Though she wasn’t in front of the camera, July worked closely with Wood to develop the character of Old Dolio, the twentysomething daughter of a pair of lousy con artists (Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger), who nonetheless shares her parents’ fierce conviction in their scavenger lifestyle. Not only does Old Dolio not resemble July’s two avatars in her past films, Me and You and Everyone We Know and The Future, but her absence of femininity or softness distinguishes her from most twenty-something cinematic heroines.
“I’ve been wanting to work with [Miranda] for years and just jumped at the opportunity,” Wood says. “And then when I saw the kind of film she was creating, and the heroine that was Old Dolio, I was elated because you never get to see a leading lady look or act or sound like Old Dolio, and I had also never really read this script. And I’ve been doing this [for] over 25 years now, I’ve read a lot of scripts. So to actually be able to read a script that was so original I couldn’t compare it to anything else, that’s what excited me more than anything.”
With her lank hair, baggy tracksuit, and guttural voice, Old Dolio possesses the raised-by-wolves ferality of someone reared outside of mainstream society, especially with regard to hyper-feminized gender norms. Yet she’s clearly devoted herself to the Dynes’ scams, leaping, diving, and twisting herself into poses to evade security cameras—or just their long-suffering laundromat landlord.
“I’d never had a character who was gonna take some real work to get into,” July says. “I didn’t know if any of that was going to work, but I did think that rather than just arbitrarily come up with these physical restraints that it was important to sort of limit her intellectual state. I mean, she’s a full complete soul in there, but she’s not used to articulating, internally or externally, about her emotions.”
They workshopped the character together for about a week, with references and videos, so that they could build up what Wood describes as a “toolbox” once they got to set. “We had our own language that we had built for Old Dolio,” the star says. “Miranda could just call something out, and I would know what she was talking about. She would yell out, ‘Proud lion!’ ‘cause that’s one of the animals we had picked for Old Dolio, that she would emulate and have the same energy [as], and also when she needed to be slightly attractive for [Gina Rodriguez’s character] Melanie.”