Riley Keough, the granddaughter of Elvis Presley, often plays characters that you would cross the street to avoid. But that’s partly why she chooses them. She wants to find humanity in even the despicable.
She told The Hollywood Reporter that she loves to find characters who the audience hates at the beginning but slowly warms to them throughout the film. They may not agree with the character’s motives or actions, but at least they’ll understand them.
“I’m very empathetic. Something I practice in life is finding humanity and empathy for everybody,” Keough said. “What’s amazing about acting and movies is that you get to spend time with people who you would normally judge, or even hate, but then you might have moments of empathy while watching them. So it’s a really fun exercise in humanity, and I think film is an amazing way to explore that.”
That’s partly why she took on her latest role in Zola. Riley Keough plays Stefani, an exotic dancer who talks Zola (Taylour Paige) into an ill-fated trip to Florida. It’s based on the supposedly true story Zola told in a 148-tweet thread in 2015. The thread went viral and Rolling Stone even sat down with her to find out more on what the magazine dubbed “Greatest Stripper Saga Ever Tweeted.”
Keough said she hopes Zola is the tip of the spear when it comes to movies created from Twitter threads. Writers have found inspiration in books, plays, real life, but modern-era technology has changed how we interact… Shouldn’t it change how we make movies?
“I mean, I hope so,” Riley Keough said. “It’s such a fun idea. It’s very modern, and it feels like this modern odyssey. I love it. It’s a combination of mediums. I was talking to a friend about this this morning and how the younger generation is very much wanting to see quick internet-type pieces of content like TikTok videos. They seem to want to watch that over a movie, so I think Zola is a really great combination of the two. (Laughs.) So we’ll see. I’m very interested in where cinema and the internet are going to meet.”
Riley Keough Learned Empathy From Her Youth
Riley Keough had a strange childhood. She’s the granddaughter of Elvis Presley but never met him (he died 12 years before she was born). Her mother and father divorced when she was young, and her mother, Lisa Marie Presley, married Michael Jackson a few months later.
So she spent her time going from Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, basically a personalized theme park, to staying with her dad. He was a bassist in her mother’s band and lived hand-to-mouth most of the time. So, it wasn’t uncommon to sleep in a bed hand-built for a princess one night then curl up on a mattress on the floor the next.
But she loves the time she spent with her dad, she told The Guardian in 2017.
“Actually, my memories of growing up with him were so colorful and eccentric and fun. It was a good vibe, you know? When I was like eight I told him, ‘I want to grow up and be poor like you!’ He was eating a bowl of cereal. I didn’t realize how wildly offensive that was!”