Aqueela Zoll is one of the surprise packages in Stephen Merchant’s fun and inspiring new film, Fighting With My Family.
Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge caught up with Aqueela to talk about her role in the film, defying expectations, working with Florence Pugh, and much more.
Q: You play Kirsten in ‘Fighting With My Family’. Were you a fan of pro-wrestling before this project and did your appreciation of it change over the process of making this film?
A: I had so much respect for WWE and female wrestlers before filming Fighting With My Family, but that 100% only increased during making the film. What they do in the ring is not easy by any stretch of the imagination and getting to train with WWE trainers was an absolute blast and challenge all at the same time. I loved every minute of it.
Q: There is a lot more depth to the Kirsten character than we might expect. What was your understanding of, and relationship with the character?
A: I adored Kirsten and all of my oldest child traits related immediately to her depth and drive that stemmed from having someone other than herself to care for.
Fighting With My Family is obviously a story entirely about very dynamic and real people, so I loved that Kirsten, although not based on a real person, was also written with so many more real life dynamics than we’d imagine. She’s young, friendly and fits in with the girls seamlessly, but has a very different drive and weight propelling her because she’s a mom. This kind of other-focused endurance really inspired me and I had a very positive relationship to the Kirsten character creatively because of it.
Q: This role allowed you to get in the wrestling ring, talk smack on the microphone and get in some intense beach workouts. How did you find the diverse set of challenges and situations this film presented to you?
A: It was all spectacular to be honest. Wrestling in the ring was by far my favorite. How often can you learn how to pummel great actors who have become friends and get paid to do it? It was all such a gift.
The beach workouts were definitely very sweaty, but even then, glorious. I’ll gladly go to work to work out, learn new skills, even if it means getting a little beat up (laughs).
Q: We’ve seen you get involved in action scenes before in ‘Urban Zelda’ and ‘Rush: Inspired By Battlefield’. Do you relish these type of roles and defying expectations people may have of you?
A: I do, action roles are pure joy for me. From wrestling in Fighting With My Family,
hand to hand fighting in Urban Zelda, to shooting sniper rifles for Rush: Inspired by Battlefield – I love it.
It’s always rewarding to get to feel like you’re breaking the mold with how people see you, of course. I just freaking love playing tough women who simultaneously aren’t afraid of their femininity, no matter which shape it takes.
Q: What was it like working closely with Florence Pugh, Vince Vaughn, Kim Matula and Ellie Gonsalves?
A: Florence, Vince, Kim and Ellie are each absolutely hysterical and amazing people. There wasn’t a day on set I wasn’t laughing or giggling profusely about something.
I’ve watched Vince in so many movies and always been a huge fan. Meeting and working with him was tremendously special.
Florence is a such a special woman and actor. I know we’ll all be seeing her on the biggest screens for decades to come, so working with her on this was priceless. Working alongside Kim and Ellie was like getting to hang out with two of the coolest and funniest women I’ve ever met. It was an honor.
Q: Director Stephen Merchant is a beloved figure here in the UK. What was he like to work with as a director?
A: Stephen was magnificent to work with! I hope every actor gets to have a director like him at least once. He was a bright presence, valiant leader, and made me feel included in the development of my character. Even during my director session with him – as part of the casting process – he brought warmth, ease, and confidence to the room. He’s so down to earth, insanely kind, and yet so brilliant. I’d say ‘yes’ to working with him again, instantly.
Q: You will star alongside Madison Iseman and Jerry O’Connell in Michael Duggan’s upcoming comedy, ‘The F**k It List’. Can you tell us anything about your character and your involvement in the film?
A: I cannot wait to see The F**k It List once it’s released! I have a much smaller role in this one, but you’ll see me popping in and out as Natalie Legere, the film’s trusty reporter.
Q: Acting has been in your veins since six years old. Can you tell us more about your background and your passion for acting?
My Grandy (Grandma) owned a dance school when I was young, so I started performing as soon as I could walk. A love for the practice and process, syncing costume to performance, and the value of ‘team’ that it takes for a production to work seamlessly; these are all the things that I grew up appreciating from a young age. At six, I was organizing at home plays for my sisters and I to star in, and by seven I was the lead in my second grade school play — to date, my best performance (laughs).
Acting was never a part of my long term dream, however, and honestly, my love for performing got lost in the hustle and bustle of trying to figure out who I was in my family, and outside of it. I was so blessed to rediscover my love for the creative and expressive arts while I was finishing my bachelors degree at CSULB.
My passion for acting spans from a deep appreciation for the power of storytelling, to the beautiful nature of how great works of art call on great teams of people. Unless the story of my life has grandly different plans, I’ll surely be acting for decades to come.
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2 facts ⚡️ One, I have a lot of self tanner on in this. Two, it pumps me up knowing that in environments where maybe we’re intimidated to need to be something, it’s best to just be who we are – whole, alive, joyful, free. I have it on good authority that Vince also agrees. #putonjoylikeajacket #fightingwithmyfamily