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Regina King made her way to the Oscar stage in 2019, accepting a best-supporting actress trophy for her work in If Beale Street Could Talk. Earlier this year, she returned to the big show to present an Oscar (to Brad Pitt) while also being featured during a commercial break courtesy of Cadillac to introduce the 2021 Cadillac Escalade and automaker’s “Make Your Way” campaign.
At the time, she said that she felt a real connection to Cadillac because, to her, it always represented success and “swagger.” That connection is continuing: Cadillac announced today that it has extended its partnership with King to serve as its new brand ambassador to help bring forth the newest Escalade and front its “Never Stop Arriving” campaign.
Launching in October, King collaborated with director Dee Rees and Oscar-nominated cinematographer Rachel Morrison on the campaign, said to reflect themes of bravery, resiliency and overcoming obstacles. News of the partnership is the latest bump of good business for King who just picked up yet another Emmy, this time for her work on HBO’s Watchmen. That followed the unveiling of her directorial debut One Night in Miami which was subsequently acquired by Amazon for distribution.
“This is a new era for Cadillac — fearless, innovative and one where we never stop pushing boundaries, and Regina King reflects all those facets and so much more” said Melissa Grady, Cadillac chief marketing officer. “King’s unique ability to defy convention and look toward the future are how we approach the opportunities ahead of us at Cadillac.”
For her part, King opened up to The Hollywood Reporter about how she approaches opportunities like the one with Cadillac, why she texted Emmys producer Reginald Hudlin after the show and how she’s processing the latest Breonna Taylor news.
I know you are thoughtful about who you partner with. Why did you say yes to the partnership with Cadillac?
I’ve always felt that Cadillac is an iconic brand. It’s always been a brand that represents a feeling that you’ve made it, you’ve arrived. I remember when my grandfather got a Cadillac, a Coupe Deville. That name, Coupe Deville, always sounded so regal. I’ve owned three Cadillacs in my life, and I’ve always said that if ever I had the opportunity to partner with a brand, I want it to be something that I use, something I stand behind and something that reflected me in some way. The fact that I’ve owned Cadillacs before this started was perfect. I had the very first Escalade, so I can talk about it and not feel I’m just being about it because they were interested in partnering with me. I’m legitimately and just equally as excited because I feel like it’s a brand that I know and it represents success.
I love that you used to drive a Cadillac because I was going to ask you if you would get a car from this deal? Or will you drive one now?
I actually already own a ‘63 Cadillac DeVille, which is very cool. It feels pretty badass. It was a Cadillac that was used in the film that I directed [One Night in Miami] and the owner happened to be selling it. So, I was like, OK, my first film, it’s a Cadillac and I love Cadillac. How am I not going to buy this car? So, yes, I will be representing whether it’s a car that they are giving me or the car I’ve purchased. I personally feel like it’s much more fly to have a Cadillac.
Is that the biggest movie purchase or thing you’ve taken from a set in your career?
Yes, absolutely. It is. And that was before the relationship started. When we started the relationship during the Oscar campaign, they came to New Orleans to do the spot. That was probably about two weeks after I purchased the car.
The new campaign is “Never Stop Arriving” and I’m told that really spoke to you. In a way, you’ve always been arriving in your career at higher and higher levels. Winning an Oscar, then a fourth Emmy, directing your first film — each representing the next tier of success. Does it feel like that to you?
Yes, and Cadillac is symbolic of that. I like to call it precision dreaming. Dreaming about precisely what it is I want to do and making a way to get it done. Part of that is the people that you surround yourself with, the projects you pursue and having like-minded and driven people around you. So yeah, I would say that Cadillac’s tagline of “Never Stop Arriving” is definitely symbolic to me and is, in a way, a mantra for me. If you’ve achieved something, that achievement is just like a little piece to inspire you to want to do the next thing. Not that I’m not appreciating or taking time to take in the moments when they’re happening, but it definitely encourages me and reminds me that I am capable of going beyond the moment.
By no means am I putting myself on her level, but Beyoncé is definitely someone that inspires me in that. She continues to break her own mold. She’s not trying to compare herself to the next person. She’s doing what exactly Beyonce needs to do to be Beyonce in whatever version of Beyonce she’s being; whether it’s being a mother to her children, an amazing stage performer, Tina’s daughter, or directing her latest “movie” videos — because they’re beyond music videos. I’m sure she has people that inspire her as she comes up what’s next, but I like to think that I’m similar to her in the regard that I’m not trying to compare myself to the next person. I am trying to push myself to the next thing.
Do you know what you want to do next?
As far as just within the industry, at my company Royal Ties, we have projects we’re developing. There are a lot of plates spinning. My next accomplishment is to not let any of those plates drop. It’s a difficult dance at times, but it’s the dance we’re currently learning how to … I hate to use the word perfect because there’s no such thing to me when it comes to art … so it’s a dance we’re learning to do so well so we can improvise within the performance.
As a producer who knows how to manage those plates, I’m curious what it was like for you to sit through the Emmys and witness what they accomplished?
