Da’Vine Joy Randolph
Photo by Michael Rowe

Da’Vine Joy Randolph: “I want a continuous development”

Short Profile

Name: Da'Vine Joy Randolph
DOB: 21 May 1986
Place of birth: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Occupation: Actor

Ms. Randolph, was it always your dream to be an actor?

I actually started out doing music! That ended up not working out in that moment, and so while I was in college, my mother had recommended me to switch to the theater department because most of my credits would transfer. So it was a much more practical thing as opposed to a true interest, I guess. I sort of came to acting when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do next. But my interest began to grow in time, and I was made aware that I naturally had a gift in that area. I've been pursuing it ever since.

I love that your mother recommended it — often parents aren’t so keen on their kids becoming actors.

I think my mom knew that I was artistically inclined! You know, I’ve always loved fashion and putting outfits together, it was a sense of expressing myself. Growing up, we didn’t have much but my mom and aunts were very thrifty and good at getting good deals with clothes and accessories… I went to private school, I was always in uniform, so accessories were a big deal for me. It forced me to think outside the box, to figure out ways to express myself. So my shoes or jean jackets had pins on them, I had barrettes and stuff that I put in my hair; that was my way of defining myself and my creativity. So my mom knew I had that creative spirit.

“I’m always looking for ways to play diverse characters and switch things up. I think it’s a good way for us as actors to stretch our muscles. I don’t want for it to ever feel like the viewer has me figured out.’

Have you kept that experimental nature in terms of the roles you’re seeking out? Are you trying to find work that helps you express yourself in different ways?

Sure, I'm always looking for ways to play diverse characters and switch things up. I think it's a good way for us as actors to stretch our muscles. I don't want for it to ever feel like the viewer has me figured out or that they know my type or whatever. I’ve realize that the people that I look up to, they don't play one thing. They have very diverse resumes. But the thing I look for most, or that I guess links my roles together, is quality.

In terms of the film’s story, you mean?

I just want to be sure the character I'm playing is multidimensional, that they have a fully realized life, one in which they have an emotional and personal arc all on their own. I want a great director to helm the ship, and wonderful actors who are equally devoted to their characters and the world in which this story is being told. Which is asking a lot — but that's what I would like.

Your recent breakthrough role in The Holdovers certainly had all those elements.

I think sometimes you catch lightning in a bottle! And I think that was the case with The Holdovers, we all truly got along. They’re good people first and foremost, people that just really cared, so there was a support system that we gave to each other as we went through this process. You can't really force those things! Sometimes on a film set, you're just acting on top of acting. That is the nature of the business, if you think about it, you’re just strangers, complete strangers, and we have to miraculously get along to tell a story. It may not immediately gel in that way, you know?

What was it specifically that drew you to playing Mary?

To be honest, I think it was her ability to juggle many things at once, in spite of her situation or having a bad day, she still had to push on and persevere because people are relying on her or are in need of her. She’s listening ear despite going through her own thing, but in a way, it almost takes her mind off of her own situation. You know how sometimes people can give amazing advice to friends, but they don't apply it to themselves? I think she's a little bit like that, and I know I can sometimes definitely be a bit like that too. My own situation can feel so overwhelming or be bogging me down, but I can still turn that switch off and be there for a friend who calls and says they’re going through something.

“I feel like on each job, I take a bit away from each person, each project, and then I layer it in and apply it to myself and my next potential gig.”

Apparently working on this film was almost like being in school. Why was that?

Oh, just the care that was given, the detail, the text analysis, the deep character development…. It felt like all of the work that I do privately in my roles over the years, this was given time and precedence in every department on The Holdovers, from top to bottom. And that felt quite great because usually I'm just at home quietly making sure these things are put into place. So when you have a project where they create an environment for you to do that, it’s really special. A lot of it was also reinstating things that I had learned in my educational process of becoming an actor. Things where I realized, “Oh, yes, that is important. Let's continue to keep those things locked in.” I think I learned how to take care of myself as an artist, especially when dealing with potentially difficult material, to just keep on pushing on.

Because this role really demanded that you keep your grief at the surface, right?

Yes, so one thing I did have to do was make sure that in between the takes, I allowed myself to have a good time, to giggle, to laugh, whatever, because I knew if I stayed stuck in that grief, it would not be a good scenario for me. But I think sometimes, it’s not going be easy, but it's worth it. It’s rewarding. I'm grateful to just keep on going further, to learn things. I feel like on each job, I take a bit away from each person, each project, and then I layer it in and apply it to myself and my next potential gig.

You want to be in a constant state of evolution.

Yeah, I want a continuous development. It's interesting, you could be doing anything for several years, and it takes time for people to become aware or acclimated to you. And that’s actually great because I think it allows you the chance to make mistakes and to define who you are as an artist, alter who you are, get to know yourself. So right now, this is just a really lovely moment. I’m grateful that some of my characters have stuck and impacted people to variant degrees. And I’m happy that this role as Mary has been resonating with so many people in a deep and visceral way.