BY RICK BENTLEY
TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE/TNS
LOS ANGELES – Regina King has played strong characters throughout her career, including a role as a police officer in “Southland.”
Her role on the new HBO series “Watchmen,” which debuts Sunday, has her again portraying a member of law enforcement, but in this case she’s Angela Abar, the lead detective in the Tulsa Police Force who wears a mask to protect herself and her family.
The series, which owes its origins to the groundbreaking 1986 graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, has been produced under a tight cloak of secrecy. King chooses her words carefully when talking about the production because, as she jokes, she’s already gotten in trouble for telling secrets.
“There are a lot of layers to this character and how a person feels about the character will really be subjective,” she says. “One person might think she’s doing what she’s doing because it is a personal thing. Others may think it is a justice thing.
“I think because we see a lot of the story that’s happening in Tulsa through Angela’s eyes, through Angela’s perspective, I think are reminded how we kind of go around in our day to day taking off masks and putting them on. I have played law enforcement officials in the past, but the big difference here is that the whole Watchmen world is so different.
“It’s an alternate history and our rules that we all actually live by.”
OPENS WITH RIOT
The series opens with an event that occurred in the real world, the 1921 Tulsa race riot. Mobs of White residents attacked Black residents and businesses of the Greenwood District (also known as the Black Wall Street) in Tulsa with what has been called single worst incident of racial violence in American history.
The world that follows shows how this is an alternate universe where Robert Redford has become a multiple-term president and there are masked people handing out their own form of justice.
In the series opener, Abar investigates the attempted murder of a fellow officer under the guidance of her friend and the chief of police, Judd Crawford (Don Johnson).
Executive producer Damon Lindelof, who worked with King on his series “The Leftovers,” had the California native in mind for the masked character from the start.
When he sent her the script, Lindelof included a drawing of the character King would be playing but with her face showing instead of being fully masked.
“He put the drawing in the script and told me not to look at it until I got to the page where she’s introduced,” King says. “I waited and when I finally opened the page, I was like ‘Wow!’ She was an amazing character.”
There were a few changes to the costume before filming started, but the one thing that remained consistent was the mask.
King felt a sense of power once she put on the costume that she used to bring the character to life. That was all King needed to be ready for the series, which is heavy on action scenes. She stresses that she tries to stay fit all the time.
ON STUNT DOUBLES
King was happy the show’s stunt coordinator, Justin Riemer, was also the stunt coordinator on “The Leftovers.” He already knew King’s strengths, and that helped her do as many of her own stunts as possible.
“I’m very particular when it comes to stunt doubles. I hate to see something where you’re like, ‘That’s a double.’ And so, they really took their time and looked far and wide to find a double that resembled me and she’s 26 years old. So, you know, I’ll be playing action women until I’m like 66,” King says.
Her dislike of using a stunt double even goes to scenes of an intimate nature. The series marks the first time King has ever been part of a sex scene. She found it both fun and scary.
“Watchmen” has created several new acting challenges for King, but she has faced a long list of different roles with productions such as “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Seven Seconds,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “Shameless” and “24.”
As for “Watchmen,” she says, “It was just fun for me to work muscles that I’d never worked before and kind of conquer fears that I really didn’t even know I had. This was a huge, huge undertaking.”