Regina Hall co-stars with Jesus and 'some very diva maggots' in 'Honk for Jesus,' 'Master'

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For her new comedy, Regina Hall didn’t have to find Jesus. He was literally hanging around in some key scenes.

“Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul,” which premiered Jan. 23 at the virtual Sundance Film Festival, stars Hall as Trinitie Childs, devoted wife of disgraced Atlanta pastor Lee-Curtis Childs (Sterling K. Brown). They go to desperate lengths to lure their flock back for a relaunch of their Southern Baptist megachurch, like appealing to God-fearing passersby on the highway with a statue of a Black Jesus.

Hall enjoyed “the symbolism of what Jesus needed to represent” for the couple. Jesus, they figure, will bring their followers back to church and “bring our congregation back to life.” It’s Trinitie’s job to push the wheeled Jesus around in the film, so it became Hall’s task too: “It's not as easy to maneuver as you think.”

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Filmed in a mockumentary style a la “The Office,” “Honk for Jesus” (which sought distribution at Sundance) centers on Trinitie keeping a positive public face amid a scandal involving charismatic Lee-Curtis. In Hall’s other new project at Sundance, the social horror film “Master" (streaming March 18 on Amazon Prime), her character Gail Bishop is the new master of a residence hall at a prestigious, predominantly white New England university. Surrounded by terrifying images, ranging from wriggling maggots to ghostly servants, Gail tries to help a first-year student (Zoe Renee) figure out if she’s being attacked by the school’s haunted past or racist present.

Hall, who also co-stars in the Kevin Hart comedy “Me Time” (coming to Netflix later this year), talks with USA TODAY about religion, some creepy co-stars and her Sundance slate:

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Regina Hall premiered two new films at this year's virtual Sundance Film Festival, "Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul" and "Master."
Regina Hall premiered two new films at this year's virtual Sundance Film Festival, "Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul" and "Master."

Question: In what ways did you connect most with Trinitie?

Regina Hall: I certainly loved the fact that she wanted to stick by her man, but when I read it, what I saw was her really sticking by her faith. She didn't want to break that covenant that she had made to God and what that would represent. What I thought was interesting is the truth that she knew in her heart, which was that this marriage was not right, and the truth of what she was taught from her religion and her parents and her faith. There's something incredibly human about the struggle of what you know to be true and then what you believe to be true.

Q: Did you have some familiarity with Southern Baptist culture from your own religious background?

Hall: Well, my grandmother was Baptist from down South, so I certainly went to Baptist churches. I've seen tongues and everything else. My mom went to a much more quiet Christian church, and then in my adult years, (spirituality) is probably where I connect more. But I certainly have seen religion serve people incredibly well and then also do a disservice.

Q: Trinitie is the straight woman to Lee-Curtis’ over-the-top showman. Was it hard for you to keep from cracking up next to Sterling’s antics?

Hall: We would laugh after. Him getting undressed in front of the child in the church with the baptism – thankfully, Trinitie had her eyes closed in prayer. I was always amazed at why Trinitie didn't see something was wrong. There were too many things! But honestly, you create a life with someone and you learn to believe that these are the things that become normal.

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Regina Hall (left, with Amber Gray) plays a faculty member at a predominantly white New England college where some strange things are afoot in the social horror film "Master."
Regina Hall (left, with Amber Gray) plays a faculty member at a predominantly white New England college where some strange things are afoot in the social horror film "Master."

Q: Jordan Peele debuted “Get Out” at Sundance five years ago before it became a hit. Do you feel it showed a hunger for similarly themed films like “Master”?

Hall: It's always interesting to watch something that you wonder about but you don't feel preached to. That's why so many things work in comedies. It's another genre to have an exploration of different ideas and themes and subject matters that we all discuss. Sometimes there's a way to do it where it can be smart and not heavy-handed, but it can be wrapped in something that we're like, “Oh, yeah, it's true!”

Q: What did you appreciate that “Master” explores?

Hall: I love that it touched on ideas of race and the supernatural, the dual symbolism of ghosts of the past and real ghosts. And I liked the idea of Gail: Sometimes you achieve the thing that you work so hard for, that means so much to you, and then you reevaluate that achievement all the time and what really is important. She has a come-to-Jesus truth with the reality of what happened in her school.

Regina Hall (left) starred alongside Anna Faris in the horror-comedy "Scary Movie" franchise, including 2006's "Scary Movie 4."
Regina Hall (left) starred alongside Anna Faris in the horror-comedy "Scary Movie" franchise, including 2006's "Scary Movie 4."

Q: You came up in the spoofy “Scary Movie” franchise in the 2000s. Did you enjoy being in an actual scary movie with "Master"?

Hall: The scariest thing in that was when the maggots came out because they did have real maggots.

Q: Yikes. Too bad you didn’t have the Jesus statue around for that.

Hall: It's true. I needed Jesus! (Laughs) What's crazy about those maggots is it was in New York in the winter and maggots are still when it's cold. So they had to take a blow dryer and heat them up so that they would wiggle. And I was like, “These are some very diva maggots over here." They've got to have temperature conditions for them to work. I work in the cold!

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Regina Hall makes Sundance splash in 'Honk for Jesus,' 'Master'

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