Zaina Gohou is a jack of all trades, beauty, and brains. This year alone, she earned her Sustainable Business Strategy degree at Harvard University, was accepted into Michael Tschechow Studio in Berlin, actively modeling, and actively helping to implement sustainable practices in African countries. Now, she is awaiting her big-screen debut in a new movie set to release in 2021. For years, Gohou equally divided her time into all her interests, but with recent acting success and recognition for her talent, her passion for acting has gained more of her focus.
Q: Why did you decide to break into the acting industry as of recent? Why now?
Z: It all happened naturally. Last year I attended a casting for a TV commercial in New York and was asked if I could act, and I said yes. Little did I know that Friday, the casting director would find me on Instagram and send me a long script for an audition for a TV series pilot! The audition was Monday…Fast turnaround! I studied like crazy all weekend and booked the role. I loved the challenge and the process of getting into a role so much. When I acted, time flew by, which made me realize that I wanted to do more of it. So, I started to take lessons on the job. While filming, I wanted to jump out of bed as soon as I woke up to get on set and learn.
Q: Was there always a passion for the craft?
Z: Yes, great acting performances always fascinated and moved me. I always wanted to act. I never felt comfortable enough to go to an agent and ultimately did not know where to start. Only once I was in front of the camera did I realize how organic it felt to perform and transform. It was equally challenging, scary and ultimately exhilarating. So, it was this great thing that pushed and dragged me out of my comfort zone. Only once I was in front of the camera did I realize how organic it felt to perform and transform.
Q: What kind of training did you take before setting out on castings? Are you signed with an agency?
Z: I started training at Susan Batson Studio in NY whenever I could fit it into my modeling schedule and did weekend courses for specifics on the side, like an improv course at UCB to get out of my head while performing. Then the lockdowns and events of 2020 moved me to Berlin, where I am now attending acting school full time at Michael Tschechow Studio Berlin and Coaching with Christoph Gareisen. I am signed with Innovative Artists in NY.
Q: You have already shot for the pilot of “House of Rules” and will have your 2021 big-screen debut in Onur Tukel’s movie, That Cold Dead Look in Your Eyes. What has it been like having success so early on in your career?
Z: I’m excited that I can start filming, but I know this is just the beginning, and there is a lot of work in front of me. I was thrown in cold water and learned by doing, which I felt was the best for me. I will continue to grow as an actress and perfect my craft.
Q: How do you overcome rejection? What keeps you going as an actress?
Z: I feel acting is more multi-dimensional because I have to prepare and learn a lot with every part. I research, I read, and have conversations with colleagues. There are aspects of psychology, philosophy, literature, and history in work combined with rhythm, body, voice, and emotion. Yes, it’s challenging, but it is immensely satisfying for me to do this complex work. Even if I’m studying it all for practice, not even for a role- I grow as a person, not just as an actress. Therefore, I don’t mind rejection; ideally, it comes with critique, so I know what I can work on it and can further shape my craft.
Q: What is your niche as an actress?
Z: I’m unsure and am willing to play anything for now…almost anything, haha. I love the experience of testing my abilities and character development, and I hope to fit into any genre and any role.
Q: Recently, you decided to go back to acting school; why? What do you hope this will do for your career?
Z: I wanted to work intensely on my instrument and build more techniques that I can fall back on when preparing for a role. I want to learn and perfect my tangible techniques so I can better prepare on my own. Plus, I believe that someone can never learn enough. Also, I want to claim my performances proudly, and I want directors to see my talent, not just a pretty face. I need to establish myself as a talented actress, so there is never any question of how I landed the role.
Q: What fulfillment does acting give you? Why do you believe this was part of your calling?
Z: What I love about acting is that it really opens me up, and I love the creativity and the stimulation. It makes me feel and moves me like never before. It’s truly my passion.