Dominique Fishback on Samuel L. Jackson: Nows Not the Time to be Star-Struck

Dominique Fishback earned acclaim in “Judas and the Black Messiah” playing Deborah Johnson, the wife of murdered Black Panther leader Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya, who won an Oscar for the role). She’ll next be seen in the Apple TV Plus limited series “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey,” which bows March 11 on the streamer. It’s a heavyweight project: The series is based on Walter Mosley’s novel (he exec produces) and stars Samuel L. Jackson as Ptolemy Grey, an old man who is suffering from dementia and on the brink of sinking even lower when a teenage orphan, Robyn (played by Fishback), is assigned to care for him. The two form an unshakable bond as he undergoes a treatment that might improve his mental state, which leads them on a journey that reveals shocking truths and allows Robyn to chart a path to her future.
What attracted you to this project?

To be honest, I was doing a bunch of press for “Judas,” and I didn’t know what I was going to do next. I really was like, I want to do some comedy. Maybe I could do a rom-com, maybe I can do some action. I really don’t wanna do drama. I was really trying to avoid it. And then this project came, and it was Samuel L. Jackson. I was so like, “Oh, my God, Samuel L. Jackson! But I don’t know — is my spirit up for it?” It’s deep work that we do, especially with something like this and “Black Messiah.” And then with this particular role, I was like, am I prepared to go there? Because any project that I do, I wanna make sure that I’m prepared to go there, that I don’t leave any stone unturned.

What changed your mind?

I did the chemistry test, and they said they want you for the role. I didn’t know that originally Sam saw me in “Project Power” with Jamie Foxx, and he made a call and said, “I think we found our girl.” So I didn’t know that they wanted me from the beginning, and I was a little bit less resistant, you know, ’cause again, I wanted to do something much lighter. Then I got the part, I read the script, and I read the novel by Walter Mosley and I was like, “Wow, this novel’s incredible!”

What was the key to the character of Robyn?

Obviously you can’t take everything from a novel and put it into a screenplay. So there was a bunch of things that I missed from Robyn in the book. And I’m an actor that really loves to collaborate. I started acting and writing at the same time. So I’m gonna be very in depth with the character — a lot of writing about the character that I want to share, and are they open? Are they willing to hear what I have to say? And they were like, we know the type of actor that you are. We really want to honor it. What do you want to bring to Robyn? So I ended up making a 28-page PDF about the character.

Samuel L. Jackson is iconic — was that intimidating?

Truthfully, I didn’t really have any fear in my mind that it was Samuel L. Jackson. I don’t like to approach work like that. Because I think that ultimately, I’m here for the character and she’s not intimidated by Ptolemy Grey. I just want to be able to deliver when I get the opportunity. And so now’s not the time to be star-struck.

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