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The Holdovers star Da'Vine Joy Randolph talks BAFTA win and why a fashion show invite made her cry

The actress won Best Supporting Actress at the BAFTAs

Da'Vine Joy Randolph attends the 2024 EE BAFTA Film Awards at The Royal Festival Hall in London.
The 2024 EE BAFTA Film Awards in London, UK - 18 Feb 2024
Nicky Morris
TV and film writer
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Following a triumphant awards sweep – last week's Best Supporting Actress BAFTA means an Oscar is the only one remaining – Da'Vine Joy Randolph, 37, hopes people will stop describing her performance in The Holdovers as a "breakthrough" role.

Her first big break, after all, was in 2011, appearing in the West End in London a mere six months after graduating from Yale University in the US with a master's in musical theatre.

Da'Vine Joy Randolph accepts her BAFTA Award© Getty
Da'Vine Joy Randolph won Best Supporting Actress at the BAFTAs

The classically trained opera singer had been cast to play psychic Oda Mae Brown in the Broadway version of Ghost: The Musical, but was suddenly asked to go to London and take over the role from Sharon D Clarke after she'd been injured.

When she did return to Broadway, her performance earnt her a Tony nomination and she's been a pretty big deal ever since, co-starring with Hollywood names including Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock, Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin.

Da'Vine Joy Randolph at the 2024 BAFTAs© Getty
Da'Vine picked up the gong for her performance in The Holdovers

But it's her performance as The Holdovers' school cook Mary Lamb, mourning the death of her son, that has melted even the stoniest of hearts.

WATCH: Da'Vine Joy Randolph stars alongside Paul Giamatti in The Holdovers

A Christmas release in many countries, The Holdovers was that rare holiday film that didn't rely on a saccharine script wrapped up in a mistletoe kiss.

"Part of what attracted me to this is that I was like: 'Oh, this can be an anthem for people that are going through a tough time for a large majority of the holiday season,'" Da'Vine says.

"Can you imagine being depressed and sad and you have to watch Jingle All the Way? It's insult to injury.

"I'm actually surprised no one's ever done something a little more realistic in this manner before."

Da'Vine Joy as Mary Lamb© Focus Features
Da'Vine as Mary Lamb in The Holdovers

Having spent much of her own youth living in a boarding school, albeit not an elite private one like in The Holdovers, Da'Vine felt right at home on the set.

She was 11 years old when she and her younger sister, Brittney, moved from Philadelphia to the Pennsylvania suburb of Hershey after her parents, Michael and Joyce, became houseparents at the Milton Hershey boarding school for disadvantaged students.

Da'Vine likens the experience to having dozens of brothers and sisters and says it was "awesome".

The Holdovers
 Dominic Sessa & Da'Vine Joy Randolph© Alamy Stock Photo
Da'Vine stars alongside Dominic Sessa inThe Holdovers

After joining her high school choir, she developed a serious interest in singing, originally aspiring to be an R&B singer but switching to classical music after being mentored by voice teacher Gwendolyn Lentz.

"She saw in me the potential of being a true performer or an opera singer and I developed a love for classical music," she says.

Describing Da'Vine as being like a daughter to her, Gwendolyn encouraged the youngster to follow her dreams – leading to her winning a full scholarship to Yale and even spending a summer at Oxford University studying Shakespeare. However, reality set in after graduation when Da'Vine moved to New York, going to auditions and working as a nanny when she ran low on money.

Da'Vine Joy Randolph attends the PatBO fashion show during New York Fashion Week - September 2023 on September 09, 2023 in New York City. © Getty Images
Da'Vine cried when she was invited to Schiaparelli's show at Paris Fashion Week

Ghost was the game-changer and she's gone on to star in shows including This is Us, Empire, High Fidelity and Only Murders in the Building, while on the big screen, she has featured in The Angriest Man in Brooklyn, Dolemite is My Name and The United States vs Billie Holiday, not to mention portraying Mahalia Jackson in biopic Rustin, also on this year's awards radar.

Today, she's traversing the globe during awards season, rubbing shoulders with fellow A-listers and sitting next to Jennifer Lopez at Schiaparelli's show at Paris Fashion Week. "I started crying when I was invited by Schiaparelli because I'm a curvy girl, so it's a big deal."

Da'Vine Joy Randolph attends the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 27, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California.© Getty Images
Da'Vine is nominated at the 2024 Oscars

Returning to her Hollywood home hours before the Oscar nominations, Da'Vine was sipping on soup with a small close circle of friends and Ella, her beloved French bulldog, when her name was called.

Her parents will be at her side on the big night, when she hopes to introduce them to her new friend and fellow Philadelphian, Bradley Cooper.

As the accolades pile up, she feels increasingly confident. "At least I feel comfortable in the ring," she says. "I'm no longer trepidatious because it's like someone teaching a kid how to swim. They just throw you in there. So eventually you're like: 'Okay, I figured out how to stay afloat.'"


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