Audiences first noticed acclaimed actress Da’Vine Joy Randolph for her Tony-nominated performance in 2012’s Ghost: The Musical. But it was her astounding breakout work in Craig Brewer’s Dolemite Is My Name that had film audiences sitting up and taking notice. Co-starring with Eddie Murphy, Randolph played Lady Reed, a single mother who joins Murphy’s Rudy Ray Moore as he makes an independent film focused on his own character Dolemite.
Randolph’s performance won over audiences and critics alike, and she followed up that role with other acclaimed turns in The United States vs. Billie Holiday as well as on television in High Fidelity and Only Murders in the Building.
But it’s her current role in Alexander Payne’s comedy The Holdovers that brings the best notices of Randolph’s career. Playing Mary, the head cook at the fictional New England boarding school Barton Academy, Randolph brings nuance and tenderness to a character that could easily emerge as a tired cliché in lesser hands. Mary quietly suffers the recent loss of her son in the Vietnam War while unexpectedly bonding with school curmudgeon Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) and student “holdover” Angus Tully (Dominic Sessa).
Randolph’s astounding performance has already received awards at the New York Film Critics Circle as well as the National Board of Review for Outstanding Supporting Actress.
Here, Randolph talks about reveling in the quiet spaces in Mary Lamb. She describes how she found the character outside of David Hemingson’s brilliant script and talks about how she’s able to communicate what feels like pages of dialogue with a handful of carefully calculated looks and gestures.
The Holdovers is in theaters nationwide and is available on video on demand.