Da'Vine Joy Randolph may have become a household name for her devastating turn as a grieving school cook in the acclaimed Alexander Payne dramedy The Holdovers, for which she already won a Golden Globe and is arguably the frontrunner to scoop up the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress this year. But the performer has been turning out stellar performances for years, including opposite frequent co-star and veritable comedy icon Eddie Murphy in films like Dolemite Is My Name and On the Come Up.
In a recent interview with The Guardian, the 2024 Oscar nominee discussed what she has learned from working with comedy legends like Murphy, as well as Steve Martin and Martin Short, both of whom she co-stars alongside in the Hulu whodunnit series Only Murders in the Building:
Number one is coming prepared. Oh, and knowing that you are enough. I think because they’re legends, a lot of times people are intimidated or scared. It’s like if it was a checkers match, let’s say they are the uncontested winner. They’re bored to a certain degree because they’ve beat all these people. And so when someone new comes along and is like, I’m gonna give you a run for your money, they get so excited. Because it’s new energy, and there’s a lot that I’ve found they want to share with and impart to you.
She also revealed a specific skill that she took away from working with Murphy on 2019's Dolemite Is My Name, an approach that she later utilized in playing The Holdovers matriarch Mary Lamb, opposite Paul Giamatti and Dominic Sessa:
I think to pace yourself, which I definitely applied here – don’t blow your wad. So in doing all this funny stuff, when he’s off-screen he’s quiet, reserving that energy. And then I did the opposite. I stayed happy, happy, happy off-screen to be able to go in there and be more serious.
The approach clearly worked. Though her The Holdovers character is very different than Randolph's other memorable roles, like Cherise in High Fidelity or Destiny in The Idol, the actress beautifully taps into the "fragility" and "tenderness" of the character, whom she talked about with The Guardian:
There’s a fragility, a tenderness; she’s a born leader, a caregiver, a nurturer. This idea that she’s flawed, but there’s still great love and hope within her, whether she’s aware of it or not.
Randolph's portrayal of the prep-school cafeteria manager in The Holdovers not only earned her acclaim from critics and moviegoers alike, but also from fellow celebrities. Oppenheimer star Emily Blunt has been a championing the actress's performance throughout the awards season, despite the fact that the two have frequently been going head-to-head in the Supporting Actress categories.
Da'Vine Joy Randolph is next up for trophies at the BAFTAs, the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Independent Spirit Awards later this month, with the Academy Awards to follow in March. If you want to still haven't checked out her soulful performance in The Holdovers, you can stream the movie with a Peacock subscription.