Today we’d like to introduce you to Aqueela Zoll.
Aqueela, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born and raised in northern California in a town called Redding and originally moved to southern California to get my bachelor’s degree from CSULB. I’d grown up being on stage as a dancer and absolutely loved it but had never even thought about acting as a vocation. My Grandy (grandma) owned a dance school so I was dancing before I could walk, and I used to be obsessed with being on camera for my dad’s Kwik Dry Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning commercials haha. However, I was now going to college to be a nurse and had long since forgotten about my love for performing. That all changed when I withdrew myself from the nursing program, started working as a model to pay my way through college, and found myself in an audition room for a small indie film with a set of folded sides and two scenes. I remember falling in love with the business of acting before I had any notion to fall in love with the craft of it. From my large amounts of research, the business appeared to be all about constant variety in stories, collaborations, exploration, and development. I’ve always loved change and being in places where I don’t know anyone and no one knows me.
The business of acting felt like that on steroids. My senior year in college I began to study theatre at CSULB and enrolled in an acting studio in North Hollywood. Lots of agents, small jobs, and hundreds of auditions later, I booked my first big role in FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY, a film directed by Stephen Merchant starring Florence Pugh. Two years after that, I booked my first pilot, an hour drama for FOX. It got picked up and we just finished shooting season one in January 2020. I’m currently teaching classes at my favorite studio in Los Angeles, the AFA Studio. I couldn’t be more honored to be in the trenches training with hungry actors every week. The highlight moment to me, however, of my whole story is the night I was on a phone with my younger sister, Kamari, and decided to step away from nursing. I was crying and distraught (haha) and Kamari helped me realize that I’d rather be searching for something that I loved than doing something that I knew I didn’t. We were talk/praying and I remember clear as day saying, “God, I wish there was a vocation where I could use all of myself. Not just my science brain, but all of the parts of me. Is there a world where people would ask me to bring all of that? God, I wish something like that existed.”
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Money, community, the right kind of training/team, & roommates. haha. Roommates can be ROUGH. I’ll never forget the day I signed the lease on my own apartment in Hollywood. I was there until I got married. Of course, money can be a struggle. Los Angeles is a highly saturated city with lots of talented people, so being willing to side hustle is really necessary. Honesty, though, I think the biggest struggle for me looking back was having a community of sound-minded people surrounding me and challenging my choices. Challenging for the purpose of calling me up. I can’t stress how important that it. I didn’t know how to ask for that and definitely didn’t know where to look. I loathed building church back then, so that wasn’t a safe place to me. All of my friends were my peers and in the most loving way, just as naive or jaded as I was. I also remember having a really bad agent for awhile. I made some really less than beneficial work choices while with him/her because it was all about the money with no regard for integrity. No bueno. That didn’t last long. Training wise, It took me years to get to a spot that could’ve taken me months. In my opinion, educating yourself in aspects of both the business and craft is crucial.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I’m a big subscriber to the role that divine opportunity has for each of us. I believe we find ourselves faced with choices to make from peace, or from fear. We can be entirely terrified but still have peace about something, or feel so excited yet feel a deep dis-ease about it. More than luck, my life and acting career have been a marathon of practicing to discern no only right for me from wrong for me, but right for me from almost right for me.
- Instagram: @aqueela
Renew Media (Ryan Gunnarson), Chantell Pfitzer