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Regina King Reveals The Moment She Became ‘Shirley’



Regina King is no stranger to playing powerful female characters, but her latest may be the fiercest of them all.

The Oscar winning actress takes on the role of Shirley Chisholm, the first woman — period — to run for president in the Netflix biopic Shirley.

The film follows Shirley as she becomes the first black woman elected to the United States congress to her historic and improbable presidential run in 1972.

According to King, the project written and directed by John Ridley, took she and her producing partner (her sister Reina King) some 15 years to make.

Reina also appears in the film as Chisholm’s sister Murial. Oscar winner Lucas Hedges plays Chisholm’s national student organizer Robert Gottlieb, and Christina Jackson plays campaign volunteer Barbara Lee, who (decades later) was also elected to congress.

HipHollywood caught up with the King sisters during the recent Los Angeles press junket, along with Terrence Howard (who plays Arthur Hardwick) about why Shirley’s story had to be told.

Regina and Rayna, I know you all grew up in L.A. and went to Los Angeles public schools.Did you learn about Shirley in school?

Regina: When we were there in Black History Month. Depending on who your teacher is, they choose which black people that we should be learning about. And I guess I was lucky enough that at least in about four or five grades, Shirley did make one of the days of black history.

Terrence: But Shirley made an impact because of her fashion, though. Because I remember my mom and my dad, there was a picture of Shirley, but I more so remember her hair. I remember the bag she was carrying. I remember all of those things because of her being a fashion icon. But my parents dug her.

Regina, speaking of her fashion, when do you feel like you really became her? Was it a particular scene, or wearing a particular costume?

Regina: The wardrobe played a big piece. Megan Coats, she our wardrobe designer, costume designer on the film, she went through great lengths to find pieces that were actual pieces that were so close to what Shirley had worn, what we had seen in images. And one of the pieces, what she announces that she’s running for President in, that was something that Megan found. And it’s It’s almost identical to what Shirley actually had on in the moment. So little things like that really helped me feel like I was in it. And the glasses.

Was there a political candidate or a piece of legislation that really ignited your fire to vote or use your voice to help?

Terrence: For me, this movie, this political landscape, the weaponizing of the DOJ and these offices that are supposed to be there to help you has now moved me at 55 years old. As somebody that had complained from the outside, this is going to be the first year that I’m going to get up there and actually vote.

And I’m sorry, I’m a conservative. I’m from that red side of traditional thinking. So it’s like now I’m about to actually sign up as a Republican because I know we need to make change. But that happened as a result of participating in this film and learning about Shirley’s journey and the need to stand up. If you’re not standing up and standing out, then you need to step aside. You have to do something. And so this is a moment.

Shirley streams on Netflix March 22.

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