A few years ago, on a trip to London, I treated myself to a tour of poet John Keats’ home. Regarded as one of the preeminent poets of all time, Keats’ work is cherished the world over. Walking through his brick Hampstead abode where he lived his final healthy days, I learned something about Keats. This revered man of words had apprenticed as a surgeon before he made the difficult decision to abandon a potentially lucrative, well-respected medical career to be, gulp, a poet. Though his friends and family likely thought he’d gone completely mad, Keats nonetheless persevered and the result is some of the most well read Romantic works to ever hit the presses. I left that visit with a renewed sense of what it is I most admire in fully actualized people. And that is this: when faced with making the easy, expected choice or the difficult, albeit, right choice, these people have the strength to dig deep and embrace the unknown. This power to reinvent, even in the face of great odds, remains, to me, the single most admirable quality of people I have come to respect. And so when I found out I’d be interviewing Hollywood’s Regina Hall—comedic, charming, and adorable, to be sure—you can imagine my surprise when I learned that this trained journalist abandoned that career direction when a family tragedy resulted in her taking a good look in the proverbial mirror. She made the decision to reinvent. And, countless Regina fans would agree, they’re glad she did. But her reinvention didn’t stop with the transformation from journalist to star. No, this one-time selfprofessed non-animal lover has undergone something of a 180 over the last eight years, and that’s on account of a four-legged dude called Zeus. A funny-faced boy who, as far as Regina is concerned, exemplifies Keats’ sentiment: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”

MD: You graduated with a Masters in Journalism, yet here you are today a popular face on the big screen, with some big recent hits in romantic comedies like Think Like a Man and Best Man Holiday. And we loved you as Brenda Meeks in the Scary Movie films and as a Coretta Lipp in Ally McBeal. When you were a journalism student, would you ever have forecasted your career would’ve headed in this direction? What ultimately attributed for the shift?
RH: I was living in New York and I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. And in the first month of grad school my dad had a stroke. He passed away and that kind of shifted my thinking. That’s when I started thinking about the brevity of life and a lot of those kinds of things. And then I thought, well, my dad would want me to finish school and so I’m going to, but I’m going to try something I’m really excited about doing. And I did love journalism, actually. It certainly would’ve been wonderful as well. So that kind of explains the shift. It wasn’t necessarily planned, it just kind of organically happened.

MD: In the inventory of characters you’ve portrayed, which have you grown the most attached to?
RH: Honestly, I love them all. Clearly I was attached to Scary Movie’s Brenda because I did it four times. But I’d have to say, I love all of them. Joan [Regina’s character in the February 2014-released romantic comedy About Last Night] is really special to me because she reminds me of a character most women can either identify with themselves or they have a friend like her. She’s a little wild, but sweet and really smart and grounded but crazy in relationships.

MD: So, gear change. Have you always been an animal lover?
RH: No!

MD: I love your honesty.
RH: I actually used to listen to people who did this or that for their animals and think they were crazy. I would see people crying over their dog dying, and I’d be like: “Get another one.” I really did not understand it. And then, the joke was on me because, man… It’s weird, once you love one animal you see every animal as a real live little soul. It opens up another world. We had family dogs growing up, but there’s something about caring for your own dog; it’s like a full-blown relationship. I became one of the crazy women at the dog park every day.

MD: Rumour has it you have a special fur kid in your life. Who is he? And how did he come to be in your life?
RH: His name is Zeus. I was shooting something and I saw this man with the two cutest little dogs. They were little French bulldogs… They were so cute and I was like, I want one. I was on the phone with my boyfriend at the time, and he said: “Regina, are you sure you want a dog? Dogs are a lot of work.” But I knew, I wanted a dog. So (on my birthday), we went to pick out the dog, and I wanted this little Frenchie—his name was Poncho. I went to go pick him up, but—and this is when I realized that your dog picks you—there was another dog there, and this one was going crazy. I picked him up and I was like: “He is hyper!” Then I picked up Poncho again and held him close, and he was so gentle, but that other one, the hyper one, he kept looking at me. And I was like: “Oh no…” And my girlfriend said: “Yup, that one’s your dog.” So of course, I got the crazy one. He was an English Bulldog, but he tricked me because those English Bulldogs are so cute when they’re little you forget that they turn into this other big thing. One day were outside and he ran into the street, and I’d had him about two or three weeks, and my heart dropped like I was going to… I don’t know. And I was like: “Oh my gosh, I love him. I love my dog.” Your dog just rides it out with you through the years, through so many experiences. He wasn’t the dog I planned to get. But he is the best and the cutest.

