Da’Vine Joy Randolph, the methodical actress (and almost opera singer) who did not want to be one and is already pursuing the Oscar | People

Many of those who today see Da’Vine Joy Randolph, that imposing black woman, tall and big, with long hair, with a normally serious expression, arrive on the red carpets of Los Angeles, where she walks in architectural dresses, large sunglasses and a halo of old Hollywood glamour, they keep wondering who he is. Who is she, the one who week after week for the last few months has gotten on stage to, one after another, accumulate awards. But that’s because the trees of glamor sometimes make it impossible to see the forest of reality. Those who so often try to remember what that face sounds like to them is because, precisely, they have seen it many times. Because beyond the designer clothes and long eyelashes of these months, Randolph’s career has been in the making for a long decade. They have seen her a lot in film and television, some even in musicals. Next day the 10th, if a meteorite doesn’t fall – and with the permission of Emily Blunt, America Ferrera, Jodie Foster and Danielle Brooks – you will see her win an Oscar. And there will be no excuses for not remembering her name.

Randolph’s (Philadelphia, 37 years old) career is taking a definitive acceleration in recent months thanks to her role as cook Mary Lamb in Those who stay. But it is exactly that, the last step of a long, stable path, built with care and dedication, based on good offers and also very thoughtful decisions for almost 12 years. And she didn’t even want to be an actress. She became very angry when she was forced to follow that path. Young Da’Vine was studying to be an opera singer. Since she was a child she had a wonderful voice, especially for gospel, and for years she sang in the school choir of her town, Hershey, Pennsylvania, the same one where the chocolate factory of the same name was founded. In fact, her first steps at local art schools and at Temple University were to graduate in vocal performance; She saw herself as an R&B star, and he mentored her more like an opera singer. But after that first university step she achieved a scholarship at the prestigious Yale. She intended to go to the downtown conservatory, but due to an administrative error she was kicked out of the program in her first year. Since she had a scholarship and wanted to graduate on time, her mother advised her to enroll in theater in the meantime. “She was literally crying, screaming and kicking in administration: ‘Please, I don’t want to be an actress, my mother told me I have to do it,’” she recalled in an interview with the magazine Essence two years ago. “And that’s how it all started. I am very grateful to my mother, but I never, ever wanted or desired any of this. Act yes, in a certain sense, but never like this.”

She made a virtue of necessity and took advantage of her stay at Yale, in addition to spending a summer at Oxford University, where she discovered Shakespeare and fell in love with theater. From there, like every applicant, she went to New York. Sharing a flat and working as a nanny, the days passed, the money flowed and her desperation took over. She was about to leave for Los Angeles to try her luck in the pilot season for series when she found out that there was a vacancy in the musical of Ghost. She was up for the role of Oda Mae Brown, the 45-year-old psychic played by Whoopi Goldberg in the 1990 film. It was 2011, she was 25 years old and had nothing to lose. She wasn’t even nervous about getting it, and she got it. Not even she believed it. But her fate dealt her another fate: the actress who played Brown in the London musical had an accident and she had to go and replace her. In just five days she had to learn the role and settle in the United Kingdom. She worked on it for two months. She returned to New York and, just two days later, she began rehearsals. The musical grossed more than $13 million and, for her first professional role, she was nominated for a Tony for best supporting actress.

From there, everything was similar. Step by step. It is not a newcomer: almost fifty titles in a decade. His first appearances in series were in The Good Wife, This Is Us,Selfie, veep, empire, already with seven chapters… and then Eddie Murphy crossed his path. The comedy star had always pursued the idea of ​​starring in a film about the considered godfather of rap, the singer, actor and promoter of the films of the blaxplotation with black actors Rudy Ray Moore, nicknamed Dolemite. She pulled it off in 2019, casting Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Lady Reed, her companion, for her I am Dolemite. That was a boom for her, because then two people who changed her life saw her performance: Steve Martin and Alexander Payne.

Da’Vine Joy Randolph arriving at the Spirit Independent Film Awards in Santa Monica, California on February 25, 2024.NINA PROMMER (EFE)

Martin, creator and protagonist of the series Only murders in the building, cast her as exhausted detective Donna Williams, who tries to stop (and sometimes help) Martin himself, Selena Gomez and Martin Short. Meanwhile, she continued starring in series (High Fidelity either The Idolcanceled after much controversy) and films (United States vs. Billie Holiday; The lost Cityfor which she always praises her partner and protagonist, Sandra Bullock), until her great role arrived: that of Mary Lamb in Those who stay. Payne has been thanked on more than one occasion for some of this season’s awards. In those of the actors union he recognized his “trust and collaboration”: “You are the true dream of every actor.”

