Regina King says son Ian is 'always with me,' breaking her silence two years after his death

Regina King in a white gown holding an Emmy Award standing next to a young man with a mustache wearing a tuxedo
Actor Regina King opened up about the 2022 death of her son Ian Alexander Jr., right, in an interview published Thursday. (Phil Mccarten / Invision / Associated Press)

To Regina King, "grief is a journey." This week, that journey included her first interview about her late son Ian Alexander Jr., who died in 2022.

"I'm a different person now than I was," King reflected in her first TV conversation in two years. "I understand that grief is love that has no place to go. I know that it's important to me to honor Ian in the totality of who he is, speak about him in the present because he's always with me."

The Oscar- and Emmy-winning actor, 53, reflected on the "joy and happiness that [Ian] gave all of us" and how she has worked to accept his death in a vulnerable conversation with "Good Morning America" host Robin Roberts published Thursday. Alexander, a DJ who often accompanied his mother to red carpet events, died by suicide on Jan. 21, 2022. He was 26.

Read more: Ian Alexander Jr., only child of Regina King, dies at 26

“Our family is devastated at the deepest level by the loss of Ian,” a 2022 family statement shared by a King spokesman said. “He is such a bright light who cared so deeply about the happiness of others. Our family asks for respectful consideration during this private time.”

The "Watchmen" star shares Alexander with ex-husband and record producer Ian Alexander Sr. They divorced in 2007 after 10 years of marriage.

King, who is promoting her Shirley Chisholm biopic "Shirley," said Alexander struggled with his mental health before his death. He was depressed and had gotten "tired of talking" after trying mental health treatments including therapy, psychiatric aid and various programs. Wiping tears from her eyes, King told Roberts, "I was so angry with God. Why would that weight be given to Ian?"

After her son's death, King stayed mostly away from the public spotlight, beyond appearances at various Hollywood events. Most recently, King served as a presenter at the 96th Academy Awards on Sunday and wore an orange gown — a nod to her son's favorite color.

Read more: Regina King pours her heart, soul and a career's worth of black women's experiences into 'If Beale Street Could Talk'

Two years away allowed King to mourn and come to terms with her son's death. The "If Beale Street Could Talk" star told Roberts, "I respect and understand" Alexander's decision to take his own life, "that he didn't want to be here anymore."

King may be a beloved actor with awards and decades of credits to her name, but she said, "my favorite thing about myself is being Ian's mom," even if that now comes with a few emotional caveats.

With "Shirley," which she dedicates to Alexander, the "227" star is ready to reenter the spotlight. She said she understands that the guilt and sadness of losing her son "will never go away," but after two years of processing her grief, she has embraced another perspective.

"The sadness is a reminder of how much he means to me," she told Roberts.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.