For Da'Vine Joy Randolph, drama is no harder to do than comedy, and vice versa. "When you’re doing something comedic, that's not something anyone should take lightly," she muses. "I remember being in clown class in school, and it was so hard and required such vulnerability."
"Because you're basically just standing there saying, 'Let me make you laugh.' You know how vulnerable that is?!" exclaims the actress, who graduated from the Yale School of Drama. "I think that's why a lot of directors want to work with comedians."
Randolph was nominated for a Tony Award in 2012 for her performance as Oda Mae Brown in Ghost: The Musical. (The same role that won Whoopi Goldberg an Oscar in 1991.) She broke out onscreen in 2019's Dolemite Is My Name, playing the legendary comedian Lady Reed opposite Eddie Murphy's Rudy Ray Moore.
"Working with Eddie Murphy, I was astonished by the depth of his talent," Randolph says. "He's an amazing listener, and I would sometimes get caught up in that. He would almost snatch me away when I was in a scene with him. Being able to affect someone in that way? That’s the real deal."
It was Randolph's performance in Dolemite Is My Name that caught the eye of Oscar-winning filmmaker Alexander Payne. When he was casting his '70s-set dramedy, The Holdovers — about three lonely people stuck at a New England boarding school over Christmas break — he asked for Randolph by name.
Randolph's performance in The Holdovers has earned the actress her first Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. "It's not easy to be an actor," she said of the recognition. "It's a lot of time and investment put into this craft, and so to have a moment like this, where we're amongst people who I've admired and people who I have looked up to for so many years, to see me in this light is just unbelievable, truly."
Below, Randolph shares with A.frame the five films that she looks to for inspiration, including the Oscar-winning performance she holds up as her own personal gold standard.
This article was originally published on Nov. 28, 2023.
Directed by: Olivier Dahan | Written by: Isabelle Sobelman and Olivier Dahan
I love La Vie en Rose. Marion Cotillard's portrayal of Édith Piaf is such a beautiful example of sitting in the uncomfortable — of getting comfortable in the emotional discomfort. It's something I think about a lot, because in a very interesting way, she possessed great strength by being willing to go there and show that vulnerability onscreen. When those ballads came out of her mouth, you know the reason and the exact place where they come from emotionally.
By far, I think one of the most powerful scenes in cinema is the scene where she finds out her lover has died. They could have done that scene so many ways, but the fact that it's done almost like a Grecian play, where she goes throughout the whole house screaming for him? My heart was racing. I couldn't believe that. We know what's going to happen in that film, but I never in a million years thought that was the way they were doing to depict that moment, and the same goes for the film's ending. It's all about the execution of it.
What I really gained from watching Marion Cotillard in that film is the standard that I try to set for myself, which is the willingness to remove your ego and share what is. Because that's ultimately the only way to ensure that you're moving and healing somebody else with your work.
Directed by: Taylor Hackford | Written by: James L. White
I tend to put Ray and Ali together. I don't know why I've always coupled them in my mind, but there's just something very harrowing about what both those actors [Jamie Foxx and Will Smith] did in portraying those two men. I have so much respect for Black actors giving high-quality, high performances while retelling our stories. It's just so beautifully done in both those films, and they're incredibly epic. I love both of those movies.
Written and Directed by: Jessie Nelson
Corrina, Corrina was actually a big reference point for me for The Holdovers. It's a film about a platonic, interracial relationship that starts to grow into something slightly more. It's set around a decade earlier than The Holdovers, but it's also about unlikely people coming together to help one another in a time of grief. It really beautifully spotlights how grief allows you to be open and willing to try things that you wouldn't normally try. Similar to how our characters watch "The Newlywed Game" in The Holdovers, the characters in Corrina, Corrina watch "Queen for a Day" late at night together and have deep conversations with each other. All of those things about it really spoke to me.
Written and Directed by: Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano
The film I think of when I think of The Holdovers is The Intouchables. I am inconsolable whenever The Intouchables comes on. I literally fell in love with Omar Sy as an actor in that film. Last year, a project came across my desk, and they said that he was going to be a part of it. That was one of those rare instances where I was like, "I don't care what it is! Yes!"
I compare the film to The Holdovers, because it's about these two unlikely people coming together. There's such a softness and tenderness to it. They really take their time showing you how love and companionship can sometimes come in the most unexpected of ways.
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola | Written by: Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo
I have to put the Godfather movies on this list. I've always loved those films and, I mean, what can you say about The Godfather that hasn't already been said? It's a perfect film. I actually love all three of them, though. If I had to choose a favorite, I'd say The Godfather Part II, because story-wise, it's the most jam-packed.
The first film is beautiful, because it's really focused on gradually ramping things up and immersing you in its vast underground world, and then they hit you with all the action in Part II. So much happens in Part II. The Godfather Part III is probably my least favorite, and that's just because it's the ending, and I don't like watching that story end. But I love Part II. It's for sure my favorite of the trilogy.