How Regina King Found—and Became—Inspiration

The actress spoke with Busy Phillips for Marie Claire's "The Power of Conviction" panel.

Regina King is 48 years old, and she's just hitting her stride. She's an actual superhero on HBO's new series Watchmen, she just won an Oscar for If Beale Street Could Talk, and she signed a first-look deal with Netflix this year via her production company Royal Ties. And through it all, she remains pretty much universally beloved. In other words, "Everybody loves you!" as proclaimed by her fellow actress and friend Busy Philipps, who interviewed King for "The Power of Conviction" panel at Marie Claire's 2019 Power Trip conference.

The two-day networking conference, which both spotlights and brings together influential women, paired the two woman in frank discussion. Both are moms, child stars who parlayed their early success into careers as adults, and professionals who have shared the same agent for decades. During the panel, the duo dished about working in showbiz, balancing time for their families, and finding—and becoming—inspiration. (You can watch a stream of their conversation here.)

King, Marie Claire's November cover star, explained that Marla Gibbs, who starred with her on NBC sitcom 227 when King was just 13, offered early inspiration for how to navigate a career as a Black woman and as a mom. "Marla didn't start acting until her kids were grown. Seeing how she was able to navigate that journey...maybe I didn’t consciously know that, but subconsciously I absorbed that and understood it in an intrinsic way," she said. "I had a front-row seat of what a boss looks like." Later, when King's career was on the rise, she asked to be considered for ensemble pieces based in L.A., so she could spend more time with her son—even if it meant limiting her work options at the time.

Sitting, Fun, Furniture, Performance, Thigh,

'King and Phillips at Power Trip in San Francisco.'

(Image credit: Marie Claire)

As King continued to work as a young adult, she sat with Boys n the Hood and Poetic Justice director John Singleton as he worked, and even shadowed her Southland director Christopher Chulack. She learned just how hard it is to be a director—and, eventually, just how much she wanted to be one. "You create the director you want to be. I wasn't bold enough to say it out loud until years later," King told Phillips.

Now she's an advocate for parity, and as a director and producer she actively supports women, women of color, and people of color. "Being in the biz for 30 years, I know what it doesn't look like," she said. With Royal Ties, she works closely with her sister Reina King, who serves as head of production. "As a Black woman, it’s important to tell stories about the Black American experience that don't just involve slavery," she explained. "I want to continue to tell stories that reflect the stories I've been working on." And she's got plenty of ideas about what she wants to do. "Black people need our Titanic—our love story," she noted. "We need a story like that."

And she walks the walk. In her Golden Globe acceptance speech for Beale Street, she vowed that she would hire "50 percent" women for all her productions for the next two years. But this is just the latest step in King's journey. Even before her fame, she tells Phillips, she's always been someone who strongly supports others in both her public and private lives. "I give what I receive—it’s cyclical, it just keeps going. It’s not even a thought," she said.

"You can never stop dreaming," King insisted. "I’ll be 49 in a couple months, and I feel like I’m just getting started."

Follow along with us at Marie Claire's Power Trip here, and via @marieclairemag on Instagram.

Katherine J. Igoe

Katherine’s a Boston-based contributor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle—from “Clueless” to Everlane to news about Lizzo. She’s been a freelancer for 11 years and has had roles with Cosmopolitan and Bustle, with bylines in Parents, Seventeen, and elsewhere. It’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.