For the first time since 2018, the Oscars are returning to an emcee format in a bid to inject humor into the proceedings – with actress Regina Hall this year alongside comedy veterans Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes.
Sky News sat down with Hall to talk Oscars and his scary new movie Master, which is out now.
She plays Gail Bishop, a college professor – or “master” – at an elite university, where horror and hauntings unfold against the backdrop of her struggles to navigate an all-white institution. Here’s what she had to say…
Have you felt a lot of support since your name was announced as one of the hosts for this year’s Oscars?
I think people are excited for the hosts. I’ve watched it for the past two years without a host…it’s great that he’s back; it’s crazy that I’m part of it, but it’s exciting. And of course my co-hosts are wonderful and I love them so much, so I’m very excited to work with them.
Have you worked with a team of writers and is there a vague plan in place as to who will say what during the ceremony?
No, we just get together, get high and go, ‘let’s just see where it drops now! No, we have a great team of writers and they sit down and we come in and brainstorm ideas with each other. I think that’s what’s so great, it’s so collaborative, and sometimes it’s like, “Oh, Amy, you’d be great for that,” and Amy will email me or text me or leave a voice note, the same with Wanda. Like, ‘Oh, I read that, I thought that would be great for Wanda’.
It’s just been really collaborative, and that process has been really fun getting to know them, but also, you know, the most important thing is that we all support each other on stage.
Tell us about your new film, Master, and do you think using the horror genre to illustrate racism is a particularly effective tool to help people understand certain issues?
Gail Bishop is the first black master at Ancaster College, which is an elite institution. It’s a fictional university, apparently better than Harvard, and that’s kind of what happens in that first semester as a first black master, it goes through a lot!
I certainly think putting it in a genre where people maybe don’t see it coming allows people to…it makes it a little bit more digestible. You know, instead of feeling preached they feel like they’re experiencing it because they’re also feeling the discomfort of the world, you know. Like, oh my God, I hear the sound. Something is about to happen. So I think… it prepares the palate and I think it makes the subject a little more digestible.
Did any of your character’s experiences of racism resonate?
I think racism is something that you experience constantly…it doesn’t mean you experience it from every single person, you know, I think that’s what’s interesting, the subtlety. Some things, intentions ain’t racist, you know, even when [in the film] they call [my character] Beyonce. What might be a prank for one person can be a little more traumatic for the person who is the victim.
So, of course, I have received, perceived, or experienced racism, but that’s also part of being a black woman. It’s like a woman is going to experience sexism at some point, you know, even if the intent isn’t there, it’s fair. And that’s what I liked about the way [filmmaker Mariama Diallo] explored it, there wasn’t necessarily anything intentionally dark about it, but that doesn’t diminish the experience.
In the UK, after the Black Lives Matter marches, we are now talking about culture wars and there are ongoing debates about removing statues of slave owners and changing the names of institutions. Do you think it’s a positive thing that these conversations are happening?
I think with social media it allows people to see it that may not have experienced it, but once you can actually see it, you can see, “Oh wait, that was not well” and it starts a conversation. And then there are people who don’t want to see it. It’s just the reality of people wanting to make these events isolated instead of being like, “Well, what can we do?” It doesn’t mean it’s intentionally awful either, you know. Some people are very attached to their story, even if it is negative.
Subscribe to Backstage Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker
Master is in theaters and streaming on Amazon Prime. You can watch the 94th Academy Awards on Sunday March 27 exclusively on Sky Cinema from 11pm – and follow our live blog on the Sky News website and app. For those who don’t want to stay up late, you can rewatch Monday 28 at 7 p.m. on Sky Cinema or from 10 p.m. on Sky Showcase