Regina King on Being a Child Star on 227 and How She Stayed Grounded: 'It's Not an Easy Thing'

The actress just directed her first feature film One Night in Miami

Regina King, 49, has been acting since she was 14 after landing a starring role on the popular 1980s sitcom 227. Although she's been famous for more than three decades, the actress credits her mother, Gloria, for keeping her grounded from the start.

“My mom told NBC that if I was going to play Brenda, I wasn’t going to one of those Hollywood private schools. I was staying in public school,” she says.

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The actress is grateful her mother made that decision and says it helped her later in life.

“It was instrumental in me becoming a person who can find balance on shaky ground. It’s not an easy thing, living your life on display, and it’s particularly hard when you’re young,” she says. “But participating in those social situations as a teen gave me an understanding to how different people can be, which has been very helpful when navigating Hollywood.”

For the past three decades, King has gone from child star to acclaimed actor. Last year she won her first Oscar for If Beale Street Could Talk, and in July, she received her fourth Emmy nomination (she has won three times) for playing Sister Night, a tough-as-nails superhero on the hit HBO series Watchmen.

She also just directed her first feature film, One Night in Miami, a fictionalized account of a true event that occurred on Feb. 25, 1964, when Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) beat boxing world champ Sonny Liston at the Miami Beach Convention Center and spent the evening celebrating with football star Jim Brown, singer Sam Cooke and activist Malcolm X.

King with Marla Gibbs and Hal Williams on 227.

King says she's thankful for the lessons she learned while working on the set of 227 and points to the show's producer and star, Marla Gibbs, as being a strong role model.

"I was lucky to be on a show with one of the first women to produce and make tough decisions," says King. "I got to witness someone who was a pioneer."

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