That was pretty amazing. I actually texted [Emmys producer] Reginald Hudlin and said, “Man, yeah, you can pat your team on the back. You guys really did that.” To go into it and to make the decision that we’re going to go ahead with this ceremony in the middle of a pandemic was a ballsy move in itself. Then they took it to the next level of keeping everybody safe, doing it without an audience, having a few performances and incorporating all the first-responders and truck drivers and delivery workers who keep our world going, it was just so smart and paid so much respect. I just thought that they did a fantastic job. Hats off to Jimmy Kimmel, Reginald Hudlin and their entire team.
Hats off to you, too, for winning. It was a historic night for Black actors, a big night for your Watchmen family. Now that you’ve had some time to decompress, any thoughts surface about the experience?
When you win something, you want to make sure you thank and recognize everyone that had something to do with the project. So, there’s a part of me that wishes I could’ve done that. From the stage, I didn’t get the opportunity to recognize our incredible directors and producers and all of the people that were involved, wardrobe to designers. It’s so many people. I always walk away from that amazing moment feeling like I wish there was more time, because it’s a team effort, it’s truly a family. Anyone would tell you, regardless if a show is nominated or not, to make it to the finish line is not an easy feat.
You want the opportunity to say every single person’s name and I forgot some in that moment because I didn’t write out a speech. I don’t feel like I’m being true to myself by writing it out. I don’t know if presumptuous is the right word but it doesn’t feel right for me to pretend or assume I’m going to win. It feels disrespectful to all the other artists who are being recognized in the nomination. That’s probably so ridiculous but that’s how my mind works. The only thing we can be true to, as human beings, is what your heart feels.
You honored Breonna Taylor during the Emmys with your shirt. The news was announced that no officers would be charged for her killing. How are you feeling now?
A lot of emotions. We’ve been in this emotional space for a long time now. You keep getting punched in the gut and anyone who’s been punched in the gut, literally knows it feels like you can’t breathe. How many times before I really can’t breathe because it feels like I can’t breathe? I speak for so many people when I say that. I do hope that people understand that by voting we have more power than we think. I can understand there are a lot of people who have become jaded and think that voting doesn’t do anything, but the reality is that it does, especially in local elections. I’ll be 100 percent honest: Not until President Obama was running the first time did I begin to educate myself on local elections and judges in my district. I never paid attention to it.
The statistics show how many people don’t vote and that many people aren’t paying attention to those crucial elections that are going on that affect their day-to-day lives. I’m not saying the presidential election isn’t a big one, but there’s also a lot at stake when it comes to choosing the mayor, the sheriff, district attorneys, choosing judges for municipal court, and propositions and other representatives who are there to represent you. So many people don’t realize that. The system was not built for white women to vote, for people of color to vote or for people of any color to vote. For us to not vote is surrendering. That’s where I am. I have to hold on to something positive, something to work toward to help encourage and inspire other people so we can actually witness transformative change in our lifetime. If not, then I am going to suffocate. I’m going to lose just a little bit more of myself every time a Breonna Taylor happens and it’s happened way too many times.
Back to fashion: You wore two looks on Emmy night both by Schiaparelli. How did a virtual ceremony lend itself to experimenting with these looks?
Normally, the experience of being at an Emmy ceremony is that it gives you an opportunity to wear a great gown, see all of your comrades and the people you work with and celebrate the nominations together. The question became, how can we still embrace that energy while still being aware of the moment that we’re in that is a pandemic that feels not as celebratory. My stylists came up with an amazing idea [for two looks].
About a year and a half ago, I’d gone to Italy for the first time and was walking the streets of Florence. I passed by Schiaparelli’s window and I love their clothes. I think my stylists [Wayman Bannerman and Micah McDonald] reached out to Schiaparelli at that point. They always work behind the scenes without me knowing, and then go, “Boom, look” and that was one of those moments. They emailed me that dress on the runway and I thought it was amazing. It was blue, like Watchmen, and it’s the ultimate Doctor Manhattan dress. This is what Angela would have turned into. So, they spoke with this great artist, James Anthony, and we decided to still be celebratory and not allow the things that have happened to snuff out the joy. I really, really hope to be able to do more things with Schiaparelli. I love the story of Elsa and the entire house and its evolution. Again, its iconic.
You’re working on the Western, The Harder They Fall. When the grid of the cast hit the Internet, Twitter went crazy because of all the Black talent in one film. What is it like to be on set and can you say who you play?
I can’t say who I play. What I can say is that when Jeymes Samuel reached out, I was shooting Watchmen. After I read the script, he described his vision, how he wanted to shoot it and the musical things he wanted to do. It blew me away because I felt like I had never heard anything like that before. So, I said, “Yes. Hell yes!” Now to be in it, shooting and experiencing it, it does feel like something I’ve never experienced before. It’s pretty fantastic. Before I stick my foot in my mouth any deeper, I will just say that it is definitely a singular experience.
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