MD: So, when you say that you’ve been through a lot together, what are some of the things that Zeus has helped you through?
RH: Well my mom had a mild stroke—she’s fine now—and she came to stay. My mom was never a dog lover and I tell you, my dog would follow her around the house until she couldn’t help but love him. She fell in love with him. And he’s been there for, you know, break-ups. I mean, even something as simple as not getting a part. He’s there for me for everything. Everything.

MD: What is it that makes Zeus unique?
RH: Well, first of all, he is exquisitely handsome. I tell him that he’s the cutest thing on four legs. He’s a boy, so he’s really selfish. As soon as his needs are met, he just goes into the other room. I’m like, you want to cuddle with me, and he’s like: “No, woman.” He sleeps in; he does not like to wake up before noon. But he’s really friendly; he gives love to everyone. I used to volunteer at a senior citizens’ home—at a convalescence care place—and he’d come with me and I could just trust that he’s not going to be snappy… He’s really got a lot of love in that fat little body.

MD: Given that yours is perhaps a business that can be perceived as being shallow at times, how does Zeus keep your grounded?
RH: I don’t think there’s a way he doesn’t. I look at him and, it sounds kind of crazy, but I have this comparison to God that I make. Like Zeus will want to run one way because he sees something and I’m like “No, Zeus” and I have to pull him away. I look at him and wonder if this is how God keeps me safe. Zeus reminds me that there is a bigger scope. He gives my life a spiritual outlook, to know that the smallest things are important.

MD: I heard something about some doggie products of yours coming out. Details please?
RH: They’re green-friendly poop pick-up bags. There will be three different kinds. It’s all about convenience and being earth-friendly. The line is called Puff Puff Paws. And it will be out this year. My partner and I are working on it now—we’ve found a great manufacturer and sourced soy paint for the colours—everything is very earth-friendly. And they’re going to be pretty.

MD: What have you learned most about life from Zeus?
RH: Every dog today is amazing to me. I understand people’s love now. I’ve probably made more friends because of Zeus. I feel like animals erase all of the separation of people. You don’t see the person anymore, you see a dog-lover and you connect on that level. It’s like people trust you more when you have a dog. He’ll run into someone’s house and they’ll be like: “He’s so cute! Come on in! We love dogs.” Whereas if just a human comes into your house… (laughs). There’s just something about someone who loves a dog. You know what I love about Zeus most? You know how bad their little teeth are and his head is big and his little legs are short [but] he thinks he is perfectly made. He sees other dogs and he doesn’t do any comparisons. He’s just like: “I am a stud.” Dogs think they are just so gorgeous and so we think it too. If Zeus can accept those legs, then why am I complaining so much?!

MD: What are you most proud of as a woman?
RH: Just that I have grown to a place of acceptance. And my dog has helped me with that. I feel like an adult now where I understand that there are certain things in life that you have to surrender to. It’s not really a thing that I’ve done so much as it is a way that I think now. You know, my life isn’t necessarily what I thought it would be. I thought I’d be married with 2.1 kids. But this is my life. And I’ve learned to embrace what has been given to me… I just bought a new house because I was like: “My dog deserves a yard.” Even though Zeus will probably never go in the yard, I was like “We’re moving, Zeus.” So, probably that: just that everything is perfect and where I want it to be.

See more of Regina in her new movie, About Last Night, in which she stars alongside Kevin Hart, Joy Bryant, and Michael Ealy. Fittingly released February 14th, this modern reimagining of the classic David Mamet romantic comedy follows new love for two couples—the perfect date night pick!