Interviews

WITH THIS RING Scoop: Star Regina Hall and Executive Producer Tracey Edmonds Talk Bringing the Book to Screen and The Fun They Had Along the Way

Regina Hall | With This Ring | Photo credit : Bob Mahoney
Regina Hall | With This Ring | Photo credit : Bob Mahoney

Regina Hall | With This Ring | Photo Credit : Bob Mahoney

Lifetime knows how to woo its viewers and its latest movie WITH THIS RING is sure to win over hearts with its delicious tale of friendship, falling in love, and the fantasies surrounding marriage.  Based on the”The Vow,” WITH THIS RING stars Regina Hall, Jill Scott and Eve Jeffers Cooper as three single friends who vow to get married within a year after attending a best friend’s wedding.  There will be tears, laughter and perhaps a wink and a nod to what really matters in life as love comes in all kinds of unexpected ways. 

In a recent press call, star Regina Hall and executive producer Tracey Edmonds shared how this amazing and empowering film project was brought to life and what they loved about working on it.

What was it about this film that really made you want to be a part of it?

REGINA: Originally, this really started with this script. I read this script and I thought it was smart and poignant, and I thought I love the characters in the film — the women.  then when I found out who was behind the film — it was Tracey Edmonds and then also Gabrielle Union, it made a really big difference. Because then I knew the film was going to be shot and done with integrity.  Nzhinga was directing and I just always loved her work. So there were so many components.  Then of course when the movie had the cast it was wonderful, not just the women, but the men in the film as well. So it kind of was like all the elements came together so it was exciting to be a part of.

Was there something about your role then that you added that may not have originally been scripted for you?

TRACEY: What Regina has is a “Regina” flavor to every role she plays. That’s what so unique about her.  She brings something interesting to every role that she plays. There’s a certain like just humor and wit and comedic timing that only Regina has and also a lovability factor.  So when you see Regina in this role you as an audience you are rooting for her to get what she wants in life and also having fun with her as during her journey.   So we were very blessed to have Regina as our leading lady as the first actress that actually signed on to join our cast.   Then once everybody else found out that Regina was on board, it became that much easier just to get Jill and Eve and round out the cast. So she’s amazing and wonderful in this role.

REGINA: Oh thanks. That was more than I even expected, but I love that answer. But also really I think all the women involved in the movie are so smart and so amazing.  Sometimes the women we’re talking to and talking about are women just like us who are ambitious and who have careers, and we want every woman to know that life is exactly perfect where it is and not wait for the moment that this happens or that happens, and I think it’s about friendship. One of the things I also loved about working on this film was all the women, I feel like we all liked each other. That was really nice.  Like I loved talking to Tracey and finding out way more stuff that we had in common that I wouldn’t have known and all the other women.  That’s an amazing kind of situation to work in.

TRACEY: Right exactly, and just to add to what Regina was saying like off-camera and on the screen we experienced sisterhood.  So this film, we’re all out in Cleveland there was really a beautiful sisterhood that’s taking place on this set.   As Regina was describing, you had Regina and Jill and Eve and myself and Brooklyn.  We were all bonding and sharing secrets about life and health secrets and beauty secrets.  We were talking about men and and really, really bonding and sharing.

REGINA: Yes. A lot of encouragement and support.

TRACEY: Yes, absolutely.

Denene Millner and Angela Burt-Murray, a couple of the authors of the book, said this project was a long time coming. At what point did you get involved?

TRACEY: I got involved way back in late 2008, early 2009. Gabrielle [Union] brought me their book and wanted me to read it because she thought that it would make a great movie, which it did.  So we took it over to Lifetime and set it up over at Lifetime way back in 2009.  Believe it or not, it has taken this long to actually get made. There were some regime changes that took place over at the network and we had a few false starts, but it did not go into production until the summer of 2014.

Gabrielle Union was really keen on this right? She had it at the top of her lens for a long time.  I guess she finally was able with you to finally get this going.

TRACEY: Yes, absolutely.  I was and I shared her passion.  The book itself is a page turner and I can so relate to these four women that were featured in the book because they reminded me so much of myself and my girlfriends.  So we felt that the stories were very relatable and that people would really embrace these characters.

