Skip to main content

Interview: Da'Vine Joy Randolph Dolemite Is My Name

Interview:
Da'Vine Joy Randolph
Dolemite Is My Name
Catch it in movie cinemas October 4, 2019
Stream it on Netflix October 25, 2019


As we meet Eddie Murphy's take on blaxploitation legend Rudy Ray Moore in Dolemite Is My Name, he's on the downside of his prime. He's middle-aged, selling records instead of making them, and creeping toward the edge of desperation. Still, the laughs and a relentless optimismn about what can still be hold him together. He's the has been who refuses to be a has been.
Eddie Murphy in Dolemite Is My Name - image courtesy of TIFF
Murphy's portrayal is spot on, and certainly one of the best performances of his career, if not the best. With its over the top 1970s visual sensibilities - all neon colours, platform heels, sequins and feathers - set against the streets of seedy old Hollywood, it would be easy for this film to slide into period parody. Muphy is the story's solid heart, as the man who can seemingly pull success out of less than ashes.

The movie got its world prmeiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2019. Directed by Craig Brewer, the movie features a large and star studded cast, including Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, Snoop Dogg, Chris Rock, and Wesley Snipes. Murphy also serves as one of three producers.

Just like the movie, after a string of careers, including stand-up, making RnB records, nightclub acts, and more, real-life Moore was working in a record store when he heard the street legend of a pimp. In the movie, he's Dolemite, the character that Moore eventually takes from the legend and makes his own to star in his brand new stand up act. What happened next is, as they say, history.

Da’Vine Joy Randolph plays Lady Reed, the other half of the movie's heart. Rudy comes across Lady Reed on a bad night as he's playing his stand-up routine. Seeing a spark in her that he recognizes in himself, he persuades her to join him up on stage. It's in their scenes together that the movie finds its emotional centre.
Dolemite Is My Name - image Courtesy of TIFF
Randolph came to acting by way of singing in her native Philadelphia. She garnered a Tony Award® Nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical Broadway in 2012 for her West End and Broadway debuts starring as Oda Mae Brown in Ghost the Musical.

She says the part came to her as a regular audition, but it was the strong script that hooked her interest. "What really got my attention was the description of this character," she says. Lady Reed is a strong character with a vulnerable side, and a consummate show woman as coaxed into her stage glory by Dolemite. But, a description was all she got. Randolph says the project was under an ultra secrecy ban at first, with no script to check out. She had been working on Empire's fourth season, but knew she wanted the role.

It took four auditions and callbacks. "It was a field of phenomenal women," she says. They'd given her one of Moore's House Party albums, where the character Lady Reed is based on is actually recorded. She had two days to memorize her parts, with the added responsibility of trying to get her right. "It's a whole other ballgame when you're playing a real person," she notes.

It made her a little nervous at first, when all she had to go on was a few recordings and scenes from Moore's movies. But, the movies gave her an idea of how to approach her physicality. "It was a good balance." Murphy had known the real life woman, and would give her insights into how she'd speak and the phrases she'd use.

The scenes of Murphy and Randolph together were the ones the script adds onto Moore's story to give the characters depth. Staying alive in the rocky show biz industry meant putting everything on the line for both characters, and they hold each other up. "It's a tricky thing," she says. "He sees this light in her."

One thing the movie portrays is the tight closeness of the actors and crew who worked on Dolemite/Moore's films, a feeling of community that she notes is rare in real life. Along with anything else, the movie is a kind of primer on how to DIY your way to success as a creative - know your audience, and stay true to them. Be willing to mortgage it all to get your work in front of people.

"He really believed in himself, even when every door was closed," she says. "If you really want it bad enough, you'll find a way. I think everyone deserves that."

In Moore's case, the gamble worked out spectacularly. After paying to successfully screen the movie out of his own pocket, he found a distributor who understood the burgeoning Black movie market of the 1970s, and went on to make several more.

The production looks fantastic, and Ruth E. Carter's costumes are nothing short of spectacular. Along with the eye popping costumes, the movie sports a great soundtrack of Motown and RnB. Word is that Netflix is pushing Dolemite Is My Name for an Oscar, or two or three or so. The movie is part of the streaming service's first set of new theatre-first releases, with a theatrical release on October 4, followed by streaming availability as of October 25.

Comments

What Else Is Hot This Week?

