Please forgive Da’Vine Joy Randolph if she must stifle the occasional yawn. When she hopped on a video interview in late September, the omnipresent, extremely busy and still barely jet-lagged actress had only just returned from Colombia, where she was filming “Shadow Force,” an motion movie for the director Joe Carnahan.
Despite the exotic locale and a satisfying work experience, the otherwise upbeat Randolph emphasized that she was completely happy to be back on her home turf in Los Angeles. “Even on a vacation,” she said, “after the two-week mark, irrespective of how amazing the holiday is, you’re like, I’m ready.”
Randolph, 36, has been on a relentless skilled pace for greater than a decade now, playing a spread of memorable roles in theater, film and tv. She recently co-starred within the drama “On the Come Up,” the directorial debut of Sanaa Lathan, playing Pooh, the supportive but no-nonsense aunt of an aspiring teenage rapper (Jamila C. Gray).
Why Randolph keeps turning up alongside the likes of Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy and Martin Short, she said, is anyone’s guess. “It’s actually quite a conundrum,” she said. “I feel I actually have a very good humorousness, but I don’t consider myself funny.”
Whatever kind of story she is telling, Randolph said, she often takes an identical approach to her roles: “I actually just concentrate on their dedication — everyone wants something.”
She explained, “When people get into extreme situations or they need something bad enough, hilarity can ensue since the stakes are only that top. To the viewer, it will possibly be comical. To me, I’m like in a Greek tragedy over here.”
Somewhat than be remembered as a comedic or a dramatic performer, Randolph said she desires to be called “a transformational actor”: “I never need to get pigeonholed or known for one thing. I don’t want people to give you the option to complete my sentences.”
Randolph shared the stories behind just a few of her most memorable roles. These are edited excerpts from that conversation.
‘Ghost the Musical’
Within the stage adaptation of the 1990 movie, which ran on Broadway in 2012, Randolph was forged as Oda Mae Brown, the psychic played within the film by Whoopi Goldberg.
That was my first job ever, and it began in a short time. Like, roller coaster plunging down — there was no windup. You booked it [whooshing sound]. Now my life is fortunately and unfortunately like that — that may be the character of what it’s. But to be thrown in, in that way, was quite a lot of getting used to. After we discovered that “Ghost” was closing, I remember saying to my agents, “I need to do a movie and a TV show and a straight play.” And I booked one in all Robin Williams’s last movies [“The Angriest Man in Brooklyn”], an episode of “The Good Wife” and an original play at Atlantic Theater Company [“What Rhymes With America”]. I used to be like, whoa. Good manifesting.
Randolph played Charmonique, a co-worker of the pharmaceutical firm staffers played by Karen Gillan and John Cho, on this short-lived ABC cult sitcom from 2014.
I got to learn all of the ins and outs of network television. After an episode was released, I remember the producers being like: “The numbers, the numbers, what are the numbers? What are the rankings?” I used to be like, whoa, that’s a complete thing. You probably did the pilot, then after you get 13 [episodes], you then discover if you happen to get the back nine. Which we didn’t on that show. And — because people ask me on a regular basis — I genuinely don’t know why. Our co-workers don’t know why. I actually have frolicked with Karen Gillan. We don’t know why. I promise you there’s no secret I’m withholding.
On the Fox hip-hop soap opera that resulted in 2020, Randolph played Poundcake, a onetime fellow prison inmate of Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson).
They built a complete soundstage and turned it right into a prison, and it was only a two-hander with Taraji and me. It felt like getting back to the basics, where I actually got to dig in and play a distinct kind of character. We were almost a complete other show inside that show. Even the opposite actors were like, “How come you get to do all these things?” Craig [Brewer], the director of “Dolemite,” was directing me in one in all the episodes for “Empire.” I used to be like, “You’re really cool to work with. Do you’ve got any interesting stuff down the pike?” He said nothing. After which I’m going to the [“Dolemite”] audition, and I’m like, “Craig!” He was like, [sheepishly] “Oh, I didn’t know.”
‘Dolemite Is My Name’
This 2019 comedic biopic starred Eddie Murphy because the stand-up and Blaxploitation actor Rudy Ray Moore and Randolph as Moore’s “Dolemite” screen partner Lady Reed.
