How High Fidelity Breakout Da’Vine Joy Randolph Channeled Jack Black

Pop Culture

She bursts into the record store wearing a striped two-piece with “Good Vibes” emblazoned across the chest, then immediately slides down her teeny, trendy sunglasses and cries, “What the fuck is this?” Displeased with the response, she storms over to the aux cord and replaces the store’s mild electronic playlist with “Come on Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners. She dances around the room, delivering a mini-monologue about the fantastic dream she had the other night, then exclaims: “I forgot—this song is dope as shit!!” And that’s how we meet Cherise, the tempestuous record store clerk played by Da’Vine Joy Randolph on Hulu’s High Fidelity.

The series, an adaptation of the 2000 movie that is itself an adaptation of Nick Hornby’s 1995 novel, follows Rob (Zoë Kravitz), the surly owner of Championship Vinyl, a struggling record store that she runs with her two best friends: Cherise (a role analogous to the one originated by Jack Black in the film) and Simon (David H. Holmes).

Cherise’s introduction in the series, available now on Hulu, almost exactly mirrors Black’s introduction in the Stephen Frears–directed movie, save for the song choice; he opts for the equally peppy “Walking on Sunshine.” For Randolph, who drew praise last year for her performance in the Netflix drama Dolemite Is My Name, the chance to play a Black-type role was a thrill.

“He’s genius!” Randolph said in a recent phone interview, noting that she can quote every line of Black’s classic film School of Rock. “The same thing that I love about him, that I love about Martin Lawrence—these are performers where it is a full-body experience, and they just give [themselves] completely over to the role.”

But that alone would not have been enough to get Randolph on board. In a past life High Fidelity was set to be adapted by Disney+—and though the nascent streamer hadn’t yet launched, it was still understood that its offerings would be the kind of wholesome, family-friendly content Disney is known for. “There were two incarnations of this show,” Randolph said. “There was a more, like, Disney+ version, if you will, that didn’t have Zoë. And then there was a version that did have Zoë.”

Randolph auditioned for the show when it was firmly in Kravitz’s camp. (Kravitz is also an executive producer.) “When I knew that Zoë was involved, that was a major draw for me,” Randolph said. “Her vibe and her aesthetic…to me, that was a perfect pairing.”

Randolph and Cherise ended up being a perfect pairing as well—she was the only person who auditioned for the role, and quickly ended up nabbing it late last February, moving to Bed-Stuy in April for the Brooklyn-based production. Though the original novel is set in London, while the film is set in Chicago, the Hulu show picks up and drops the record store into gentrifying Crown Heights.

“The show was actually based on a real block in Crown Heights,” Randolph said. “It really is a record store in the basement with a Chinese food store next door in the corner. Across the street is a bodega, and then across from that is a church, and then on the other corner is apartments.” In other words, the classic jumble that is a New York City block. For the actor, who trained at the Yale School of Drama and earned a Tony nomination after performing in Broadway’s Ghost the Musical, it was the most amount of time she’d ever spent in the borough.

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