Among the many Casablanca Records artists depicted in Spinning Gold — a new biopic about the company and its founder, Neil Bogart — is the “Queen of Disco” herself, Donna Summer. The iconic singer’s career and “very personal side” is portrayed by Tayla Parx, a singer-songwriter who co-wrote hits such as “Thank U, Next” by Ariana Grande, “Loves Lies” by Normani and Khalid, and “High Hopes” by Panic! At The Disco. She also has a handful of acting credits to her name, including the 2007 version of Hairspray, based on the Broadway musical.
PopCulture.com had a chance to catch up with Parx and she shared that one challenge of playing Summer — who died in 2012 — was that there is far less footage of the singer giving interviews than she expected. “I noticed that when I looked up interviews of her — because I was like, ‘Okay. Well, what was the backstory? How do you become Donna Summer?” — and looking at her interviews and seeing the way that she carried herself, I was watching as many interviews as I could. And there wasn’t a lot, by the way. There’s not a lot of interviews of her, which is random actually. I was surprised.”
Since interview footage was somewhat scarce, Parx started working on other ways of capturing Summer’s essence on-screen. “I went to some of the earlier performances. I wanted to see the evolution of,” she said, then shifting her direction. “A lot of people, when they watched Donna perform, they would be like, ‘Okay. Well, she’s a little bit awkward sometimes…’ And that wasn’t something that me, growing up in the ’90s, I didn’t know that people thought that about her performance style.”
Parx continued, “So, looking at what was people’s perception of it, but also what was her own perception of how did she go from being a church-going girl to singing ‘Love to Love You Baby.’ Why did she talk the way that she talked? Because she was from Boston, but the accent wasn’t as heavy. So how does that happen? Oh, her mother was a teacher.” She added, “So there’s all of these different things that I was able to just really become a student on in a very different way than just being a fan of music, which also was another heavy portion. But starting at the beginning really, really helped me a lot.
Finally, speaking about how Summer is depicted in the new film, Parx said, “Everybody has this perception of Donna Summer, but then there’s no backstory to you’re seeing this character. But we have to remember in this film that we’re not seeing her on stage the majority of the time. We’re seeing a very personal side of her, and that means a lot to me.” Spinning Gold is now playing in theaters. Click here for showtimes.