Da’Vine Joy Randolph on cultivating the career she wants: ‘You gotta have balls’ 

The Oscar-nominated actress opened up about her journey through Hollywood on the latest episode of "Acting Up."

Da’Vine Joy Randolph is a force in Hollywood, and the actress is finally getting the attention and respect she deserves. Her role in “The Holdovers” earned her a best supporting actress Oscar nomination, and she pulled off another powerful performance as Mahalia Jackson in “Rustin.”

She joined theGrio for the latest episode of “Acting Up with Cortney Wills” to discuss what she brought to the role of Mary Lamb in “The Holdovers” and how she’s carving out the career she wants, on her own terms. 

Da’Vine Joy Randolph attends the 2024 EE BAFTA Film Awards at The Royal Festival Hall on Feb. 18, 2024, in London, England. (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images)

When it came to her decision to star opposite Paul Giamatti in the film directed by Alexander Payne, Randolph recognized the potential immediately. 

“In looking at the script, the first thing that I noticed was that there was actual stuff for me to do on the page. Oftentimes, I have to be having ongoing conversations with the creatives of how we can potentially fill out this role more – not for the sake of more lines, but to be authentic, to be accurate, to have, you know, a fully realized, multi-complex character,” she explains.

“I don’t have to come in and fight. I respect and revere all the characters that I play because I understand how priceless, invaluable it is to have this opportunity. My biggest thing that I’m always potentially griping on is just, quality,” she said. “So to have been able to create this role at this level of filmmakers and creatives with the likes of Paul Giamatti and Alexander Payne, I was so overjoyed that the world, the critics, the elite as well, you know, would see this role being done.”

She also acknowledges that there aren’t many roles of this magnitude available to Black women. 

“There’s only a few women in this industry that get this opportunity thus far, the Tarajis, the Violas…That’s insane to me,” she said. “So I’m grateful to be able to portray a beautiful character at this level of platform.” 

While she’s been heralded as a breakout star this year, Da’Vine Joy Randolph is not new to this game. 

Dynamic and skilled, she’s capable of playing many different kinds of characters. She voiced Sheila B in “Trolls World Tour.” She was Rosalyn in the “United States v. Billie Holiday,” and she voiced Mama Luna in “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.” She starred alongside Eddie Murphy in “Dolemite Is My Name” and had a big role on the ill-fated TV drama “The Idol.” 

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The 37-year-old Yale alum credits her skillset as well as her mindset for cultivating a career full of roles she’s proud of.

“It all comes down to choice. And you gotta have balls, or you gotta have ovaries, as we should actually say. Because it’s going to take strategy, she said. “It takes the willingness and the confidence to believe in yourself and your goals to stand your ground.” 

“I take so much time in looking at the script, the roles. The reason why I did “The Idol” is because I try to keep it as diverse as possible. The people that I look up to are predominantly white women in regards to the opportunities that they get to portray. Let me be very clear in that, and what I notice is range.”

As a plus-sized, Black woman in Hollywood, it’s an even more competitive world in every aspect, and Randolph was aware of that challenge even as a student. 

“Yale was my first audition. I say this to say I was a baby. I knew nothing of acting….Every two weeks, every Friday on the dot, I would go into my dean’s office and be like, ‘listen, this is the standard that I want’ because I was the only Black female in my class,” she recounts.

“I used to be crying in his office being like, ‘I don’t want to be the Pine Sol lady.’ I don’t want to be like a cartoon, a stereotype. That scared me. It scared me,” she says. 

Da’Vine Joy Randolph stars as Mary Lamb in director Alexander Payne’s “The Holdovers,” a Focus Features release. (Photo by Seacia Pavao / © 2023 FOCUS FEATURES LLC)

“Being a curvy, Black woman, that then was somehow, some way of, then I won’t be taken seriously.” she said, “Or I’m only in comedic roles, or the joke. I am the subject of the joke.”

Fortunately, Randolph has managed to maintain her vision for her career, and it’s paying off. 

“It’s a thing where you gotta stay true to yourself and be clear on what it is that you want to go for. And don’t let anyone persuade you otherwise, because then when it hits, it hits,” she said. “I don’t want people to start getting comfortable where they feel like they’ve got me pegged. Let’s shake it up.”

Check out the whole conversation on the latest episode of  “Acting Up with Cortney Wills.”  

TheGrio will be reporting live from the 96th Academy Awards on Sunday, March 10, so check back for more Oscars coverage.

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