Taylour Paige became one of the year’s top actors to look out for in her titular role in Zola. In an exclusive behind-the-scenes featurette, Paige says she worked at LA strip club Crazy Girls for four weeks just to prep for the role.
“I just kind of took all my experiences and lent those in service of Zola’s truth,” she explains in the video. “But, also, this movie exists in hyperbole. Zola is very self-assured—even if she’s scared.” That’s a strength that Paige plays up perfectly throughout the film. When Zola finds out that her new “friend” Stefani (Riley Keough) enlisted Zola for sex work without her consent, the titular character is fuming, but she keeps a cool demeanor under the threat of being harmed by Stefani’s pimp, X (Colman Domingo).
With nowhere to run, she decides to make the most of her predicament, helping Stefani make big bucks instead of continuing to be stiffed by X. But that also means having to take reins and keep a calm, collected demeanor while encountering aggressive strangers who’ve responded to Stefani’s ad. She also has to clean up Stefani’s mess after her sex work escapade in Florida goes awry.
“[Zola’s] like, ‘I know who I am, I know what I choose to do.’ Like, she owns it, and I just think there’s something maybe subconsciously in me that wanted to heel that,” Paige adds.
Zola is seemingly the only intelligent character onscreen throughout the film, and Paige says that director and co-writer Janicza Bravo was “very clear” about Stefani being the “buffoon” in the A24 flick. Keough takes on an accent that’s far different from her own, speaking with an appropriative “blaccent” onscreen. To prep, Keough says she “did a lot of accent training.” She recalls sending her voice coach and Bravo voice notes, trying to perfect Stefani’s voice. “I wanted it to be outrageous and offensive, but authentic. Not like a caricature,” notes Keough. “So finding that line was important.”
Zola arrives on DVD and Blu-ray™ plus digital on September 14 from Lionsgate.