One of the best ways to dive into the mind of a film is to speak with the director and get their personal thoughts about the message or story being told. Nzingha Stewart, director of Netflix’s latest feature film Tall Girl, opened up about her grooming from Shondaland and heartfelt moments from Tall Girl . Nzingha is well seasoned directing episodic television during what she calls a “Golden Era” on TV. It has provided her with opportunities to work with the likes of Viola Davis and Kerry Washington on shows like Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder. And I have to mention that Ms. Stewart has also directed more than 100 music videos for artist such as Common.
I spoke with Nzingha Stewart about her directorial debut on Tall Girl and how it came about. She shared that she was in no rush to take a seat in a directors chair until the time and film were right.
Tall Girl came to her and upon reading the script she instantly fell in love with it. She wanted to make this movie because she loved the girl, Jodie played by Ava Michelle and she related to her having insecurities. Nzingha is not a tall girl herself but did not hinder her great storytelling as her mother and several of her family members are well above average height allowing Nzingha to pull from their stories and experiences with being tall.
Groomings From Shondaland
Shondaland provided her with the experience of directing a cast from a different culture and generation. Race and age were not an issue as she was prepared from Shondaland. Ms. Stewart is appreciative that she was selected as a director for a film that did not particularly focus on a black cast. It’s time that the industry sees that black people can tell the stories of others as well says the New York University Gallatin School, graduate.
Conveying the Story
Jodi is 6’2″ and while most people cannot relate to this particular experience Nzingha made sure that she told the story starting with her own point of reference from wherever tall girl Jodi was emotionally and how she grows as a human throughout the experience. In Tall Girl, Jodi often wanted to hide because of her insecurity about her height and Nzingha grasped this emotion even sharing emotions that she herself felt from experiences of wanting to hide. Public speaking is challenging for Stewart and she confesses to working herself up every-time as self-confidence and speaking in front of a crowd does not come naturally for her, leaving her with a similar situation to want to not be seen.
The movie is funny and has lots of emotions displayed throughout. The father and daughter scenes resonated most with film director Nzingha Stewart. In Tall Girl, Jodi’s father Richie (Steve Zhan) actually has more insecurities about his daughter’s height than she does. Several scenes where he tries to bring her ( Jodi) comfort although backfiring, these intimate moments where a parent is trying to be there and comfort their child’s growing pains brought tears to Ms. Stewart every single time that she viewed it. She loved how he just showed up for her saying that we really need to see more of that with fathers and daughters.
Netflix’s latest feature film had me at the title, Tall Girl. Being a tall girl myself, I wondered if there would be situations that I would be able to relate to and there were.
Jodi (Ava Michelle) has always been the tallest girl in school — and she’s always been uncomfortable with it. After slouching her way through life for 16 years and being made fun of by classmates, Jodi meets Stig (Luke Eisner), a seemingly perfect Swedish foreign exchange student who’s even taller than she is. Jodi’s new crush turns her world upside down and throws her into a surprising love triangle, but with the help of her two best friends (Griffin Gluck, Anjelika Washington) as well as her beauty queen sister Harper (Sabrina Carpenter), Jodi comes to realize that she’s far more than her insecurities about her appearance have led her to believe. TALL GIRL, director Nzingha Stewart’s first feature film, is a heartfelt and hilarious coming-of-age story about finding the confidence to stop slouching and stand tall.
TALL GIRL AIRS ON NETFLIX SEPTEMBER 13
Directed by: Nzingha Stewart
Written by: Sam Wolfson
Produced by: McG, Mary Viola, and Corey Marsh
Starring: Ava Michelle, Griffin Gluck, Luke Eisner, Anjelika Washington, Sabrina Carpenter, Clara Wilsey, Paris Berelc, Rico Paris, Steve Zahn, and Angela Kinsey