Swarm’s Dominique Fishback Drew Inspiration From Lucille Ball to Play Dre


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It’s hard to imagine anyone else portraying Dre, the homicidal superfan at the center of Swarm, with more quiet, haunting intensity than Dominique Fishback. But when she was first approached about the project, created by Donald Glover and Janine Nabers, it was for the role of Dre’s best friend, Marissa (ultimately played by Chlöe Bailey). When she told her team that she really wanted the part of Dre instead, “they said, ‘You might have to fight for it,’” Fishback recalls. “I said, ‘Well, if I have to fight for it, then I’ll do that.’” It’s a good thing she did. Now the 32-year-old is up for an Emmy for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie for her unsettling and deeply human performance.

This interview was conducted prior to the start of the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike. Note: Swarm spoilers ahead.

Dre is a very dark role to take on. She murders in the name of her pop idol Ni’Jah. What drew you to her?

Donald asked, “Why do you want to play this character?” I said, “I don’t want to catch up to myself as an actor.” I grew up really loving Monster, with Charlize Theron, and Boys Don’t Cry, with Hilary Swank, and even Heath Ledger as the Joker—thinking, Man, one day I want to do something like that. I got the opportunity with Dre.

As an actor, had you ever done anything with violence in it before?

This was my first time having to kill people brutally. I was so nervous. I had to think about what I always thought I wanted to represent as an actor, which is love and light. Being light means you also have to go to the darkness and shed light on those things. Dre is a forgotten person; she’s cast to the side her whole life. To shed light on that awkward person that people poke fun of—hopefully, it helps at the end of the day.

How did you prepare for the part?

I thought, What is a universal feeling that I can tap into, since I don’t agree with her on paper? And it was love. She really loves Marissa and Ni’Jah. I understand what it means to love people, and I think the audience does too. Everything else is circumstance. She’s always going to kill people, because she was written that way. But if I come from love, then it might flip our perception of her as a character, as a person.

Miu Miu top, skirt, bra, and shorts; Christian Louboutin shoes.

Did you find it hard to shake her at the end of each day?

The one scene that was hard to shake was the finale with her girlfriend. That kill was different. It was with her bare hands. It was personal to her. I was crying a lot after that. I spoke to the therapist on set about my feelings, just wondering, am I representing something bad? When I got home, I was so exhausted that I couldn’t even keep my eyes open. I felt like my spirit was fighting something all day just to keep me intact.

Was it strange that people ended up liking Dre?

I’m very happy about that because I didn’t play Dre as this monster. The first episode, she wanted to be left alone. Everybody was constantly picking at her, just throwing things at her when she was really on her own mission. It wasn’t a great mission, but she wasn’t trying to bother anybody. So if people were relating to or caring about her, it feels like I brought humanity to her, which is what I wanted to do.

Switching gears, do you ever get starstruck?

I got starstruck seeing Tamera Mowry in the airport. I know Tia, but when I saw Tamera, I was on the phone with my mom, and I hung up on her. I also got starstruck when I met Jay-Z. In a music video for his song “Smile,” I played a younger version of his mom. Then at the Roc Nation brunch, he came into the room, and everybody just went quiet. We made eye contact and I was like, “Hi, I’m Dom.” He was like, “You going to introduce yourself? I know who you are.” All I could say was, “I’m from Brooklyn.” He was like, “I know.” It was a nice, perfect moment.

Who was your crush growing up?

The kid Zero from Holes, Khleo Thomas. I wrote a journal entry on December 22nd, 2004: “I know that you don’t know me, but if you knew me, I think you’d like me. I have a great smile, great personality. I’m funny at times. The only problem is I’m 13 and you’re 15.” I actually met him and I told him about my letter. He was flattered. The first time that we hung out was actually December 22nd, 2022. So it was 18 years to the day that I wrote that letter.

Fishback as Dre with Chlöe Bailey as Marissa in Swarm.

Courtesy Prime Video

Did you have any favorite TV shows when you were younger?

I Love Lucy. When I was 10, I literally loved Lucy. That’s why I really was excited about Swarm. It wasn’t written to be funny, but somehow I just kept tapping into a physicality: the way she walked, the way she looked around. It was nice to have a little touch of inspiration from Lucy and Jim Carrey.

Do you have a favorite show now that you watch?

I’m watching Love is Blind. I’m such a romantic. I’m waiting for my husband. But I have thought, “Dang, I should have probably met my husband before Swarm, so he won’t be scared of me.”

Hair by Cynthia Alvarez for Biolage at The Wall Group; makeup by Susie Sobol at PM Artists for Sobol Inc; manicure by Honey at Exposure NY for NAVYA Nail Lacquer; Set Design by Spencer Vrooman.

Produced by AP Studio, Inc.; Executive Producer: Alexis Piqueras; Producer: Anneliese Kristedja; Production Managers: Anna Blundell, David Duque-Estrada; Production Coordinator: Ellen Kozarits; Photo Assistants: Matt Yoscary, Josua Jimenez; Retouching: Matty So; Fashion Assistants: Tori López, Tyler VanVranken, India Reed, Tori Leung; Production Assistants: Linette Estrella, Ariana Kristedja, Alan Bell, Nico Marti, Ryan Qiu; Makeup Assistants: Tanya Marques, Riccardo Delgado; Manicure Assistant: Shani Newsome; Tailor: Lindsay Wright; Set Design Assistants: Will Cragoe, Christina O’Neil, Joseph Ahern.

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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