Skip to content Skip to footer

Regina King and the monumental rise from actor to director

Regina King is one of the hottest talents in Hollywood. Recently receiving praise and awards attention for her work as a director on One Night in Miami, Regina King has shown that she can excel both in front of and behind the camera.

King has come a long way from being a child actor on “227.” We took a look at her path to directing her first feature film and what the future holds for her next.

Regina King on making 'One Night' memorable - The Boston Globe
Regina King and Aldis Hodge on the set of “One Night in Miami” (via Boston Globe/ PATTI PERROS)

Regina King’s acting career

King started off her career in the entertainment industry as a child actor on the 80s sitcom “227.”

She starred as the rebellious teenager Brenda Jenkins. This would be the beginning of an illustrious career that spans over 30 years with iconic roles almost anyone could be familiar with.

King then arrived on the big screen with her first feature film appearance in Boyz n the Hood.

The John Singleton-directed film placed her in a minor role with memorable one-liners that ultimately jump-started her career. From there, King ended up in a variety of iconic 90’s Black films such as Poetic Justice and Friday.

King would later find herself in larger roles in the 2000s in films such as Legally Blonde 2Miss Congeniality 2, and the Oscar-winning Ray Charles biopic, Ray.

Her reach would also extend out into television during this time, taking on the tall task of portraying two characters in the same show on “The Boondocks.”

King played the roles of Riley and Huey Freeman, brothers on the show. She also oftentimes voiced each character back to back in one take. Her TV experience wouldn’t stop there.

King’s TV experience still rivals her film work in quality. King has appeared on a variety of shows such as “Southland,” “Seven Seconds,” “American Crime,” HBO’s “The Leftovers,” and perhaps her best work, HBO’s “Watchmen.”

Regina King on the set of HBO’s Watchmen (via HBO)

King has earned four Emmy wins for best Supporting Actress and Best Lead Actress for her work on these shows. This proves her dominance as an actor in the television space.

Her comfort with TV would become the perfect breeding ground for her future directorial career.

Made for TV

One of the best arenas for new directors to hone their skills is television. King would start her directing career by directing the “Southland” episode titled “Off Duty” in 2013. From there she would direct episodes of some of the most popular shows on television throughout the decade such as “Being Mary Jane,” “Scandal,” “Shameless,” and “Insecure.”

First Look: Regina King the director Directs Southland - TV Guide
Regina King directing on the set of “Southland” (via

Directing for TV can often push a director away from their creative visions as they are ultimately confined to the look, feel, and themes of the show they’re working on.

But King’s directorial style in these shows is evident as much of the attention to detail and framing of character conversations and interaction seen in “One Night in Miami” can be seen throughout her TV directing catalog. 

One Night in Miami

Taking her experience as an actor and TV director, Regina King made One Night in Miami her film directorial debut.

The moment couldn’t be better for her as her previous work before directing this film was If Beale Street Could Talk where she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

King’s name at the time was as strong as ever making her jump to directing a film smoother than it would have been had she made the jump earlier.

The film is an actor’s dream for directing. One Night in Miami is a character-driven film where time often slows down on the screen as the audience listens to the four iconic men of the film just talk to each other about the civil rights movement.

King was the perfect choice to direct this film because of her experience as an actor. The film has since received Golden Globe attention and certainly places Regina King as a director to watch out for in the future

What’s next for Regina King the director?

After One Night In Miami, King has a wealth of options and opportunities ahead of her. Her next role as an actor is in an upcoming western titled The Harder They Fall, directed by Jeymes Samuel and starring the likes of Zazie Beetz, Idris Elba, and LaKeith Stanfield.

As of now, it is unknown what her next steps will be in terms of directing another feature film. But whatever her next project turns out to be, rest assured that it will be hotly anticipated and exciting to see what she does next.