Regina King Q&A: ‘American Crime’
"As an audience member, I enjoy things not always wrapped up in a perfect bow because in real life nothing ends quite like that," says Regina King about the anthology series "American Crime," which concluded its first season on May 14. We never learned for sure who committed the crime in question, the murder of a military vet in Modesto, California, but "when you're dealing with something like a murder, everyone involved – their lives change forever, and there's no short answer to the question 'How do you feel?'"
The story deals not only with the murder but also the racial tensions that arise from it. King plays Aliyah, a devout Muslim defending her brother Carter (Elvis Nolasco) against what she believes is a racially motivated prosecution. The series was created by John Ridley, who also tackled the black experience in America in his Oscar winning script for "12 Years a Slave." "I admire him as an artist," says King. "He has this persona about him that seems like he's totally not approachable because he's always thinking and he's always in his head and he always has a serious look on his face, and as soon as you talk to him, this smile lights up … He's able to straddle that line of being a nice guy and being a leader."
King hopes to work with Ridley again in season two, which will follow different characters in a new story: "I've spoken a bit to John, and I know a bit of where he's thinking of taking the next season, and I would really love to be a part of that." The new season will film in Austin, Texas, where King is currently shooting season two of HBO's "The Leftovers," and "HBO and ABC are talking about it and they're being very supportive of me, which is an amazing feeling … I'm crossing my fingers that I'll just stay in Austin for a few more months."
"American Crime" recently earned a Critics' Choice nomination for Best Limited Series, and it may next compete at the Emmys. It's one of several potential contenders that could bring welcome diversity to the TV industry's biggest event, along with other first-year network hits like "Empire," "How to Get Away with Murder" and "Jane the Virgin." King wrote a commentary for the Huffington Post back in 2010 calling for the TV academy to be more inclusive, but while she's glad to be "witnessing the change" in the TV landscape, she notes that "we've got a long way to go."
"I want [television] to look like and feel like more of the world that I'm in … I think we live so much through TV that it would help those people whose lives aren't as colorful be more colorful, or more sensitive to differences," she says. And it's not just about improving racial diversity. She adds that we also have a long way to go "as far as gender, we could have a conversation about the LGBT community, and a discussion about culture."
But given the success of this season's crop of shows, diversifying the Emmy lineup may be inevitable: "They can't avoid it, because the ratings are supporting that the audience would like to see it."