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For many actors, auditioning is one of the hardest parts of their job, which means any time they get to skip that step and be offered a role outright it’s a big deal. Especially if the person who threw you your hat in the ring is Samuel L. Jackson.

Jackson plays the lead character in Apple TV+’s new series The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, debuting on the streaming service today. And alongside him appears Dominique Fishback, whom the veteran actor personally chose to appear in the show which centers on Grey, a man with dementia who’s been forgotten by his family and friends and he sinks deeper into a lonely existence of lost memories.

“Sam really wanted me and the producers really wanted me and that was and honor,” Fishback tells ESSENCE. “He said that he saw Project Power and made a phone call and was like, ‘I think we’ve found our girl.’ I didn’t even know that was in the mix of happening, but everything happens for a reason.”

Fishback had a similar experience when she was cast in last year’s Judas and The Black Messiah, being personally chosen by director Shaka King to play the role of Akua Njeri (formerly known as Deborah Johnson), in the story of the assassination of Fred Hampton. To prepare for the role, Fishback began writing poems which, ultimately, were woven into the film. Though for this project, the actress didn’t lean into poetry to shape her character Robyn, who’s Grey’s caretaker in the series, she did a different type of writing to develop her personality.

“I made a 28-page PDF for the character,” Fishback shares. “I gave her her own birth chart with her rising sign, Venus sign, and everything.”

Fishback says throughout production she shared the document with her co-star and the producers whom gave her the space to be collaborative as she found her footing with this series in her own way. Ultimately, it wasn’t the document that led Fishback to deliver such a stellar performance, but a deep belief in herself.

“I had to really trust that I was going to be able to be present. I had to trust my instrument,” Fishback says. “I had to trust the gift that God gave me and say ‘We’re just going to show up and be open and live as a character and be moved by what the other people in the scene with you do.”

Watch our full interview with Dominique Fishback in the video above.


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