“American Crime” Standout Regina King Talks “Leftovers”

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As Regina King waited to learn if John Ridley’s brilliant ABC anthology American Crime — which scored the actress her first Emmy nomination — would be renewed, she received a script from a pair of equally compelling storytellers. Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta hoped King would take a lead role in Season 2 of their family-centric HBO spine-tingler The Leftovers, which airs on HBO Sundays.

“I sat down and talked to them and they’re just so smart — and they want their actors to be involved with the creative process,” King recalls. “That was very exciting to me. So it was one of those things: ‘Well, if American Crime comes back, all you can do is hope that they don’t conflict with each other.’”

King’s good luck held. With both shows shooting in Austin and all parties agreeable, she happily signed on as The Leftovers’ Dr. Erika Murphy, who lives with her husband John (Kevin Carroll) and their twin teens in tiny Jarden, Texas — nicknamed Miracle because it appears to be the only place on Earth untouched by a mysterious “Departure” that sent 2 percent of the world’s population into the ether. And it’s the very place to which the now-retired Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) leads his teen daughter Jill (Margaret Qualley), his traumatized lover Nora Durst (Carrie Coon) and the baby — likely Holy Wayne’s progeny — that Nora found on Kevin’s doorstep.

The newly formed family moves next door to the Murphys, into a charming, sunny house with a big porch and the promise of the fresh start everyone desperately needs. And though the new neighbors seem friendly enough — and provide insta-pals for each of the new arrivals — all is not as it seems. Because there are no miracles in Miracle. And Erika knows it.

 “So often you have no idea what a woman is going through, no idea how she is just holding it all together,” says King, “and if you pull one string, the entire family will implode.” And though King couldn’t reveal too much, suffice it to say that the neighborly get-togethers are about to get real.

 “It’s going to be very interesting for the audience to see what type of fireman my husband is,” King teases. “It’s going to answer a lot of questions from the first season as far as why there weren’t more people other than Matt Jamison (a returning Christopher Eccleston) that were really, truly,hardcore questioning the Departure. It almost felt like Matt was the only one, but you just didn’t know what the hell was going on with him! I think John Murphy is the voice of a lot of thoseaudience members.”

Asked if she found a connectivity in being part of both American Crime’sand The Leftovers’complex examinations of family and community relationships, and the mortally dangerous nature of secrets, King says she is mostly just grateful. “You just don’t often get to do this as an actor — to be able to be on two shows at the same time with creators who are brilliant,” she offers. “They definitely get how important it is to layer their stories, because that’s when you start to get some really meaty stuff!”