Dominique Fishback isn’t a loud person, but her presence manages to encapsulate a room easily, even if that room is virtual. I had the opportunity, and pleasure, to speak with Dominique about her performance in The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, and it was enlightening. The Last Days (premiering on Apple TV today-March 11th) is the story of an older man struck by dementia. Dominique plays Robyn, a teen who stumbles into Ptolemy’s life when they are both in need of each other.
Dementia is a disease that weighs heavily on both the sufferer and the caretaker and yet, when discussing how Robyn might have felt about taking on such an enormous burden, Dominique seemed to see it almost as a breath of fresh air for the lonely teen, saying “I think it was kind of easy, because there’s so much to love about Ptolemy. And I think that Robin sees that she’s not being judged by him.
And she’s been judged so harshly. Getting to spend time with him is like a breath of fresh air. She needs that. So when she sees how he’s living, she can’t help herself, but to do it (take care of Ptolemy). And I guess for me just having the opportunity to play a character who loves somebody so much, and who is an advocate for elders is really sweet, because we hear so many stories of it being the other way around.”
Robyn’s a character with a troubled past. She’s never had anyone in her life who’s stuck around and really cared about her. Working with Ptolemy as he comes to the end of his life teaches her about her own life. Dominique’s answer is thought provoking. When asked about just how providing end of life care can help caretakers re-envision their own life. It’s a statement that provides a new introspective view on life; “I think she sees how she does not want to be.
We know that we tend to dwell on the past and, and feel guilty about the things that we can’t change, about the things that we’ve done. She’s constantly asking Ptolemy, ‘Why don’t you just live in the moment?’. In trying to teach him to live in the moment, I think she’s ultimately teaching herself that the things in her past don’t have to dictate her future. She’s ready to move forward.”
Dementia is a silent killer in the Black community. We are more likely than our White counterparts to be affected by the disease. It is inheritable. If one of your parents or grandparents suffers from dementia you are more likely to have the disease yourself. For Dominique, the opportunity to tell the story of Ptolemy was super important. For Walter Mosley (who wrote the book that inspires the series), Ptolemy was a passion project. Driven by his experience with his own father, he wrote about what it’s like to lose pieces of your memory. Samuel L. Jackson (who stars as Ptolemy Grey) was similarly driven to complete the piece.
For Dominique, it opened her eyes about things happening in her own family; “While I was filming, my cousin was telling me that her father who was passing from cancer had developed dementia. She told me some of the things she had to do. There’s a scene where Robin is blocking a door because when she falls asleep, she doesn’t want Ptolemy to leave. And my cousin talks about doing things like that. It’s a kind of alignment. For people to see themselves reflected, and their loved ones reflected and their struggles. Because it’s deeply sad when somebody doesn’t remember who you are. Somebody you love so much, and they can’t help it.”
When asked what she wants her audience to take away from their viewing of the show, Dominique left us with a delightful message.
“I was in church one day. The pastor said that sometimes people forget that the greatest things can be found in the most forgotten places. And I do think that a lot of times, Black people-as Black Americans-we tend to grow up in the most forgotten places. And I want us to feel like we are great. No matter what and that great things come from these places. I hope that’s what they get. I try to be very open about my story about where I come from, because I’m so blessed. And like, I would have never thought about experiencing the things that I’ve experienced. So to be here talking to you. To be here able to say that I worked with Samuel Jackson I don’t really even know how to comprehend it. But I’m just thankful.”
The first two episodes of The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey are available for streaming now on AppleTV, with additional episodes released weekly.
For more interviews with the cast of this engaging and necessary show, come back next week! For our review of the series, click this link now!