A certain amount of skepticism and ambiguity is to be expected with a Sacha Baron Cohen project. What’s real? What’s not? How much did those involved know? What did they suspect? What were they told? That’s certainly true of Amazon’s Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, SBC’s follow-up to his 2006 film Borat; in both, unsuspecting people come into contact with the titular journalist and chaos ensues. While a certain horny lamprey’s appearance in the film rightly generated quite a lot of attention, there’s someone else who had an arguably greater impact. She’s definitely not an actor, and she’s got high praise for the young woman she didn’t realize was her co-star.
In this must-read interview with Variety’s Rebecca Rubin, Oklahoma City resident Jeanise Jones confirms that, like the ghoulish sex-pest who advises the President, she too was taken in by Baron Cohen and Maria Bakalova, the Bulgarian actress who plays Tutar, Borat’s daughter. Apparently, Bakalova was so convincing that Jones has been praying for her ever since—until recently, as she told Variety. Here’s what Jones said about what she’d do if she ran into either of the actors:
As far as her, I would give her a hug. I’m glad to know she’s not really in that situation. I hate to hear of anyone in that situation. Him, I don’t know. It wasn’t real, so I would shake his hand and say, “You got me.”
Rubin also asked Jones about Bakalova’s performance, and specifically whether or not she thinks the young actor deserves an Oscar nomination for a performance which, if nothing else, took a hell of a lot of nerve. The answer, unequivocally, is yes:
Yes, she was good. She had me good and fooled. She’s a darn good actress. She played her part very well.
But that doesn’t mean there are no hard feelings. Jones tells Rubin she was paid $3,600 for her appearance in the film, which seems like a pittance given her impact. In response, her pastor has set up a GoFundMe for Jones, who recently lost a job she’d held for decades due to COVID-19. As of this writing, over $122,000 has been raised. Maybe the millionaire artist who cast her could pitch in a few bucks?
UPDATE: According to People, Baron Cohen has donated $100,000 to benefit the Oklahoma City community of Jeanise Jones, who asked that the money be distributed by the Ebenezer Baptist Church. Per the report, it will be earmarked for “shelter, food, and any other needs the community has.” Here’s the part where we say “very nice.”
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