Actress, comedian, and activist Keisha Zollar has graced our screens on many shows including ‘Orange is the New Black” and A&E’s new show “Black and White.” The California born Zollar co-hosts an eye opening podcast “Applying it Liberally” with her husband, where the two go toe-to-toe on politics, pop culture, and discuss being an interracial couple. Along with “Applying it Liberally,” Keisha hosts another podcast with two other female comedians about diversity in comedy through inclusion, “Soul Glo.”
We caught up with Keisha to talk acting, sexism in comedy, and her love of advocacy.
You’ve worked on many great acting projects including ‘Orange is the New Black,’ how did you know acting was a passion?
I was drawn to it by accident. I always loved comedy and I was one of those students that who also loved medicine. I went to school, Biochemistry/Pre-med. Freshman year I did my first play and fell in love with theater, just never looked back. So changed my major and moved to New York. I lucked out in many ways because I have other artists in my family. My aunt owns a successful dance company and my uncle is a jazz musician, so I grew up with the idea that being an artist was a possibility. When my parents came to see that first play I was in, my parents said that was the first time I really showed my personality. Although, they did sit me down and tell me I’d have to work twice as hard for half as much. The arts are a challenge.
Comedy is a large part of your career, have you experienced any sexism?
Yes! Well, it’s a lot of time those moments in comedy where I would hear a male counterpart say “Oh, just be comfortable.” When you walk into these situations you hear homophobia, you hear racism, sexism, and all sorts of bigotry. Comedy continues to be a boy’s club. However, it’s not as bad as it used to be. There is a shift starting to happen. But the idea of “well, we gave you spaces and now we have to change” is still apparent. You can’t invite people into your organization and not change the mentality. Then it just becomes tokenism. I have had a lot of support from other female comics and comics of color. It’s great to see space being made for all.
You’re currently on HBO’s Divorce.
I can’t really talk much about it, but I’m in four episodes. My advice is you HAVE to watch it to the finale. It’s Sarah Jessica Parker’s new show-it was really great working with her and Molly Shannon. The whole cast is really awesome.
What made you move to starting the podcast “Applying It Liberally?”
There was a video series we did called “Skin Deep” and the feedback from that was so positive- we felt like we should continue with it. My husband and I are both fans of podcasts, so thought “lets start a podcast!” We love talking about politics and pop culture, so we just went for it.
You cover a lot of current issues that face our nation like police brutality and the#blacklivesmatter movement.
We are very passionate about those issues and have held fund raising shows for #blacklivesmatter in support. We want to have children one day and want to make the world a better place for them. I feel as though there is a line being drawn in the sand right now as to what side of history you are going to be on. And we aggressively want people to come to the side that is more inclusive and gives space to more identities that aren’t traditionally represented.
Are there other causes you advocate for?
Yes, mental health awareness and I care very much about women’s issues but I would say representation is my passion. I think a lot of society’s ills right now are the true disconnects with the demographics of people who exist in this country and the people that are participating in the highest levels. Because of the radical disconnect between representation and people of America we are going through some turbulent times. I’m passionate about any cause that empowers people who are under-represented. It’s really a part of a larger civil rights fight.
Do you have any advice for our audience?
Find people who see your talent. Have those people be the ones in your tribe and that give you feedback. It’s very easy to get lost in this idea that you have to create work that has already come about. It’s very easy to feel untalented and there are a lot of people who will tell you “you aren’t talented.” Find people who are excited by your creativity. They will be your best critics because the genuinely care about what you are doing.
To hear more from Keisha Zollar, listen to Applying it Liberally and Soul Glo on iTunes.