“Not Okay,” the new film by writer/director Quinn Shephard starring Zoey Deutch, is a satire of influencers and the terminally online. So it makes sense that they got one of the internet’s most controversial influencers to make a cameo in the movie: Caroline Calloway. How did the duo make the shocking appearance happen?
“I think I DMed her and asked her,” Shephard tells POPSUGAR. “I think we also sent a script through her agent, and then we drank a lot of rosé together. I found out that she was down to do it through an Instagram story that she posted.”
“Zoey and I were going through a number of attempted recruitments of different cameos for that scene,” she explains, but Calloway was “down to make fun of herself.” “It was a challenge to find people, [who] not only were down to make fun of themselves, but also their entire team of agents and managers also thought it was a terrific idea.”
For Deutch, the response when they contacted influencers about the film was surprising. “This was something I learned in this process,” she explains. “Representatives for influencers act like they are the representatives for the most famous, important people in the entire world,” she says. “As someone who has dealt with representatives and agents and managers my whole life, I have never experienced this level of due diligence. . . . And also, to be totally honest, [they were] not great at their jobs because they were so delusional.” She clarifies that this does not include Calloway’s representatives, who were great.
“Besides just being hilarious and a phenomenal drama actress, Zoey is somebody who has repeatedly in her career gravitated toward roles that were really brave and are complicated women who do morally questionable things, and she’s very much not afraid to go there.”
Shephard started working on “Not Okay” in 2018, and she says that the online conversation about “scammers” at the time — including the Caroline Calloway articles in The Cut and the James Charles-Tati Westbrook drama — was a major influence on the story she ultimately wrote.
“I came up with the idea for this, born out of [influencer drama], and out of the bizarreness of looking at all of that, but alongside this horrible political news that was happening and this rise in gun violence and all of these very real, very not fluffy things that were happening daily in America,” she explains. She says she used to be very resistant to social media and didn’t consider herself particularly plugged in. “Bizarrely, I think this movie has now made me more online because I have been so immersed in the research,” Shephard explains.
Shephard knew right away that she wanted Deutch to star as Danni, a wannabe influencer whose lie about a trip to Paris turns into a lie about surviving a terrorist attack. “Besides just being hilarious and a phenomenal drama actress, Zoey is somebody who has repeatedly in her career gravitated toward roles that were really brave and are complicated women who do morally questionable things, and she’s very much not afraid to go there,” she explains. She also thinks Deutch has “an innate likable accessible human quality” that keeps Danni from seeming like a total sociopath. “In a dream world, an audience will almost uncomfortably see themselves in Danni, and it will force them to have those uncomfortable moments and self-reflections,” she says.
But when Deutch was offered the role — and the chance to produce — she thought it was too good to be true at first. “Normally, I have to beg on my hands and knees and plead and audition a million times, so I was skeptical,” she says. “But it ended up being exactly what they were selling it as.”
One part of the process that Deutch was deeply involved in was figuring out Danni’s ultra-trendy wardrobe and which outfit would work for which scene. “We were both obsessed with getting every microtrend and every cultural moment, fashion-wise, for this exact kind of girl, into the film,” Shephard explains. “There’s got to be these boots that were in this viral photo, there’s got to be a Kim Shui dress, there’s got to be a Miaou corset. . . . We were stalking chronically online girls on Instagram and being like, OK, we got to get all of these into the movie because Danni would.”
The other style moment the duo want people to notice is how Danni eventually copies the style of Rowan (Mia Isaac), the actual survivor of a deadly school shooting who Danni befriends in order to make her own story more believable. “When [Danni] goes to the We’ve Had Enough rally, she’s wearing Rowan’s shoes, Rowan’s pants, and her top,” Deutch says. She explains that she had the idea during one of her fittings; she saw the inspiration board for Rowan and wondered if they should just have Danni copy Rowan’s clothes to make literal how much she was stealing from her.
Deutch and Shephard both point to Isaac’s performance as particularly heartbreaking. “She has this warmth that Quinn saw immediately in her, the first time she met her,” Deutch says. Isaac, she says, has a “deep vulnerability” that’s “a superpower of hers as an actress.”
“Rowan is trying really hard in a lot of the film to see the best in Danni, to believe in her,” Shephard says of the characters dynamic. “That’s what makes it honestly, even for me, hard to watch at times.”
There’s one other thing Deutch notes about the movie and the central dynamic between Rowan and Quinn. She’s been in lots of movies that pass the Bechdel Test — two women with names talk to each other about something that’s not a man — but she doesn’t think she’s ever been in a film where that’s the vast majority of what happens on screen. “That’s a really special part of the movie,” she says. “It’s just two women together for the whole movie.”
“Not Okay” is streaming now on Hulu.