harassment in the workplace. You can’t even imagine how badly that goes. That scene is really bad! There were some lines that I was like “Wait…really? Aw, our showrunners are sick!” One of the guys in the office is like “What is that? Harass?” He doesn’t even know how to pronounce it. It’s so sad, but it’s great. I think in the middle of what’s going on right now, the only way you can find any humor in it is to go back 30 years and look at these circumstances that are so heightened that you can laugh.
 
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.