'The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey''s Dominique Fishback On Flipping Script to Convey 'Trauma'

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey may focus on its titular character, played by Samuel L. Jackson, but for Dominique Fishback it was important for her character's "trauma" to also be conveyed in the show, she told Newsweek.

The Apple TV+ show, which premiered on Friday, March 11, follows Jackson's Ptolemy Grey who suffers from dementia and takes a radical medical treatment to get his memories back so he can solve his nephew's murder and other mysteries from his life.

Fishback's character, Robyn, is an orphan who comes to help Ptolemy when she has nowhere left to go, and she chooses to put her own struggles aside to help her elder.

But regardless of her own selflessness Robyn has her own pain and trauma from her childhood, which was something Fishback pushed to add into the show after reading the original book written by Walter Mosley, who adapted his own work.

"That was actually really a highlight because I was so much connected to the book and so I made like a 28-page PDF on the character, Robyn," she explained.

Dominique Fishback on Bringing the Book to Life in 'The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey'

Fishback added: "There were certain things from the book that [weren't] in the show that I was like, 'Walter... these are your words, your character is already there, but I think it's important that we know Robyn's emotional reasons for doing things.' We know the survival reason, but what is her emotional push?"

Robyn's childhood was not a happy one, her mother was a drug addict who barely took care of her and eventually succumbed to her addiction, while her father was out of the picture entirely.

Even when she stayed with Ptolemy's relative Niecie (Marsha Stephanie Blake) Robyn was forced to defend herself when her son Hilly (DeRon Horton) tried to accost her while she was asleep, which led to her being kicked out rather than Hilly being reprimanded.

Referencing her character's backstory, Fishback went on: "The line that she talks about her mom, where she talks about her family, that wasn't in the script as much and I begged for it to be [put] back in because I wanted the audience to see where she comes from, and what's on her mind, what is her redemption.

"I think she was looking for redemption when she went to take care of Ptolemy. We don't actually know why, but internally I think it was [redemption], she was trying to right the wrongs of her past as well by trying to take care of him the way she felt like she couldn't take care of her mom."

Dominique Fishback on Challenging Misconceptions of People from Brooklyn in 'The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey'

Robyn is a formidable character in her own right, she isn't a doormat and will say when she feels something isn't right, particularly when it comes to how people treat Ptolemy.

This, Fishback said, was one of the things that she loved best about the character: "I come from Brooklyn, New York, which is a neighbourhood that's not really put on TV a lot and there's a lot of misconceptions about the kids that grow up from there.

"And I think [Robyn] does a good way of showing you that she is hard, she has a lot of trauma, she had a lot of abuse in her life, and she still leads with love.

"I feel like that's what a lot of us from low income communities often do, we do lead from love even though we will have a harder exterior.

"So, I think that her fighting in defence of Ptolemy, and also being very nurturing to him while other people are not, I think it's a good level of showing different types of people come from those areas."

An important aspect of the show is its depiction of dementia and how people treat those who are struggling with the disease like Ptolemy, but Fishback said she chose to approach this part of the story differently.

When asked if it was a challenge to convey the struggles of someone with dementia in a sensitive way, she said: "It wasn't hard because I tried to be in the shoes of Robyn, I don't... she didn't think about dementia, I don't think she even knew very much about it.

"So, she just saw a person that needed help and therefore she leaned in to be that type of person. So I didn't do a lot of research on dementia, I didn't feel like that was what Robyn needed.

"She's all heart and she's all soul, and so all you could do with those types of characters is go from your heart and your soul. And that's what I tried to do."

The first two episodes of The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey are out now on Apple TV+ and the show will continue airing every Friday.

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey
Samuel L. Jackson and Dominique Fishback in "The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey", which premiered on Apple TV+ on Friday, March 11. Apple TV+