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Regina Hall talks new film, 'Honk for Jesus'

DON GONYEA, HOST:

In "Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul." Regina Hall plays Trinitie Childs, the first lady of a megachurch that's been temporarily closed after a scandal involving her husband. In order to rebuild their church and retain their lavish lifestyle, Trinitie must help her husband win back their 25,000 congregants, starting with a planned return to the pulpit on Easter Sunday. But a number of things get in the way of that happening, meaning, of course, that it's going to take a lot of humility and humor for the couple to find their way back to their former glory if they can. We wanted to learn more about the film, so we have called actress Regina Hall. She's with me now. Regina, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

REGINA HALL: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.

GONYEA: You play the first lady of a Baptist megachurch. For those who don't know, that is the title for the preacher's wife, but it's also more than just a title. It is like it's a political position, one that's often about optics and public perception. I'm wondering what drew you to this character?

HALL: Oh, I thought she was fascinating. She had a quiet strength about her. And, of course, I loved the world - the backdrop of this situation with this couple. And, I don't know, I thought she would be interesting because she's reserved but she's really strong and flawed. You know, she also has her attraction to what comes with that life.

GONYEA: It feels like she's got the toughest job in the whole church.

HALL: Yeah. Yeah, I think she does. Yeah. Well, navigating, you know, her husband, who's, as she describes him, difficult to harness at times, she's got a tough job - tougher than I ever thought. Never really considered all that they had to do because they're not the face of who we see when we think of megachurches. But they certainly play a pivotal role.

GONYEA: I did know that your grandmother would take you to Baptist Church.

HALL: Yes.

GONYEA: And I wonder what that experience was like and whether or not that shaped this role at all.

HALL: I was too little to understand anything about the - I probably didn't even notice the first lady. What I did notice was - you know, I probably felt like little Aria. It was quite entertaining for me.

GONYEA: And Aria - little Aria is a character in the film.

HALL: Yes, little Aria is a character in the film who - she loves the spectacle of church and getting the Holy Spirit. And so I think for me, it was so different than the church that my mother went to - you know? - which was a much quieter church. And so whenever I would go to my grandmother's church, I just - I was always, I don't know, surprised by the singing and the speaking in tongues - you know? - and the choir. It was just - it was larger an experience than probably what I was used to.

GONYEA: The couple at the center of the film is very, well, wealthy but also always dressed in finery. And in fact, at one point, you, talking about your husband in the film - Lee-Curtis Childs, played by Sterling K. Brown - you say, there's nothing like a pastor in Prada or...

HALL: Yeah. Yes, Yes. She looks at him, and she's talking. And she says, oh, there's just something about a pastor in Prada, as they're in this enormous closet and displaying all of their blessings. And they've got a lot. That's quite a closet they have in there.

GONYEA: Well, it's clear this couple loves their wealth, but they also believe, I think, they're doing God's work. Or do they?

HALL: I believe they really do. I believe that that is sincere. You know, we often talked about probably when they started, they were full of sincerity. But, you know, as time and things changed, you know, there was something that got corrupted or tainted in the thinking. And, you know, it just became more and more. And they definitely - I mean, yes, they have a lot. They have cars. They have planes. They have everything. And yet when you - when the movie starts, you also see this kind of empty, large, hollow church.

GONYEA: The film, at its core, is about a couple rehabilitating their image and maybe their marriage after a sex scandal. There are certainly serious moments and questions being asked in the film, but it never gets too, you know, over-the-top heavy. But I'm wondering if that was a tough balance to strike, having to keep things funny even as they got serious.

HALL: I mean, yeah. I mean, I think the directors definitely were conscious to know that certain things are best swallowed with a little dose of something sweet, you know? And so that humor allowed a way into this world. And, you know, they certainly do respect the church and love so many things about the church. But there's an awareness that it could do better. You know, it could do - it could be better. And I think having to toe the fine line of - we didn't want to make these people caricatures. So, you know, you certainly want to make the humanity come through so that, you know, they're not - they're neither good nor bad. You know, it's a complex situation that has been building for a long time.

GONYEA: What do you take away from this film, and what might you want your audiences to take away from it?

HALL: Oh, gosh, that's a really good question. You know, I mean, when I read it, the biggest thing I loved is that I thought about it afterwards. It was a script I read, and I kept thinking it will mean many different things for many different people - people who've grown up in the church, many people who haven't grown up in the church or don't know the church. And ultimately, we hope people enjoy it, too.

GONYEA: And it feels like a film about second chances, even if those second chances can be very elusive.

HALL: Yeah (laughter). Yes, it is. It is. Yeah. It is very elusive. But we've got our devout five, right?

(LAUGHTER)

GONYEA: Those five people who show up no matter what.

HALL: No matter what. No matter what. Devout five.

GONYEA: That was actress Regina Hall. Her new film, "Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul." will be out in theaters and streaming on Peacock on September 2. Regina Hall, thanks so much for joining us.

HALL: Thank you for having me. Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF DUSTY TRAILS' "CONGA STYLE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.