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October 25, 2023

Temple grad Da'Vine Joy Randolph is a frontrunner to win an Oscar for 'The Holdovers' role

The Philly native, who will be known to 'Only Murders in the Building' fans, is getting buzz for her portrayal of a prep school staffer in the film also starring Paul Giamatti

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Da'Vine Joy Randolph Oscar Screenshot/Focus Features

Da'Vine Joy Randolph stars as Mary, the head of a prep school cafeteria, in 'The Holdovers.' She is currently considered an Oscar frontrunner in the supporting actress race.

October may be early in Oscar season, but some prognosticators are already calling a Philly-native actress the frontrunner to win Best Supporting Actress next March.

Da'Vine Joy Randolph, who spent part of her childhood in Mount Airy and returned to the city to attend Temple University, is getting awards buzz for her role in the upcoming comedy "The Holdovers." Also starring Paul Giamatti, the movie follows two staffers and five students stranded at a New England prep school over Christmas break in 1970. It's slated to open in select theaters on on Friday, Oct. 27, and expand to a wide release by Nov. 10.

Randolph plays Mary, who runs the school kitchen. As the movie reveals, she is the only one who has chosen to spend the holidays on campus. Mary is hoping to feel close to her son Curtis, who graduated from the school but recently died in the Vietnam War at the age of 19. Throughout the film, she serves as a counter to Giamatti's cranky Mr. Hunham, who compels the miserable remaining students to study and exercise in the frigid outdoors even while on holiday break.

GoldDerby, which predicts Oscar outcomes, proclaimed Randolph the leading contender in the supporting actress race late last week. She currently sits atop the site's predicted winner graph, trailed by Emily Blunt (for "Oppenheimer") and Danielle Brooks (for "The Color Purple"). Randolph's odds of winning are 4-to-1 as of Monday afternoon.

Randolph has risen to prominence over the past few years thanks to roles in "Dolemite Is My Name," "The Lost City" and several TV shows. She appeared as the manager of a troubled pop star in HBO's recently canceled drama "The Idol" and currently stars as Detective Williams in "Only Murders in the Building." She was also hailed for her supporting turn in the short-lived Hulu series "High Fidelity."

"I never want to get pigeonholed or known for one thing," Randolph told the New York Times in 2022. "I don’t want people to be able to finish my sentences."

In "The Holdovers," which screened at the Philadelphia Film Festival on Saturday, Randolph serves as a weary voice of reason. She is constantly reminding Mr. Hunham to be more empathetic to the kids left behind on Christmas, even if they are, in his estimation, rich pricks. But Mary is also going through a devastating loss, one she only hints at in brief conversations and a breakdown in the middle of an off-campus holiday party. Her mere presence is a constant reminder of real grief and sacrifice — something that Mr. Hunham doesn't believe his privileged students can understand. 

Randolph isn't the only Philly-area actor with Oscar momentum. Bradley Cooper is considered a likely nominee for Best Actor for his turn as Leonard Bernstein in "Maestro," which he also directed. According to GoldDerby's current predictions, he could end up competing against another actor from Philadelphia in another biopic: Colman Domingo is also a favorite for his performance in "Rustin" as civil rights leader and March-on-Washington organizer Bayard Rustin. That movie, coincidentally, features Randolph in a supporting role.

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