Keke Palmer as Zola
In a since-deleted tweet, Keke Palmer talked about “starring in this new movie called #Zola.” Though she ultimately acknowledged it as a joke, Palmer really should take the starring role in this salacious tale. The 22-year-old has come a long way since starring in her Nickelodeon show True Jackson, V.P. as a teenager. Along with her recent role as Zayday Williams — a strong, no-bullshit sorority co-president on Fox’s Scream Queens — the actress-cum-singer has also made it clear in her most recent single, “I Don’t Belong to You,” that she won’t ever be taken advantage of by any man. No doubt that this would be the actress’ most controversial role yet (I’ve said it before myself), but she’s clearly ready to finally break out of her shell.
Mickey O’Hagan as Jess
In last year’s excellent Tangerine, a cis, white sex worker, Dinah, is dragged around town by the movie’s central character, Sin-Dee Rella, who suspects that Dinah has been sleeping with her boyfriend while she’s been away in jail. Dinah is played by Mickey O’Hagan, who perfectly toes the line between helpless and heartless. At times submissive and easily controlled, Dinah would, at other times, quickly slide in to deliver biting lines — completely flipping the dynamic between her and Sin-Dee on its head. This kind of quick wit would translate well to a character like Jess, who, despite seeming helpless on the surface, was more aware than she let on.
Ezra Miller or James Franco as Jarrett
Ezra Miller: We, here at Flavorwire, love to cast Ezra Miller. Cast him in this, cast him in that, cast him in everything. With a slight build and wild acting malleability, Miller would be a perfect choice for, perhaps, the most dynamic character in #TheStory. Additionally, after some hauntingly brilliant performances as Prisoner 8612 Daniel Culp in last year’s The Stanford Prison Experiment and as Kevin in 2012’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, it’s obvious that he has the acting chops to convincingly portray a man whose grip on reality is rapidly crumbling.
James Franco: Honestly, at this point, why not? James Franco is definitely not above casting himself in a central role in his own movie, and this may be the time when Franco’s completely unconventional approach to, well, everything, might just work. If Franco has shown us anything throughout his entire career, it’s that he’s willing to go the extra mile for anything he participates in — whether it’s creating a gay alter ego through which to channel his “art” or getting grills and cornrows to satirize one of the most divisive rappers of the moment. Why wouldn’t he be excited by the chance to jump out of a window in a crazy gesture of love?
Idris Elba as Rudy/”Z”
OK, admittedly, I want to cast Idris Elba in everything — but that’s just because every role would work better with him in it! In his extensive acting catalogue, he’s already played a drug kingpin, starring as as Russell “Stringer” Bell in HBO’s The Wire, and a less-than-ethical detective chief inspector in Luther. Last year, he played an abusive rapist in the undeniably superb Beasts of No Nation. Elba has a charisma that commands a screen, and, with the crazy turns “Z” takes as #TheStory develops, he seems like one of the few actors out there who could make such a challenging character work.