‘The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey’ Star Dominique Fishback on Why Acting Opposite Samuel L. Jackson Didn’t Intimidate Her

·4-min read

Dominique Fishback holds her own opposite Samuel L. Jackson in Apple TV+’s “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey,” and she says that was inspired by the strength of the character. “I wasn’t really nervous because Robyn is not nervous of Ptolemy,” she tells Variety’s Awards Circuit Podcast. “She’s not intimidated by him. So therefore, I’m not gonna do that because I’m representing this character.”

On this edition of the Variety Awards Circuit podcast, Fishback talks about “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey,” and working with Jackson, as well as her take on the character, playing teenage roles even as she enters her 30s, her interest in astrology and how she’s enjoying her success. Later in this episode, “Mr. Mayor” star Bobby Moynihan on the joys of his ensemble comedy, which sadly was just canceled on Thursday as this episode made it to air.

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Based on Walter Mosley’s novel, “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey” stars Samuel L. Jackson as the title character, an old man who is suffering from dementia and on the brink of sinking even lower when a teenage orphan, Robyn (played by Dominque Fishback), winds up caring for him. The two form an unshakable bond as he undergoes a treatment that might improve his mental state, and uses this precious and fleeting lucidity to solve his nephew’s death and come to terms with his past. This leads them on a journey that reveals shocking truths and allows Robyn to chart a path to her future.

Fishback earned raves for her role in the critically-acclaimed film “Judas and the Black Messiah,” about the efforts of the FBI to undermine Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in 1960s Chicago. She’s also known for her role in the HBO shows “The Deuce” and “Show Me a Hero,” as well as the Netflix film “Project Power.”

In his review for Variety, Joshua Alston wrote that “it’s no small feat to stand up to Jackson in what is essentially a two-hander, and Fishback never shrinks from the challenge. Their chemistry is so potent that it’s always in the foreground.”

Says Fishback: “I didn’t know if it was the right next move for me, because I just come off of doing a lot of press with ‘Judas and back Messiah.’ And with a character like Deborah Johnson, she was forced to grow up a little bit quicker. And so she had a very maternal instinct. I play so young on TV, which I love. But it was like, do I go a different direction or do I go back to playing teenagers?”

Fishback says Jackson reached out to see if she would be interested in a role on “Ptolemy Grey,” which the actor and Moseley had spent years trying to turn into a filmed project. “Sam, he said that he knew he wanted me from seeing ‘Project Power’ with Jamie Foxx,” she says. “And then I read the scripts, and I read the novel, and the novel just really blew my mind.”

In playing Robyn, Fishback said it was important that the character had her own definition outside of Ptolemy. “It was really important that we show that she has dreams as well, that it’s not just her caring for Ptolemy, that she has her own autonomy over her body, her choices and what she cares about.”

Bobby Moynihan Mr. Mayor
Bobby Moynihan Mr. Mayor

Later in the show: On NBC’s “Mr. Mayor” (which ran for two seasons), comedy icon Ted Danson plays Neil Bremer, a retired business tycoon who decides to run for Los Angeles mayor on a whim. And he wins, much to the chagrin of his own daughter — as well as City Council member Arpi Meskamin, played by Holly Hunter. The office comedy, from the minds of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, also features Bobby Moynihan as press secretary Jayden Kwapis, a character who”s a bit naïve but extremely loyal.

Moynihan may be best known from “Saturday Night Live,” but he’s been busy in recent years with a voice acting career including “Duck Tales,” “Summer Camp Island,” “Star Wars Resistance,” “We Bare Bears” and more. And then there’s the second season of “Mr. Mayor,” a rapid fire comedy that also is probably the most well-researched sitcom ever about the politics of Los Angeles.

More recently, Moynihan is also behind the eight-episode digital animated short series “Lightning Wolves” for Comedy Central. Created by Moynihan, ‘Lightning Wolves’ also stars Taran Killam, Ben Schwartz, Cobie Smulders and more. An homage to shows like “Thundercats,” “G.I. Joe” and “Voltron,” the snow follows a team of half-Wolf, half-humanoid creatures tasked with protecting the Omniverse from the sinister Keeper of Spells, Moom and his underwhelming group of lackeys.

Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast, produced by Michael Schneider, is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every Thursday and Friday.

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