“Dolemite” modified the trajectory of my profession. On my end, the work isn’t changing. My process, my way in — I don’t save myself for the massive roles and phone it in for all the things else. However the collaborative energy allowed my character to have an area to be seen and heard. Eddie could be very meticulous together with his work and this was a passion project for him, but he was so generous. Interestingly enough, I had booked it — deal signed and all the things — after which they were like, uh, we don’t know. They made me re-audition, which was intense. However the gift in it was, if that didn’t occur, I wouldn’t have felt as confident and forthright. I used to be capable of come to work being like, That is what I actually have to supply. Before I might have been like, [mousy voice] “What do you’re thinking that, Mr. Murphy?” Now I used to be like, I do know who she is and what they need from her.
‘The Lost City’
On this yr’s hit comedy, Sandra Bullock starred as a romance novelist caught up in an unexpected jungle adventure and Randolph as her intrepid publisher.
That was like my first true work-cation. It was wild. The last scene of the movie, where we were all on the beach, that’s where we lived. If the camera turned back, you’d see the hotel we were staying at. The travel bans were just starting to return up from Covid, so for quite a lot of us, we were also very excited to be working. While you’re literally on the beach, it’s pretty hard to be a jerk. A number of it needed to do with Sandra Bullock and the way she just took care of the actors.
Sandra never got diva-ish or distanced herself, like, I’m over here and also you’re down here. We were all in it together. I used to be having fun with the hair department. The moment I’m going into the jungle, I knew my hair was going to get increasingly more frizzy. It became like a game — each scene could be like, OK, so how frizzy is it?
‘Only Murders within the Constructing’
Because the resourceful Detective Williams on this Hulu comedy series, Randolph often crosses paths with the amateur sleuths played by Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez.
That job, one thousand percent, was due to “Dolemite.” Steve Martin told me he saw “Dolemite,” was very impressed — “You held your individual,” that whole thing — and that was a straight offer from him and the showrunner. It’s such a beautiful working environment. Lovely hours. You’re out by like 6, 7 o’clock. You go have dinner, a life. And simply to be around Steve Martin and Martin Short — they still have this childlike anticipation and excitement, prefer it was their first project. That blows me away, each time.
Williams is rattling good at her job and has a crazy case that she’s attempting to crack. She’s aggressive and that has made her successful. Then these three civilians get in the course of things, trying to unravel it for her, alongside her, regardless of her. That makes her job harder. But in the method, she learns possibly it’s OK to not work by yourself on a regular basis. She’s coming to terms with it and it’s awkward and uncomfortable. That’s where the comedy is available in.
‘On the Come Up’
Randolph’s character, Aunt Pooh, is the streetwise sister to Jay, an absentee mother played by Lathan, the film’s director, and the mentor to her niece, an aspiring rapper played by Gray.
Once I discovered about that job, I used to be filming Netflix’s “Rustin,” playing Mahalia Jackson, so I’m giving full Christian, Southern Baptist auntie. To then go to that type of auntie really intrigued me. But especially in telling Black-specific narratives from Black voices, there all the time must be a message. Even with “Empire,” I don’t care if I’m an inmate, but there must be a positive message that we grow and learn from. You see throughout the movie all of the roles that Aunt Pooh was to her: I used to be her parent, and she or he was my niece and my best friend, if not just a little sister. Which I feel keeps their relationship very complex. As tough as Aunt Pooh is, she has this gushing heart for her family and for her niece, which was really quite special.
The physical transformation was quite significant, and in a brief period of time. Once I got to set, the costume just wasn’t quite hitting it. However the costume designer was really cool — I used to be like, “Do you trust me? I do know who this person is and I can show you higher than I can explain it to you.” She was like, “Sure, no problem.” And so, for 2 days, I went shopping here in L.A. and got all of the costumes. Literally all the things that I wear, that’s what we pulled and acquired. The moment I put it on, I used to be like, oh, OK. While you’re going from movie to movie, quite a lot of times, actors are wigged. But Sanaa Lathan, who had done a movie all about hair [“Nappily Ever After”], was like, “I feel you actually should rock your individual hair.” I used to be like, no, no, I don’t need to do it. However the moment that we did the look, I used to be like, rattling it, that’s it. Being that it was my very own hair, I needed to rock my hair like that on and off the set. The eye you get from that — I couldn’t be more different from it. I’m not method and I don’t normally subscribe to that. Nevertheless it allowed me to remain in it and understand her.