From the moment Cherise—brought to us ever-so passionately by Da’Vine Joy Randolph—glides into frame at the 17:57 mark of Hulu’s High Fidelity, episode one, it’s impossible to turn away.
“What up, babies?” is how she greets Rob (short for Robyn, played by Zoë Kravitz) and Simon (David H. Holmes), her cronies at Championship Records in Brooklyn. Her energy is infectious from that moment on and throughout the 10-episode Hulu series. Along with her extensive knowledge of music and musicians, Cherise is a big dreamer with creative aspirations of her own. Oh, and we won’t even get into her unique brand of customer service.
It’s been a minute since Randolph spoke with ESSENCE, so she dialed us on an afternoon, in the midst of Los Angeles’ stay-at-home ordinance due to coronavirus. While cooking up some “yummy eats” for a friend in need, she shared a bit of scoop on why she signed up for the series, how she prepared to present Cherise to the world and what artists might be on her playlist.
Remixing a Cult Classic
Like the 1995 novel by Nick Hornby and the 2000 film adaptation of the same name, High Fidelity, the series, is part comedy, part drama, plus it examines complex matters of the heart. The film (which featured Kravitz’s mom, Lisa Bonet), was set in Chicago and led by John Cusack, with Jack Black right by his side. In short, Kravitz is based on Cusack’s character, Rob, and Cherise is a recreation of Black’s character, Barry. Follow?
“First and foremost, I’m a huge Jack Black fan,” says Randolph, who saw the film once when it aired on television a while back. “I remember that in terms of energy, he set the bar really high, so I knew Cherise was going to [exude] a sense of full abandonment. I also knew she was going to talk fast and express herself with her whole being.” And about teaming with Kravitz, who stars in and executive produces the series? “I got immediately excited when I knew Zoë was involved!”
Along with her breakout role in Dolemite is My Name, Randolph, a Yale School of Drama alum, has racked up credits for This is Us and Empire, as well as her Tony Award-nominated turn in Ghost. With every role she takes, her focus is always on story. “For me, each job is an opportunity to shed light on and show love to our community,” she says, “and I’m very keen on telling diversified stories about Black women. This role is different from anything that I’ve played before. [It allowed me to] ‘go there,’ which was really enticing.”
Where Brooklyn At?
As High Fidelity, the series, is set in-and-around Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy, Randolph, a Philadelphia native, was intent on ensuring that Cherise represented Brooklyn to the fullest. She even moved into the neighborhood while shooting the series last year. “Cherise is the only who is born and raised in Brooklyn, so I wanted to be really specific. I did tons of research and worked with people who live there. We read through scripts and I’d ask, Okay, does this make sense? Is this how a Brooklyn girl would say it? One of the greatest compliments is when someone approaches me and says, ‘Yo, I know that girl!’”
But Make it Fashion
When we first meet her, Cherise is rocking a vertical-striped, two-piece ensemble, with gold thread braided up-and-through into her cornrows and custom-made gold door-knockers boasting her name. And she just keeps the looks coming. “I [compiled] an iPhoto album with 500 + pictures and sent it to costume designer, Colleen Atwood, who was so open [to my ideas]. I was like, This is the world of Cherise.”
Music to Her Ears
Cherise knows and loves all types of music, so when it comes to which artists might be on playlist, Randolph has a few ideas. “She’s urban, eclectic and definitely soul, so there’s probably some Aretha Franklin, Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson and a little bit of the Rolling Stones. I think she curates her playlist on a daily basis, depending on her mood…and because she’s proud of the songs she puts on there, she lets them play all the way through!”