[WATCH] Regina King (‘American Crime’ & ‘The Leftovers’): ‘I love playing strong women’

“I feel like I did something right in a past life,” admits Regina King as we chat via webcam (watch above) about her roles on ABC’s “American Crime” and HBO’s “The Leftovers.” As she reflects, “2015, shooting those two shows, you couldn’t ask for anything better. It’s no secret, I love strong women, I love strong characters,” declares the actress. “As an actor, when you get the opportunity to be a part of a piece of art like ‘American Crime’ and ‘The Leftovers,’ the bar is just set really high.”

Find out how “American Crime” and “The Leftovers” will fare at the Emmys — click here

King returned for the second season of ABC’s anthology “American Crime” after winning a long-overdue Emmy for her role on the show’s first as Aaliyah, a convert to Islam and sister to the man accused of the brutal murder at the center of the story. In this year’s story, King played Terri Lacroix, the overprotective mother of the co-captain of a private school basketball team who becomes embroiled in allegations of sexual assault against a fellow male student.

After playing an African-American Muslim woman in the first season, King relished the opportunity of shining a spotlight on another character who is also not often seen on television. “I thought the thing about Terri that was unique to television is to see a woman that is an elitist, that is black. For other cultures, they’re really not familiar with that woman, and she really does exist. And so I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to once again play someone who don’t often see on TV that exists in the world.”

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She also joined the second season of “The Leftovers” as Erika Murphy, a strong and defiant mother of two teenage children (Jovan Adepo and Jasmine Brown). For its sophomore season, the show’s main characters moved from upstate New York to the fictional “Miracle” town of Jarden, Texas, which was seemingly spared from the mysterious worldwide “Sudden Departure” of 140 million people (two percent of the population). There they encounter Erika and John Murphy (Kevin Carroll), whose daughter Evie (Brown), suddenly disappears in what appears to be eerily familiar to those that lost loved ones on the fateful day of the Sudden Departure.

Among her many memorable moments on “The Leftovers’” was the episode “Lens,” in which King verbally spars with co-star Carrie Coon in a memorable extended sequence that not only delves deeper into what motivates them both, but also the pain that both of these women are carrying, one of whom has lost her children and husband during the traumatic Sudden Departure, and the other who is dealing with a missing child in strange and inexplicable circumstances. “It was a highlight for both of us, in our careers,” King says without hesitation. “You get into this business because your form of art is expression; physical, verbal expression. But it starts with the words and then you want to work with great artists.”

[WATCH] Carrie Coon (‘The Leftovers) on second season: ‘It was so artful and provocative’

As she explains, “There was a mutual respect for Carrie and I, and then when we read that script, we were both in the hair and makeup trailer at that time and were like “OK, let’s go. We never rehearsed or discussed the scene,” she explains. “It was a showdown. It did not require a lot of talking and working the moving parts out. Carrie is the kind of actor that likes to give, give, give and I am the same way. After the first take we were both like wow, that was great. This is going to be great!”

King is now looking ahead to the third seasons of both shows, and is tight-lipped when asked to reveal details about what fans can expect on “American Crime.” “I’m not able to reveal anything. I’ll let John [Ridley] and Michael [McDonald] drop that jewel of the subject matter that we will be tackling on this third installment, but I’ve got to tell you, I’m very very excited and once again it’s not something or subject matter we’re used to seeing being dealt with on broadcast TV.”

‘The Leftovers’: From Critics’ Choice Awards winner to Emmys?

The same goes for “The Leftovers.” “This new season is shrouded in mystery,” she explains. “I will say Erika is back, and the Murphys are back,” she says, pausing with a wry smile, “Some might be in Australia, some might not. I will also say that Damon [Lindelof] and Tom [Perrotta] are continuing to throw you with those body blows, those cheap shots. You know, those you don’t see coming where you go, “what? Wait, rewind! Did that just happen?” Those are coming,” she laughs, teasing, “we’re only on episode three and we’ve had a couple of them already!”

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