Interview: Keisha Zollar
You may recognize the incomparable Keisha Zollar from her appearances on Orange is the New Black, Comedy Central, Black and White, Funny or Die, Divorce, and many other impressive endeavors. The list goes on and on, with Keisha both acting in and creating comedic content. BanterGirl was so thrilled to chat with the podcast host, UCB performer, and all-around inspiration about her exciting career.
You do so much (acting, podcasting, comedy, improv, etc.). How do you pick your projects. Do you have any themes or views that you try to weave throughout?
My personal preference is to pursue projects that showcase underrepresented and marginalized peoples. This comes from my desire for and love of a vast range of comedic perspective. In addition, I love projects that break the mold or do something different. And, it would be silly for me not to say that I love socio-political comedy, and I can't help but comment on that stuff. Not all of my work reflects that. However I'm passionate AF about social justice.
Right now, you play Grace on HBO’s Divorce. What has it been like to be on a show that was created by and consistently centers on women's experiences?
I'm always in awe of being on shows where women are creators, EPs, stars, and more. Divorce is a story that hasn't been explored before in this way, and the really cool thing is that it has a woman's point of view. As a result, the female characters are far from perfect, which feels more like real life. When women create shows, I've noticed they embrace the beauty of imperfect women in a satisfying and humanizing way.
As an actress, what would be your dream role?
Dream role!!! Anything on a hard science fiction show. I'm a huge science fiction nerd and even watch the crap stuff.
You have your own Podcast, The Soul Glo Project. Who has been your favorite person to interview?
It's so hard to pick a favorite on the Soul Glo Podcast because it truly feels like family when we bring people in. During the recording of our 100th episode, we had Mara Wilson, and she's nothing short of great. And Calvin Cato! I loved John Early, Kid Fury and Asante … I love too many of ours guest. Joel Perez ... I have to stop ... but I can't. Jen Bartels, Michael Hartley, Frank Garcia-Hejl. So much love.
When did you first start doing comedy? Do you have any icons?
I started with short form improv comedy in college, which is how many people start. And I have so many icons including Whoopi, Moms Mabley, and Lucille Ball.
Your parents have both had very successful careers. Did growing up in an affluent household affect your life's path or goals in any way?
Yes! Respectability politics are real! I've always felt pressures to adhere to my economic privilege in odd ways by trying to be "respectable.” As a result, I did get my MFA because I thought that's how you're a respectable artist: through education. In truth, becoming a rad creative takes more than schooling, and you don't even need that in order to be the best. I'm much less concerned with respectability politics now, though, but I do catch myself every so often thinking, "Careful Keisha you don't want people to think ill of you because you're the only black woman in the room.”
What has been the biggest life transition that you've experienced thus far?
Divorce! My actual divorce from my first hubby. I went through a divorce while I was aggressively doing lots of improv comedy, and it was hard. Agreeing to marry someone and then feeling like you fucked it up can feel like a hard pill to swallow. Which is why I waited a while before marrying my now-husband. The guy I'm married to now had to ask 4 times before I said yes!
What can we look to see from you in 2017 and beyond?
More storytelling, characters, sketch, and more. I have a sketch show I wrote and am performing on at UCB about the Obama daughters saving the world from a 20-year Trump presidency. I'm very proud of the show—it happens on January 20th, Inauguration Day! In addition, with my same collaborator Caroline Martin, I have a Comedy Central Snapchat Discovery series coming out about Black women. There is more, too, but I probably can't talk about it. Secrets keep you sexy … well, the healthy kind of secrets.