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Pivotal Behind-the-Scenes Role: Thom Jones ’91

The sought-after voice and dialect coach helped Da’Vine Joy Randolph prepare for her now Oscar-winning performance, among other awards.

Award-Winning Authenticity

Thom Jones in maroon sweater smiling

Thom Jones’ 91 played a key role in preparing Da’Vine Joy Randolph for her role in The Holdovers, helping her perfect the specific dialect required for the film’s time and place. 

Randolph has now added the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress to the list she’s already won—including the Golden Globe, Critics Choice, and BAFTA awards for Best Supporting Actress—for her critically acclaimed role of Mary Lamb. 

Da'Vine Joy Randolph as Mary Lamb in The Holdovers The Specificity of Dialect Matters

The Holdovers takes place in Boston at the close of 1969, requiring Randolph, a native of Philadelphia, to learn a very specific dialect. To sound authentic, she needed to perfect not only a Boston dialect but, in particular, the one spoken by Black people in Boston in the 1960s and 70s.

Thom Jones '91 and Andra Day on the set of The United States vs. Billie Holiday Thom Jones ’91 and Andra Day on the set of The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Randolph remembered Jones on the set of The United States vs. Billie Holiday when he worked with Andra Day in the starring role. She reached out for his expertise and Jones  helped Randolph nail it. 

“Over the 2021 holiday season, Randolph…worked with dialect coach Thom Jones, who helped her perfect her Boston accent. Though Randolph is originally from Philadelphia and has lived in New York, she was adamant that she nail down a Boston accent—a 1970s Boston accent, no less.

“‘On top of it, being a Black woman in Boston during that time, Black people spoke in a different melodious way than white people did at that time,’ she says.”

Vanity Fair (With ‘The Holdovers,’ Da’Vine Joy Randolph Heads Back to School)

Jones worked with Randolph again to prepare for her role in the film Rustin (2023).

Below, Randolph discusses working with Jones during an interview with Jennifer Hudson, who also works with Jones, notably when she portrayed Aretha Franklin in Respect.

Jones Pays It Forward

Thom Jones '91 with all four acting companies.

Read more about Thom Jones, including his recent visit to campus (above).

A Second Purchase Connection to The Holdovers

Lecturer in Acting Susan Shopmaker, earned the BAFTA award for Best Casting for her work on The Holdovers.