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Regina King on How She Embodied Trailblazing Politician Shirley Chisholm

Regina King is staying busy in the best ways. When she’s not partnering with Wells Fargo to donate $1 million to Kollab Youth, a Los Angeles-based program that helps underserved kids with career opportunities, she’s starring as Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to run for president, in the upcoming Netflix film Shirley.

SheKnows caught up with King to chat about her upcoming slate of exciting projects — and we covered everything from the important financial tip she never forgets to capturing Chisholm and her trailblazing story.

SheKnows: Last year, PEOPLE Magazine asked you what you care about, and you said financial literacy. Why is that topic so important to you? 

Regina King: I think we talk so often about our emotional health and our physical health — which is very important. Financial health is a thing that’s important as well, and part of being financially healthy is to be financially literate. That, I believe, starts early on. It starts as you’re learning the tools to communicate with people, as you’re learning tools of [what to] put in your body to keep it healthy, tools to know how to operate so that you’re not struggling.

SheKnows: Are there any lessons, tricks or tips that you were taught about financial health early in your life that stay with you to this day? 

King: It’s really simple but very, very early on, at a young age once I started making money myself, my mother started investing our money with financial advisors. She would take my sister and I to wealth advisors [and we’d be there] on the peripheral to watch her meet with them and talk about what our money was going to be invested in and what those returns would look like. A lot of it – I’m not going to lie – was kind of like Charlie Brown’s parents talking. Some of it I tuned out on, but one thing that did stick with me is Florence Elliott, one of the wealth advisors, she said for every dollar spent, at least $2 should be earned.

I’ve kept that all my life…I feel it’s a good start and it’s an easy thing for someone that’s 11 years old to understand.

SheKnows: Shirley comes out next year. Was there a moment from her life that you were most looking forward to bringing to the screen?

King: You know, it was really tough because her life is so rich, and the story we’re telling is just a slice of life, just a slice of history, a slice of a moment in time that she was the first, the first in so many ways. We see pictures of her but no one knows [who she is]. People say, “Oh, I’ve seen a picture before,” [but] won’t even know her name. She was a maverick, she was a blueprint for a President Obama or a Hillary Clinton. She was that first Black person, first woman to run for president. She was so vocal and articulate with her emotions about people and human treatment and the government. But she was also a strategist at the same time. My hope is that this slice of life of her story that we’re telling…that it will inspire people to want to look her up and learn more about her.

SheKnows: What did the preparation process look like when it came to embodying Shirley Chisholm?

King: A lot of working with the dialect coach, first and foremost. One of the things that I learned that was really great from my dialect coach is that…I’ve always known many of the best [biographies] we’ve seen, they’re not caricatures, they’re actual embodiments. One of the things that she shared that separates the performances that are embodiments versus a caricature is that you are not trying to imitate the person, but finding the space where you and that person you’re portraying meet.

That’s the difference, and hopefully, I succeeded there.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length. 

Before you go, click here to see the most iconic roles played by Black women in movies & TV.

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