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Da’Vine Joy Randolph Makes Oscar History with Her Heartfelt Performance in ‘The Holdovers

“I pray to God I get to do this more than once.” – Da’Vine Joy Randolph

Have you ever marveled at an actor’s ability to completely transform into a character? Well, Da’Vine Joy Randolph is one of those magical performers who can do just that! With a career spanning over a decade, she’s lit up both the stage and the screen with her incredible talent.

From her Tony-nominated debut in “Ghost: The Musical” to her scene-stealing roles in “The Lost City”, “High Fidelity”, and “Only Murders in the Building”, Randolph has proved time and time again that she’s a force to be reckoned with. Her knack for versatility and her ability to bring depth to her characters have earned her widespread acclaim. Additionally, her performance in “The Idol” was universally praised as the standout element in the otherwise divisive HBO drama.

However, it was her performance in Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers”, set in 1970 that really showed off her range. Playing the grieving Mary Lamb, Randolph, a grieving cafeteria worker at a New England boarding school for her son, who was recently killed in the Vietnam War, Randolph had to slow down her typically fast-paced demeanor and embrace a whole new approach to acting. Immersing herself in the character’s world, she mastered a period-specific Black Boston accent and even learned to smoke convincingly for the role.

She said, “This character is so different from me,” Randolph explains. “I’m the kind of person who’s everywhere all at once — I think and speak fast. But this woman has a very methodical rhythm to her, and she’s going through a moment of grief and personal devastation.”

Image Credit: Miramax

Tasked with mastering a period-specific Black Boston accent and learning to smoke convincingly for her role, Randolph immersed herself in her character’s world.

Opposite Paul Giamatti, with whom she shares a deep professional bond, Randolph delves into themes of otherness and empathy, highlighting the transformative power of connection and community amidst personal turmoil.

On an episode of award-winning Variety Awards Circuit Podcast, Randolph discussed her thought-provoking process of building her character in the film.The Yale graduated actress picks her roles very carefully and not afraid to ask for what she wants.

Of her roles, she says – it has to reach people, or else it doesn’t work for her. She also said it’s important for people of color to perform well in any role.

“My stride for authenticity and quality allows there to be a new standard set where we can tell universal stories in Black and brown bodies,” she said. “It can be accepted and enjoyed among the masses. It’s not just Black TV or Black movies for Black people.”

And did you know? Randolph’s attention to detail extends to her character’s wardrobe too! She wanted Mary’s clothes to speak to the audience, for them to see and think of her as their Aunty. She said they looked at fabric swatches, feeling the textures. She said when she looks at the movie now, every single thing Mary Lamb wears shows up the textures.

Fun fact – She wore her grandmother’s glasses in the film and as a heartfelt tribute to Black women who have left a lasting impression on her. Along with her grandmother’s glasses, Randolph said she used other accessories in the film as a “love letter to Black women.”

“I knew this would be a difficult role to take on. It was going to require a lot of vulnerability from me,” she said. “I knew (my grandmother) was someone in my life that would allow me to get back to my center. But it was many other women.

I did a lot of research and did a little subliminal messages with hairdos, details and accessories. Beyond the glasses, the homage to women from “The Jeffersons” I included all these women who left an impression on me.”

With her incredible talent and dedication to her craft, it’s no wonder Randolph recently made history by becoming the tenth Black actress to win an Oscar in her category. Joining the ranks of icons like Viola Davis and Lupita Nyong’o, Octavia Spencer, Mo’Nique, Jennifer Hudson, Ariana DeBose, Regina King, Whoopi Goldberg and Hattie McDaniel, she’s paving the way for a new generation of performers and proving that great storytelling knows no bounds.

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