With ‘Not Okay,’ Zoey Deutch Seals Her Status As Hollywood’s Unexpected Queen Of Scammers

In an interview with IndieWire, Deutch discusses her role as the “unlikable female heroine” in the online fame parody directed by Quinn Shephard and her hilariously unhinged performance.

Quinn Shephard elected to stay behind the camera for her second feature, the internet parody “Not Okay,” even though she appeared in her 2017 first movie, “Blame.” And she couldn’t have found a greater stand-in than actress Zoey Deutch, who plays complex roles despite her affable demeanor onstage. Shephard’s script for “Set It Up” immediately wowed the actress, because it gave her a fresh take on the “fascinating character” she relishes portraying.

As a writer, Quinn is exceptional. Incredibly tight for a screenplay, and full of gutsy choices, I was impressed by her work. Every last detail had been taken care of. A script like that makes you want to play the lead role in the film immediately. Deutch recently told IndieWire that her character, Danni Sanders, was one of her favorites to play. My excitement at Quinn’s desire to have me participate in the production process as her accomplice was palpable.

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According to an interview with IndieWire, Shephard said that Deutch was always her first option for the role and that she was really struck by the actress’s willingness to be vulnerable with such a difficult character. Shephard remarked that other individuals weren’t as confident in the film or the starring role, while Deutch seemed at ease in both situations. Indeed, there’s no reason why not. Already, she’s mastered the technique.

Danni is eerily similar to Deutch’s roles in “The Politician,” Ryan Murphy’s high school political comedy, in which she played a false cancer patient, and “Buffaloed,” a scam-centric picture in which she played a debt-collecting hustler. While “Not Okay” is a far cry from either the campy Netflix series or the black comedy, it, too, finds dark humor in its over-the-top characters’ responses to pain.

Zoey Deutch
Zoey Deutch

The film opens with a tongue-in-cheek content warning advising viewers that the film contains “flashing lights, themes of trauma, and an unlikable female protagonist.” Though the characterization of Danni as unlikable was reinforced by audience feedback during test screenings, Deutch doesn’t see her that way.

She explained her interest and concentration on relatability thus: She is always awkward because she never knows what to say or do. She is affluent and unpleasant to be around, so it’s no surprise that she doesn’t have any friends. I wouldn’t call her a victim, but I would call her lonely and confused. She’s just a figment of your imagination, not the real thing. She is the whole total of her upbringing.

Danni becomes an instant sensation after her plot to fake her way into a writer’s retreat in Paris by posting phony updates to social media swiftly escalates into her “surviving” a terrible catastrophe. At first, Danni’s plan is motivated by her desire to pique the interest of Dylan O’Brien’s influential character, Colin.

However, once a terrorist attack occurs in Paris, Danni feels compelled to pretend as if she was there, she survived it, and she has lots to say about it.

She gains the attention of everyone in her life as the number of her followers climbs into the thousands. Even Colin. Deutch regards the film’s criticism of social media and internet stardom as a means to an end, rather than the film’s primary focus.

The film unravels as a result of a girl’s obsession with gaining the attention and approval of a boy. For sure, she wishes she had more fans and that she were more well-known. “But that’s secondary to her need for, and lack of, connection,” Deutch added.

The film’s ditzy grifter tale is divided into eight chapters for easy viewing. Without giving too much away, the chapter title hints that Danni will not be given a “redemption arc” in the film. According to Deutch, Shephard shot at least two alternate endings before settling on the one used in the final cut.

She doesn’t have the word “sorry” in her vocabulary, therefore you won’t hear her use it even once in passing during the entire film. Of course, many women experience the inverse issue. Every time they do or say something, they apologize even though they have no reason to. The contrary describes Danni perfectly. It’s true what Deutch says; she never apologizes. It’s very hilarious, because I kept saying “sorry” in passing while we were filming, and everyone was being like, “Nope, Danni never says sorry!”

Danni meets Rowan (Mia Isaac), a young activist, under false pretenses, and they become friends. In the closing scene, Danni goes to a performance by Rowan. Despite the fact that it does not include the word “sorry” in the text, she arrives with an apology already typed out on her phone.

This apology, however, “was never going to be for Rowan, it was going to be for Danni,” Deutch explained. As much as she may have cared about this poor child, it would be selfish of her to keep trying to force herself into her life. Plus, Rowan’s life is much improved without her. That’s the maturity I’m talking about; the realization that you should back the fuck off. And that conclusion was a lot more satisfying than the rest.

In case you missed it, the Searchlight Pictures film “Not Okay” is now available to watch online on Hulu.

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