As she has said in several interviews throughout this awards season—in which she has achieved that difficult balance between being omnipresent and not saturating the viewer or critic—Payne trusted her during filming, in her judgment and her perfectionism. . The director, for example, sent him a bunch of cartons of cigarettes before filming so he could learn to smoke. And she did it. When he explained to her that she had to wear the curlers in a scene where she was cooking, because it was Christmas and it was something intimate, she refused: “That’s not who we are.” Payne argued that her mother did it, but she refused: “As long as Mary is at this school, I’m cooking. “I told her that she would only put the curlers on me alone in my room,” she said in one Interview with Refinery29. “What I give Alexander credit for is that he was like, ‘Okay, I hadn’t thought of that, thank you.'” She insisted that she not be too kitschy with the cook’s clothes, that she keep her in uniform, because she was a strong, professional woman from the seventies. She also asked him to take shots of her character cooking. “It was important to validate it,” she commented in W Magazine. “In his head, he runs a Michelin-starred restaurant in the basement of a school,” he said. “The best thing was that we could have these conversations. There were no rejections. And I applaud it, because they didn’t have to do it. “I’ve experienced many situations where they definitely haven’t.” She defines herself as a “strategist” in the roles she chooses, “especially as a black woman,” she says, seeking to ensure that they are full of nuances and do not remain on the surface. And she fights for it with everyone in front of her.

Da'Vine Joy Randolph in her role as 'Those Who Remain'.
Da’Vine Joy Randolph in her role as ‘Those Who Remain’.Miramax (ZUMAPRESS.com / Cordon Press)

That level of detail with her Mary Lamb has crowned her in these awards. She always comes to the carpet seriously, as if that were not her place, and little by little, when she greets other colleagues or chats with them at the nominees table, she begins to let go. She has explained that for her the awards are something important, that she prepares the clothes and the look complete in advance and with care, and she is one of the few who does not play pretend and improvise on stage. She always carries little cards with a few lines of what he wants to tell. Logical, yes, but striking today. “I did it about an hour ago…” he commented with The Hollywood Reporter upon his arrival at the Spirit Awards, where he also won, of course, on February 25. “It’s fresh in my heart, and that’s exactly what I want to say. “I just write it down to make sure I can appropriately articulate how I feel, but it all comes from deep within.”

Da'Vine Joy Randolph, in the press room after winning the Actors Union Award for her role in 'Those Who Remain', on February 24, 2024.
Da’Vine Joy Randolph, in the press room after winning the Actors Union Award for her role in ‘Those Who Remain’, on February 24, 2024.Jordan Strauss (AP)

Regarding the Oscar, she states that she does not expect anything, that she is just “happy to be invited in that room.” As she says, with a solid dramatic education at Yale, it would be absurd for her to choose projects just for the awards. “I have a great background; Humbly, I have good taste,” she told reporters after the Spirit. Which makes her look for characters in which to investigate, delve deeper. After the BAFTAs (yes, she also won it) she assured that for her making films is “almost a mission, a form of activism.” “The idea of ​​being on a screen and what all that represents when you see me matters, a lot. And that is already winning.” According to her, this “gift from God” of acting is her way of giving something back to the community. “And now I’m grateful that a lot of people see it. What now entails recognition? Great thanks. “I feel blessed by it.”

That is why he is not afraid of failures. The joys will come. She mockingly states that, if she prepares a path, if she believes that things are going to go one way… they happen just the opposite. She says that she has made pilots that never came out, movies that took years to be released, wonderful projects that were canceled. “It doesn’t come naturally, but you have to be comfortable with rejection and loss. I don’t know if it’s a good skill to develop, but you really have to like what you do, because there are a lot of no’s,” she said for the Oscars special issue of Vanity Fair, whose cover appears alongside stars like Natalie Portman and Bradley Cooper. Now that she is living her big moment, the best thing she can do is follow the advice, not at all simple although it may seem so, that her partner Meryl Streep once gave her: to go at her pace and stay present. She tries, she affirms that she hasn’t even had time to process it, but that she is happy to live it, to have her loved ones by her side. To her best friend, who is also her publicist, and to her mother. In fact, until a few days ago she was asking for some extra tickets for the Oscars, even if they were separate, or at the back, or she had to pay for them, anything. Her family had gotten angry at him for not inviting them. She has already gotten them. And everything indicates that they will see her lift it.

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