Do you feel like even though the book was set ten years ago it still works in 2015?

TRACEY: Absolutely.  The themes are still the same and the issues are still the same. You still have these amazing fabulous women who for whatever reason are still single.

The initial title of the book was going to be the title of the movie, but that title went to some other movie.

TRACEY: Correct. I think both titles are great titles. I think WITH THIS RING has a certain certain amount of catchiness to it.   I can tell you on on social media that there’s a tremendous amount of excitement and everyone has been hash tagging WITH THIS RING already over the past couple weeks.  I think the people did really grab onto the new title.

What was kind of your favorite part about doing this role ultimately?

REGINA: Well, I am a woman who is single who has also made that vow.  It has been my friends that have gotten me through a lot of situations and who remind me of so many great things in my life.  So there are scenes in the book and in the script — which I think did an amazing job of adapting it — they resonate with me so much and resonates with friends in my life. So I think it is just a very well done well written script.   I always relate to that. But there were a lot of things about this woman that I relate to a lot.  I think the writers did a fabulous job in catching that.

Were you cast first before the others?

REGINA: Yes, in the initial casting. Obviously Gabrielle, came in first and and she cameoed for us. That was another thing too. Because when you go into a project and you’re starting, you have to trust the team that you’re working with and your producers. Hearing that Tracey was involved made it easy because she’s had so many great projects that she’s done.  So there’s a safety that you feel where you don’t need to know who else is in it.  But, of course, they had names that they were thinking about and all of those things were very exciting.  So it’s kind of like you get to really focus on what you’re there to do.  I think one of the things too is — the general public knows this — but before a script even gets to an actress sometimes there’s years where producers have been working and toiling to get it to the screen.  So that also gives you another reason to want to show up and do your best.

Have you worked with any of the other ladies before in other projects?

REGINA: Only Gabrielle. No, I actually met Tracey before. But it was the first time I actually got to know Tracey.  I didn’t know Jill. I didn’t know Brooklyn and I didn’t know Eve.  But I have to say there wasn’t a woman on that set and even there wasn’t a woman on that set who I just didn’t really like.   Obviously I respected them and had admired their work, but I liked them as women.  That was wonderful.  I learned a lot from them and I didn’t expect that.  So the movie became much more.  It was not just shooting a movie. It was really a really wonderful experience all of it from beginning to end.

Did it matter to either of you whether this was a TV movie or a film in the theater, or in this day and age doesn’t matter that much?

REGINA:  It didn’t matter to me. I don’t know how Tracey feels. But it didn’t matter to me.

TRACEY: I can tell you that we were just really happy to get this movie made. We set out to make this movie look and feel like a theatrical movie.  So from a production perspective, we wanted the look of the film to feel like a big theatrical movie.   Of course we had A-list actresses that were delivering amazing performances and Nzhinga  [Stewart], as a writer and director wrote an amazing script.   So we really —  even though we ended up on television — we wanted to give the viewer a theatrical viewing experience on television — the production value, the caliber of actresses that we had, and all those components.

Are you happy with the result ultimately?  Did the pieces all fall together? Was there anything that you regret in retrospect?

TRACEY: No.  To be honest with you, and I’m not just saying this because sometimes you produce films that don’t come out the way that you had envisioned, this particular movie is everything that I had envisioned and more.  I am so proud of our actresses. I am so proud of our writer and our director.  It’s a beautiful looking movie.  We have really strong positive female characters in this movie and the positive messaging.  I’m really excited for everybody to see it.

Talking a bit about the production and the staff thing. You have had people of color, especially women in a lot of decision-making roles for this film.  Where do you think things are in the process of moving into having black folks cast in the leading roles and is there a long way to go with that?  Has things moved a lot in that area? What are your thoughts on that whole process?

