Regina Hall could probably do with a spa break right about now. Perhaps somewhere like Tranquillum House? That’s the luxurious, remote and, sadly, fictional setting of her latest star-studded TV drama, Nine Perfect Strangers. In it, Hall plays Carmel, a middle-aged divorcee whose mild manner and pastel blouses conceal a roiling volcano of repressed rage. She’s one of the select group of troubled souls brought together for a 10-day retreat by mysterious guru Masha, played by an ethereal Nicole Kidman.
Today, though, Hall isn’t at a spa. She’s at home in Los Angeles, cleaning up after the builders working on her house. “Just so you know, the renovation has taken forever,” she tells me over the phone. She’s holding the handset to her ear with one rubber-gloved hand and, by the sounds of it, vigorously scrubbing surfaces with the other.
But it wasn’t the prospect of taking some time away from it all, with daily meditation and macrobiotic smoothies, that persuaded Hall to sign up to Nine Perfect Strangers. This is the third in a run of much-anticipated collaborations between show-running supremo David E. Kelley and exec producer-star Kidman, and the second to be adapted from a Liane Moriarty novel. Like Big Little Lies before it, there’s an aspirational setting, a twist-filled plot and a prestigious cast. It was the last of these, says Hall, that particularly appealed: “That made me excited to read the script; just the calibre of actors who would be connected.”
The final line-up doesn’t disappoint: alongside Kidman and Hall, there’s also Melissa McCarthy, who plays a broken-hearted romance novelist; Michael Shannon, a superficially chipper high-school teacher; an anti-social alpha male played by Bobby Cannavale; Grace Van Patten, playing a teenager struggling to overcome family trauma; and Luke Evans, a cynical, secretive British guest. “What I did love was the idea of people with extreme differences coming together; what that can ultimately look like and feel like; start off as and end up as,” says Hall. Her career highs to date have often involved impressive ensembles – take 1999’s wedding romcom The Best Man, in which Hall enjoyed her breakthrough as vivacious stripper Candy, and the slasher spoof Scary Movie franchise (yes, people still come up to her in the streets quoting Brenda). Then, in 2017, she joined forces with Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish and Jada Pinkett Smith to smash through the assumed profit ceiling on Black and female-led movies, with the $140m hit Girls Trip.
Unsurprisingly, given these triumphs, Hall remains fascinated by stories with a group dynamic, and “strangers coming together” seems to sum up her Nine Perfect Strangers experience. Since filming took place in Australia during the pandemic, the mostly US-based cast and crew were required to quarantine before production. “I almost felt like, ‘Did they do it on purpose..?’” says Hall with a throaty chuckle. “The isolation and the time you had to think was very like our characters. Also, we literally didn't meet Nicole until we were on set and shooting, so then it turned into all this anticipation. I was like, ‘This really feels like she’s Masha!’”
The setting was also somewhat familiar to Hall, who has done a few “health retreats, detoxes and stuff” in her time. At one point she even applied to join a convent before having second thoughts. “Obviously nothing quite as wild and non-traditional as Tranquillum, but yeah, I love retreats… I feel like mind, body and soul is best preserved together, so you have to be conscious of how your mind and your body connect. When you’re in tune with them, they no longer feel or serve as separate entities.”
I feel fortunate that we’re at a time when a woman aging is not viewed as a negative… Because you really do learn more; get more tremendous”
In any case, the doors of perception will have to wait. Right now, it’s the refrigerator door that needs a good wipe down. “Hang on one second,” says Hall, interrupting herself mid mind-body rumination to remove the shelves from inside the fridge. “Actually, cleaning is quite a Zen thing, if you get into it; very therapeutic.”
Whatever Hall is doing, it’s working. The received wisdom in Hollywood is that work begins to dry up when an actress turns 40. Meanwhile, Hall – who celebrated her 50th birthday in December by treating her Insta followers to the charming, self-penned ditty A Bitch is Old Today – just goes from strength to strength. “I feel fortunate that we’re at a time when a woman aging is not viewed as a negative… Because you really do learn more; get more tremendous.” This has certainly been the case for Hall’s own career trajectory: she recently bagged a New York Film Critics Circle Best Actress award for indie drama Support The Girls (she’s the first African-American actor to win in NYFCC history) and still regularly gets cast as characters up to 20 years her junior. “The only person more grateful than me is my agent!”
Success is a continuous work in progress, a day-by-day journey, and it’s different for everyone”
As for how Hall selects these projects, she seems to do it the same way most of us choose a movie to watch. “I read Support The Girls when I was right at the end of [filming] Girls Trip and I remember I couldn’t stop thinking about it the next day. I kept turning the page, like, ‘Oh, she’s going to return the money! Oh no, what’s she going to do now..?!’” Hall wants to be moved and entertained, but there’s also something deeper going on: “You certainly want to honor the humanity of every character. And if there’s something I can find that can do that, whether it’s a comedy or a drama or a thriller, that’s really what I like.”
Hall now has more occasion to delineate her own preferences, since last October she signed a production deal with Showtime, home to the ’80s-set comedy series Black Monday, in which she has co-starred since 2019. The deal elevates Hall to the ‘exec producer-star’ status, currently enjoyed by her Nine Perfect Strangers castmates McCarthy and Kidman. They were both generous with advice on set, she says: “It was stuff like deciding what you want your company to be and represent… they were really helpful.”
Hall has been an unforgettable team member ever since her ass-shaking debut in The Best Man, two decades ago. But now, finally, it’s her dream that’s being realized. Is this what she thinks success looks like? “I think success is a continuous work in progress, a day-by-day journey, and it’s different for everyone.” She pauses as the clattering sounds of a major tidy-up operation continue around her. “Like, for me, I’ll call it success when this house is done. Come today, at six o’clock, when the trash is all hauled off, I’ll be like, that’s a successful day!”
Nine Perfect Strangers premieres on Hulu on August 18 (US) and Amazon Prime on August 20 (UK)