Back in 2015, A’Ziah ‘Zola’ King (the inventor of the Twitter thread) had Twitter on pins and needles with her 148-tweet tale about a spirit of the moment planned “hoeism” trip that went all the way left. It was so good that A24 decided to turn it into a feature-length film, and yes, it’s just as wild as the tweets.
Like the Twitter thread, the film follows Zola (Taylour Paige), a waitress at a Detroit restaurant who embarks on the road trip from hell to Florida with a customer she met named Stefani (Riley Keough), with the sole goal of making money dancing only to learn that she was finessed and is being paraded around by a Nigerian pimp named X (Colman Domingo) who wants to use her and Stefani to turn tricks.
Cassius Life had the opportunity to talk with @Zola film stars Taylour Paige and Riley Keough, who definitely understood the film’s assignment. We asked the stars about how they prepared to play these interesting characters. Page revealed that her life experiences being a Black woman, being a trained dancer, and actually working at a strip club helped get her ready to take on the role of Zola and deliver a “pearl-clutching performance.”
“I’d say my life experiences, right? Like I’m a Black woman, go through the world that way,” she begins. “Also, you know I’m a dancer, I’m technically trained, I been studying Ballet, Jazz, Hip-Hop, and Flamenco and all these things since I was little. So that discipline, but also I worked at the strip club (Crazy Girls) for 4 weeks, and I trained with this guy [Miles] at Young Pole Masters, got close with a couple of the strippers, and this woman, Kashina in Tampa, helped me. Yeah, just a sum of all those experiences and talking to Zola and Janicza (the film’s director) and her vision. She was so specific and intentional, put that all together, and what do you get? ”
When it comes to the character of Stefani, Keough explains that it was the direction from director Janicza Bravo that pushed her to make Stefani as unlikeable as possible. We must say she accomplished that goal.
“For me, a lot of it was on the page. Janicza had really fleshed out this character, so I had a lot of great source material to work with,” Keough revealed. “And then it was just about really pinpointing her accent. I worked with a dialect coach to get the accent right. I would basically send voice notes to Janicza. She would respond and say like yes and no, and usually, her response is always to push it further, do more, really wanting to go there and be as demonic as possible.”
We also asked the two actresses about the strip club prayer scene that featured TS Madison giving a spirited sermon before the ladies hit the floor. Both Paige and Keough admitted they loved that scene and Madison’s energy. Page shared that she still has videos saved on her phone from working at the strip club with the ladies breaking into songs and sermons while getting ready for the night.
You can check out the entire interview above and experience the story again, but this time in film form about how Zola and Stefani fell out in @Zola when it hits theaters on June 30.
Photos: A24 / @Zola