TRACEY: I think that we have made some strides. So the blessings are that you see a lot more African-American females especially on television in leading roles.  So that’s amazing to see: Kerry Washington in SCANDAL, Viola Davis in HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER, Alfre Woodard [in STATE OF AFFAIRS], Taraji Henson [in EMPIRE].  So we do see a lot more African-American women in empowered and in leading roles.  So I’m very, very excited about that.  So we’ve made some strides.  The challenges are still the lack of slots for what I’d call all African-American casted film, where basically your your entire cast is African-American or African-American stories.  For example, like our WITH THIS RING all of our leads are African American women and but that is still pretty rare to see.  So it’s a blessing that Lifetime is creating slots to allow these types of stories to be told.  Because these types of stories, even though you have African-American casting, the scenes are still relatable across the board.   So there are still fabulous single women of all colors that are still single that are still dealing with the dynamics that we’re exploring in the story. So there is still a long way to go especially on the theatrical side of things. There are very few studio films that are being made for African American casts.   So they’re only a couple slots a year for urban films versus the hundreds of slots that are available for mainstream films. So we still have a long ways to go in that arena.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how do you rate Deion [Sanders]’s acting skills in this movie?

TRACEY: I rate it a 10. He came in and he did his thing and he did not disappoint at all. He played the heck out of that role.

REGINA: He did. He was so much fun to watch too.

TRACEY: It was.  We were all left kind of wishing that we had a little bit more because his character was so much fun.

Regina, it has been said that you relate to Kevin Hart as your Hollywood husband.  You both have done so much together for the last few years and you have really great chemistry. Is that title indicative of your relationship with him and how is it working with him?

REGINA: We are definitely.  We just we have so much fun together.  I like Kevin as a person. But we definitely have great working chemistry.  We’re obviously good friends.  I don’t speak to him every day but I do consider him a very close friend.  I’m really happy for all of his success.   We have a great time every time we work together. I don’t know. (Laughs) I guess we were probably married in another life or something and it all comes back on screen.

Regina, you’ve had a lot of great roles in your career. Would you pick one as your best or if there’s a dream role for you, what would that be?

REGINA:  Every role I’ve played just teaches me. I learn every single one of them. There’s not one that I would say that’s more special. They’re all special.  Any time I show up and I’m blessed enough to be able to work, whatever I’m doing at that time it is just I feel really blessed.  It’s not an easy profession.  As Tracey just explained there are not a bazillion roles.  So just to have had this much longevity, it’s humbling and I thank God for it. WITH THIS RING is amazing for me because it’s really like my first leading role. So to have Tracey and Gabrielle, as producers, and Nzhinga, as the director, and just allowing me that opportunity,  that really means a lot to me, especially at this point. So they’re all special, but this is a different type of film that I’ve been able to do. Just to have that kind of support system, it’s been really great.  You don’t get a lot — we’re talking about female roles, but it’s about all parts — there are not a lot of female producers of color and there are not a lot of female directors. So to be able to get all of that and then have a book written by two African-American women and then have those women all be African-American, that’s a rarity. And also Sheila Ducksworth. So all of that was an extremely amazing support system. So this was really special to me.

Regina, do feel that you’ve had any parallel moments or views of the character that you portrayed in the movie?

REGINA: Oh, my God, yes. I made that vow. Clearly didn’t stick to it, so I must of come to the same conclusion that she did. But I’ve had moments where my friends and I have been like, “Look at this.  By this time next year, we’re going to be married.” It doesn’t matter. But I think the whole point of the movie — and I certainly resonate with this — is that and especially as a black woman, I say we can’t wait to be happy. Like there’s not an event or relationship or something that you have planned in your head that creates that.  I have a lot of amazing women friends.  I think that was the important thing that I thought about when reading this character and reading the script is that: it’s not like okay they’re not married because they’re uptight, or they’re not married because their frigid, or they’re not married because they have bad personalities. Sometimes we’re just not in a relationship. We’re just single. Maybe it’s a numbers game or maybe it’s just not what we have. But we do have so many other things.  I think, of course, I relate to that.

Is there anything about WITH THIS RING that men can gain something from or would encourage them to want to watch?

REGINA: Absolutely. We’ve got a lot of amazing men in the movie  and a lot of characters and different characters.   There’s the amazing support of dad.  I don’t mean stereotypical men.  There are lots of wonderful images of men in this film.  They are a huge, integral part of the story.  I actually think men would find a lot of humor just in the situations that the men are in.  They find a lot of similarities.  The same thing that women would find they’re in their relationships, there are a lot of parallels that men could find as well.

You mentioned that some of your girlfriends have made this similar pact in the course of your friendship.  So now that the movie is about to be released and your girlfriends obviously probably have seen it, have you and your friends renewed that pact again?

