For the first time in a year, Oklahoma City resident Jeanise Jones no longer finds herself praying for the wellbeing of Tutar Sagdiyev, a teenager she met while filming a documentary. The young girl, to the genuine concern of Jones, was led by her father to believe that women can’t drive and men have bigger brains.
Jones doesn’t feel worried anymore because she recently discovered that she wasn’t shooting a documentary after all. In reality, she was one of the many unwitting people pranked by Sacha Baron Cohen for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” the comedic actor’s victory lap as famed Kazakh journalist Borat Sagdiyev. The teen whose odd behaviors and beliefs were truly disturbing to Jones, in actuality, was 24-year-old Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova, who plays Borat’s daughter.
Jones was hired as a professional babysitter to watch Tutar while Borat tried to make extra money for his daughter’s plastic surgery. (In the film, he intends to gift her to “America’s Most Famous Ladies’ Man” Vice President Mike Pence as a peace offering after embarrassing his country in 2006’s “Borat” and believes breast implants will make her more attractive to American men.)
In a movie full of colorful (to be kind) characters, complete with QAnon conspiracy theorists and a self-proclaimed “sugar baby,” the 62-year-old Jones comes off as the rare, relatively sane and stable figure.
Jones hasn’t seen the movie yet (she plans to watch it eventually), but she can already look back at the experience with a laugh. After the film premiered on Amazon Prime, she spoke to Variety about what scenes were left on the cutting room floor and how she really feels about falling victim to Baron Cohen.
Have you had the chance to watch “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” yet?
No, I haven’t.
Do you plan on seeing it?
How did this experience come about?
We were told we were filming a documentary on that little girl [Bakalova], who turned out to be a grown actress. They came to our church and said they were looking for some elderly Black women — grandma types — for this documentary. Everyone did individual interviews and you answered questions to the best of your ability. I’m not very good with interviews, but they made me comfortable. They asked basic questions about my kids and growing up and how I feel about children. I wasn’t expecting to be picked. When I was, I was like, “wow” but I didn’t think anything else about it. But my longtime friend didn’t want me to go because there’s too much going on in the world. She said, “Jeanise, they gonna snatch you.” And I said, “Girl, nobody want me. I’m not young, I’m fat and I’m Black.” When I told her I had to go to Washington [to film], she wasn’t happy. But I never felt like I was in danger.
The house you were filmed in wasn’t yours, right?
No, that was not my house.
How long were you there for?
We were there over an hour because as you saw, we talked and we went through the book. And it took time for her to get the ball and chain off.
Were any notable scenes that you filmed with Tutar cut from the movie?
I haven’t seen it so I don’t know exactly what was cut out.
Oh, right! Your part starts off with Borat dropping Tutar at the house. He feeds her treats to reinforce good behavior and leaves you with a dog bowl for water.
Ah yes, we drink out of glasses and cups. We don’t drink out of bowls. Not here.
Was there any point where you were wondering if you should call child services?
No, I never thought about that because I didn’t know what kind of rights we had. Because I’m thinking she’s really from a third-world [country] and that’s how they treat women and young girls. I [suggested they] take her to a school and let her observe girls in a classroom who can read and write just like boys. I was thinking it was real, so my thought was they were going to take her to see different things and make it so she could be able to stay in the United States. Evidently, that’s not what happened.
What was going through your mind when Borat and Tutar first walked into the house?
You can’t print what first went through my mind. I was like, “What … in the world…. is this?” It threw me off. It really took me a minute to comprehend what was going on. I saw this little girl all chained up with this ball and a collar around her neck. I don’t know if this is in the movie or not, but he told me, “If she lays a golden egg, please, please can I have just a little bit? It’s worth so much money where I’m from.” I told him, “If she lays a golden egg, man, you can have it. If she is going to lay a golden egg… you can have that egg.”
It’s not in the movie. So did she end up laying a golden egg?
You never know the kind of tricks they can pull off… Did you feel safe filming? Your second scene was filmed during the pandemic and you were wearing a mask.
Yes, I felt safe because everybody had a mask on. The morning before we shot that last scene, everybody took a COVID test.
You kept a straight face throughout, even when Tutar suggests you’re a man because you can read and asks to see your “putka.” How are you so patient?
My patience comes from God. I used to not have any patience at all. But in that kind of situation, you can’t help but have patience because you’re trying to help somebody — at least, that’s what I thought. I was trying to give the best advice I know. And as a young lady, you don’t need all the features that she said her dad wanted her to do. There was nothing wrong with her. I was trying to let her know that she was pretty.
You also bluntly told her that her dad was a liar.
I heard that’s what I said, I just don’t remember saying it. He was a liar. It was a lie when he said that women can’t do this, girls can’t do that. He said women and girl’s brain size are no bigger than a squirrel’s.
How much did you get paid for being in the movie?
In total, it was $3,600.
Do you think that compensation is fair considering Amazon is owned by Jeff Bezos, who is worth $200 billion, and Sacha Baron Cohen will make millions from the movie?
I can’t say it was fair because they knew it was going to be a movie, and I didn’t. I just thought I was doing a documentary about how we do things in America. But I blame myself for not reading when I signed those papers.
I know you haven’t seen the movie, but based on your time with Maria, do you think she should be nominated for an Oscar?
Yes, she was good. She had me good and fooled. She’s a darn good actress. She played her part very well.
The New York Post said you felt “betrayed” by the filmmakers. