You probably saw her on Orange is the New Black playing inmate Kiki, or on Celebrity Apprentice — but actress Keisha Zollar is currently making her bunk online with the web series In Game. The series revolves around a cadre of LARP (Live Action Role Play) enthusiasts who meet up in an apartment and mostly discuss the goings-on of their sort of cosplay world. LARP has long been associated with dweebs, geeks and losers; In Game seeks to change that by bringing a hot hedge fund manager (Zollar) and a smokin’ kitty cat assassin in a bustier into the series. But, frankly, the series never takes off.
I’ve now watched six episodes of a 10 episode Season 1 (all were recently uploaded) and I’ve only just made it to some dramatic tension. Don’t get me wrong, there can be a series here … I think Zollar’s self-casting as a black woman playing a white man is amazingly interesting (she also co-wrote/co-created the series). I would like to imagine that they play with that angle more — also, for the love of gods and gremlins, this isn’t Dungeons and Dragons, film this shit in costumes outdoors. Even if it is a table-top thing, we need some scenery.
Because I want to see the possibilities of a Season 2, I did a quickie interview with Zollar. Is it too late to save In Game? I suppose anything is possible in the LARP realm …
How did you get involved with In Game in the first place?
Keisha: The beginnings of In Game came about over dinner and drinks with co-creators Mark (Philip Lichtenstein) and Zoe (Samuel), when we started chatting about some some masterfully painted Warhammer figurines decorating their apartment. Mark and Zoe and myself all appreciated nerd culture, which made it easy to start writing this show with them. We met for weeks and wrote and wrote and wrote and sometimes got distracted and wrote. We like each other a lot and are pumped to work on more projects together in the future.
Were you a LARPer as a kid?
I actually wasn’t LARPer as a kid. I mainly just hung around LARPers. I was always intimidated because it always seemed like parts of nerd culture weren’t supposed to be for me. I became a LARPer groupie…I dated a more than a few table top guys and other people who LARPed. Later in life I started going to cons, looking online and seeing how awesomely diverse the LARP/nerd/geek community is! I definitely feel like there is a place for me now.
Did I see correctly that, in the first episode, your character imagines herself as a white guy? Is there any subtext in that?
Haha! Yes, my character Sheila from In Game is a powerful black woman who loves herself and likes to LARP and her current character is a white man. For many people, LARPing is a chance to explore things that they are not and will never be in a place very different from his/her/their real lives. For Sheila, she loves who she is, but instead of pretending to be a cat-type character, she plays a Count who is a powerful white man. LARPing is a great chance to visit different perspectives without ever having to live in them. So, Sheila is not a self-hating black woman but rather, would love to see what it’s like to be a powerful white man… if only IN GAME.
Having worked in online production and television, which do you prefer?
TV and online production are at once so similar and so different. When I first started working on content and performing online, we had budgets that seemed small but doable. Now online content can range from a low-end web series to a high-end TV quality web series. I had the amazing opportunity to have a small role on Orange is the New Black, and it was one of the biggest sets I’ve been on. Every time I look online, I see so much diversity in content, which is great. I see TV taking the hint on that as well. So basically, I love the values of online content: creators telling stories that are honest, odd, bold, specific, SMART and SMART. Shows like Transparent, OITNB, House of Cards, Alpha House, High Maintenance, and Mozart In The Jungle make me so excited to see even more diverse shows. I love how Amazon is piloting their shows – I am trying to watch every one I can! I think traditional TV is seeing the power of the internet productions; how specific and truthful stories can be told online and still get a great viewership, ad dollars, product placement, stars–and AWARDS! I’d love to do more TV but I will always keep doing online content because people are telling some awesome stories and doing such progressive things online.
What’s your craziest Hollywood story so far?
Orange is the New Black was such a great set and provided me with one of my favorite stories. I did a small role in the second season of OITNB and I had to play with a sex toy, specifically a Rabbit. Andrew McCarthy directed the episode I was on and I truthfully got a little starstruck, especially when I was told to do more “dick stuff” during one of the last takes. It was the first time I was told by Hollywood to do more “dick stuff”! Every time I think of a director/actor I respect telling me to do “dick stuff” I laugh to myself. And yes, my father has see that episode of OITNB because he loves the show and he loves me, even if I did part of a scene with a vibrator…