REGINA: Actually none of my friends have seen it. But, no. I think, like the ladies in the movie, we came to the realization that we didn’t need the pact.  That there’s that trust and everything is just as it should be and that your wonderful just as you are and kind of like opening up to the realization that life doesn’t begin “when,” life is right now.  But I’m sure come this time, like six months later, we’ll probably make it another pact. We’ll be like, “Maybe we should make it another pact again.” But, for now, I think one of the biggest things I want is:  I just want women to value themselves with or without a relationship.

When it came to casting, were you the first ones in mind? When casting and kind of sitting around the table, was it like “Oh, we’d love to see Regina in this, or Jill Scott, or Eve”?

REGINA: (Laughs) I’m going to say definitely they wanted me. But I truthfully I would imagine, just in conversation with them, that they definitely had people in mind.  They definitely had people that they liked.  There’s a lot of amazing talent out there. And you usually have a couple of choices because someone could be busy or not not available sometime.  So I’m sure that they had people in mind. But I will say I do know that the way it all came together was actually perfect and I don’t know who they did or didn’t have in mind. But I know that everyone agreed that, when it all came together, it couldn’t have more perfect.  That’s from the casting of all the women in the film to the men.  I think we really assembled an amazing cast.

What was your favorite scene to shoot during the film?

REGINA: I love two things. I like my blind date scenes because they were just fun to do because I had all these funny guys who were just crazy. And then I love the scene with the ladies too, when we get to actually hang out and be girlfriends.  I don’t know. I kind of like them all. It’s hard. What was yours? That should be the question. I had a couple. I liked the wedding. Too many.  See, it’s too much, you can’t give me all the options!

One of lines you had in the film:  “If you spend all your time waiting on the one, you miss a perfectly good time to be happy.”  I think it’s so sad of about how many women actually believe this.  In your opinion, will the film teach women about how to be happy just within themselves whether they have that perfect love or not?

REGINA: I remember when I was speaking with Nzhinga with the director one day. She said, “Oh, I have so many friends who are waiting thinking that their life will begin [when they get married].”  And I know before this movie started I was living in my house, but I wanted a yard with my house. So about about three years ago I wanted to move and I remember my first thought is, “Oh, I should probably wait until I get married and then I’ll move.” And then I thought, “Well, I don’t know when that is.  I could enjoy my yard right now because right now is really all I have.”And I think that’s the message that I really hope women take away from it. Like just there as so many wonderful things and so many wonderful pieces that make up life as a whole. There’s so many different elements. So just because your life is not the way you necessarily envisioned or dreamed it, doesn’t mean that it’s not deliciously wonderful.  And I hope women really can know that and know that they themselves are the most valuable component in their life.  Like making that choice to really acknowledge and just delight in that is really the most important step to real true happiness.

By doing this movie has any of your personal views about love changed?

REGINA: Honestly, I think that the reason that the song resonated with me so much was because that’s how I felt.  I felt the other way too.  I have felt, “Oh, my gosh, I thought I was going to be this by now. I thought I’d be married by now.” But I think one of the things that it reminded me of, more so, was how important friendships are.  I love the sisterhood of the movie. I love that there are also a lot of amazing guys. We have really good guys in this movie.  So there are really good guys out there too. I think it’s always nice to be reminded of that and just know that love comes in so many different forms. It can come in an intimate relationship. It can also come in in your relationship with family and with friends. We have to kind of remind ourselves of that regularly so we don’t focus on what we don’t have or what we think we want.

Now that this movie is finally a reality, what other projects are you working on?

REGINA: I’m actually going to shoot a film called “When the Bough Breaks” with Morris Chestnut at the end of this month in January. But this is a thriller.

How does it feel to really like be the first person casted, the first person on the paper that everyone else is kind of thinking “who’s there?” and they say “it’s Regina” and now they want to be a part of it too?

REGINA: It just feels really good to have had a career to be able to stay in and there’s so much appreciation I have in that.  I’ve had a chance to work in the most amazing ensembles with just people I get to watch and learn from, including Taraji [Henson] whose work I respect, and who are so talented. You have this thought of what it’s going to be like, but it’s like you’re just in more scenes.  Every single part is so important.  Every single person and every single part and every single character is so important in a movie.  For a moment that you think, “Oh, I can’t wait.”  But it’s perfect when it’s a role that resonates with you when you feel comfortable when you have a great cast.  It’s like everything that surrounds you is as important as the part itself. But in this particular time, I’ve had a gigantic amount of support from the women, our director/producers and from Lifetime — meaning Lifetime has really been just wonderful in supporting the movie. Wonderful.  They have really done a lot of hard work in making sure people are aware of the movie and making sure people watch it and making sure that they are a part of promoting the images. So all of that feels wonderful when you’re number one on the call sheet. Without it, you just get a really bad feeling that this could be awful.  But it’s a great opportunity to be able to have worked so long. So, like for me, if there’s a good movie and it has one scene or if I’m doing 30 scenes, I realize it’s all just as valuable.

Do you realize how much of a sex symbol that you’ve become?  

REGINA: (Laughs) There’s two answers to that:  (1) no, I’m in sweats and a baseball cap; (2) because I haven’t been in social media until five days ago, I’m still not good at it. So you don’t hear it as much. I don’t necessarily think you need to hear it. It’s always wonderful to be supported, like hearing the fact that you are an amazing woman.  That’s kind of the beautiful part of it because it’s a real sincere part of it.  That’s kind of what you love.  And maybe people resonate with that.  But it’s a weird thing to feel like sex symbol, especially as I’ve gotten older. I thought after I did “Best Man” people were going to ask for me, but no one asked me to show up again and I got offended thinking, “Oh, I’m going to be typecast. They’re not going to be asking you to play [sex symbol roles].” Not one role. Not one person asked me to take my clothes off again. . . So you never really are aware of [being a sex symbol], but it is certainly always beautiful to hear.  Yeah, it’s very nice.

Is that something that you look for when you can have a cast, that you can feel like “we’re friends, we’re sisters, we hang out.” Does that make it easier to like look for that kind of role?

REGINA: All of those. But honestly it has been just pretty organic. I had never met Jill Brooklyn. Oh, I did meet Jill once, but she didn’t remember. I had never met Joe Brooklyn or Eve. So I was like “hope they like me” when you go on a set, especially when you’ve got to play friends.  But I love them.  . . .  I love that I get to meet all these [great people] — behind the camera and in front of the camera.  So it’s not what I look for, but it’s a bonus. It’s such a bonus and, especially meeting Nia Long. For so long, I was like, “Oh, my goodness, it’s Nia Long!”  But then you work with people and you get to know them and you’re like, “Wow, they’re just great women.” And Gabrielle, I love her. You don’t know what you’re going to be like about someone.  I met Gabrielle actually even before we worked together.  So when I would find out, it was like “Oh, Gabrielle is in it? Yes!”  Especially when you’re going to go to work and you’re going to be in each other’s trailers all the time, so it’s definitely a bonus.

What it was like working with Gabrielle in the executive producer capacity?

REGINA: It was wonderful. It was a little bit of pressure because you’re like, “Oh, I don’t want my friend to think I suck.” You don’t think about it when you’re both acting, but she’s got a different lens on.  But she was great.  Gabrielle just herself is very smart and extremely supportive and was very like if you need anything  –like I always knew that she was there and just backing me up all the way. So it was wonderful, a little scary, but wonderful.

What dating advice would you give to single women who are looking to get married?

REGINA: Don’t. I think: “Enjoy the process of dating.”  I think if you want to get married, then date like someone who wants to get married.  I think one of the most interesting things in the movie is with Eve’s character and really kind of amazing guy that she overlooked for her own reason and then she was able to see him.  I’m not someone that has the most amazing dating advice, nor do I feel that comfortable giving it since I don’t have any secrets to getting you to “I do.”  Look clearly I don’t. But I think enjoy your time single just as much as you will enjoy it married.

 Appreciating the life we have and not the dream-life that may (or may not) one day come is great advice.  It empowers each of us to live our lives fully in the present.  To see how the amazing women of WITH THIS RING embrace that happiness, be sure to tune in for the premiere of WITH THIS RING on Saturday, January 24 at 8:00 pm on Lifetime.

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