Harris made friends with Bravo about seven years ago. When the opportunity arose to do “Zola”, Bravo asked him to write it with her. To Harris, “Zola” means more than your average Hollywood breakthrough.
“This is a moment of deep catching up,” says Harris. “The work she did was so consistent that I think people didn’t have a Rosetta Stone for the language she spoke in. We’re not used to being a Black woman in such complex languages in independent cinema to hear speaking. “
“Zola” was originally founded under the direction of James Franco. This version of the film, the filmmakers say, was a more lighthearted frolic. Bravo and Harris approached King’s Twitter thread – a colorfully told, often funny story that brought phrases like “vibing over our hoeism” into the dictionary – with more awe. For Bravo and Harris, the thread was a modern Homeric epic. They wanted to ground the film from Zola’s perspective and capture the way black women can be treated as disposable items and the traumatic consequences of white appropriation of blackness.
“When Janicza came on board, it was more about my voice,” says King, who is executive producer on the film. Her tweets were published in a linen-bound hardcover.
In the film, Zola (played by Taylour Paige) is a Detroit waitress whose new-found friend, a customer she’s waiting for, Stefani (Riley Keough), urges her to come over for a weekend in Florida to party and raise money Earn stripping. Keough plays Stefani as an imitation of Zola, instantly adopting her mannerisms and phrases. For Harris it’s a kind of black face with no makeup; he compares one scene to Spike Lee’s “Bamboozled”. We watch Stefani pull Zola into a hell of a situation.