Dolemite Is My Name sheds light on the revolutionary career of stand-up comedian Rudy Ray Moore, but it also incorporates the stories of people whose lives he lit up. Lady Reed and Theodore Toney, played by Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Tituss Burgess respectively, are two important figures in the film who are deeply impacted by Moore’s quest to make his own movie.
In celebration of Dolemite’s Netflix release on October 25th, he two actors spoke with Screen Rant about how important the titular legend was to their characters and to their own lives.
First of all, amazing job. This movie's hilarious, but also extremely inspirational. I want to talk real quick about Lady Reed. She’s comedic gold, but she bears double the burden – as Dolemite does – mainly because she's African American and female in an era that doesn't necessarily support either. But how does she embrace the challenges, and did you draw anything of your own life to inspire and form that character?
Da’Vine Joy Randolph: I am a black woman, you know, and a black woman who if we’re just honest is over a size 10. And when you're watching a film, you're watching me, in clothes and in different silhouettes, in a larger frame – and you don't, for some reason, see that too often.
So, in many respects, there was a deeper understanding of that, and what that’s meant to be. I think, Lady Reed at the core was just someone who just really knew herself. Even when you meet her, and she's at a low, I don't think that she ever loses sight of who she is. Whether she steps into it and fulfills it, that's one thing.
But we were talking earlier, I do believe that there's a point in everyone's life when they are made aware of their purpose. What you do with that is up to you. What Rudy did for all of these individuals, not just Lady Reed, is that he made you aware of your potential and breathed life and light into you. Then [it’s] watching them all flourish, coming together as a family to produce and make something that is worth merit.
Amazing. Theodore works with Rudy way back at the record store. Can you talk to me about how he views Rudy’s stardom with all this?
Tituss Burgess: I can only go by the script, because there's no information on Toney whatsoever. And I tried. But in the interior of the film, I think he is so concerned with Rudy's emotional well-being and Rudy's fundamental happiness that his pushback to Rudy's desire for his star to rise is only because he knew how hard it would be.
The very real possibility that, in a world where it was already hard to get even the records and the tapes made, what makes Rudy thing he's going to be able to make a film.
And I'll never forget the scene where he comes out the office, and we're in a stairwell, and Toney goes, “How’d it go?” And Rudy goes, “We're going to do this thing ourselves.” It's so indicative of how Rudy ran with things and didn't wait for anyone else to assist him.
And I love that Rudy leads the way down the stairs first, and Toney's following afterwards. That is just how that relationship continued. I think Toney lead with being protective more than sharing the dream. I think he took his cue from his friend, and if his friend thought it was possible then, fuck, he thought it was possible too.
- Dolemite Is My Name (2019) release date: Oct 25, 2019