FACTORY presents World Premiere ACTS OF FAITH November 19 to 28 2020 - Free Livestream

 From a media release: World Premiere FACTORY presents  ACTS OF FAITH by David Yee Directed by Nina Lee Aquino Starring Natasha Mumba November 19 – 28, 2020 @ 7:30PM Streamed live for 6 performances Free of charge TORONTO (October 19, 2020) - To kick off its groundbreaking 2020/21 season, Factory presents the world premiere of acts of faith, by multi-award winning Asian Canadian playwright David Yee, directed by Nina Lee Aquino, and starring Natasha Mumba. Written specifically to be performed for a digital platform, acts of faith will stream live to audiences at home for six performances, November 19-28, 2020.  Thanks to the generous support of the TD Bank Group, admission is being offered entirely free of charge to audiences across the country and beyond. acts of faith tells a story about the power of faith, the inescapable persistence of our online identities, and the nature of truth in a digital age. The story follows Faith, a young woman who gets mistaken for a prophet. When a ques

Blues Single | Bushwick Blooze Band: Waiting (Independent / 20 October 2020)

Blues Single Bushwick Blooze Band: Waiting (Independent / 20 October 2020) Stream It From Your Fave Service Waiting is the latest in a string of singles released by Bushwick Blooze Band. The Brooklyn-based blues trio have been performing and recording the blues around the NYC area since 2018. Their first album "Cryin' for the L Train" was released in January 2019, and included covers of famous songs composed by their greatest influencers such as Little Richard, The Allman Brothers Band, Freddie King, and Eddie Vinson.  Bushwick Blooze Band is finishing up the production of their second album "Yes Dear" and unlike the previous cover record, this new album will be their first original contribution to the genres they love. Waiting is an upbeat blues track with a party kind of veneer over solid musicianship. What begins with a classic blues feel transforms into an extended psychadelic flavoured trip. Inventive guitar licks almost make you forget about the virtuosity

Blaise La Bamba & Kotakoli November 7th 2020 Online - PWYC

 From a media release: Batuki Music Society and Alliance Francaise Toronto present A virtual concert featuring Blaise La Bamba & Kotakoli November 7th 2020 at 8:00 PM Enjoy the concert from home! K inshasa’s vibrant nightlife has long been world-famous. It is home to the subculture known informally as the Society of Ambiance-Makers and Elegant People (SAPEUR), which has spread its influence through artists such as Papa Wemba. Blaise La Bamba is part of this scene. He has worked with some of the top names of Congolese music, in particular General Defao. I n 2018, Blaise La Bamba founded Kotakoli , an all-star collective of musicians that perform an energetic mix of Congolese rumba and soukous . In the company of Kotakoli, this veteran musician brings Congolese popular music back to the forefront, with spellbinding dances. The Details Date: Saturday November 7th, 2021  Blaise La Bamba and Kotakoli Virtual Concert Time: 8:00 PM Tickets: Pay what you can This concert is offered to you

Review: Night of the Kings / La Nuit des Rois by Philippe Lacôte

Review:  Night of the Kings La Nuit des Rois by Philippe Lacôte A France, Côte d'Ivoire, Canada and Senegal co-production Now Playing In The New York Film Festival ImageAfter Venice and the Toronto Film Festival, Philippe Lacôte's Night of the Kings has moved on to conquer New York City.  Image Courtesy of TIFF A young pickpocket (Koné Bakary), is incarcerated in the giant La MACA prison, the largest in Côte d’Ivoire. The prison offers a hostile atmosphere, where the guards have long given up keeping order and the prisoners run the show, albeit confined within the prison walls. They dance, sing, and mingle at will in a common area called The Jungle.  There is a violent power struggle between Lord Blackbeard (Steve Tientcheu), who runs things, and the younger leaders of other factions. Blackbeard is old and infirm, and he knows he can't hold on forever. But, he does want to hold on long enough to leave on his own terms.  Image courtesy of TIFF Blackbeard designates the new

Jazzy Pop: Shihori - Soul Trip (Independent / 4 September 2020)

Jazzy Pop: Shihori - Soul Trip (Independent / 4 September 2020) New York City based singer and songwriter Shihori's new single Soul Trip is atmospheric and ambient. Interesting rhythms and interwoven melodic vocal lines showcase jazzy harmonic progressions in a slow groove mode.  As a songwriter, she uses electronic effects with impeccable musical taste. As a singer, her flexible vocals range from a sweet soprano to a strong mid-range. A veteran of the Japanese pop scene, Shihori moved to New York City in 2018, a move she talks about in a media release. "I was so surprised when I came to NY for the first time. Independent and strong women are respected and there are lots of different preferences in music and style. I thought, 'oh my God! This place really accepts uniqueness and freedom! I didn't know there is a place like this totally different world that allows you to be yourself. Everybody looks so different. So many races, colors, cultures, fashion, ideas...I am so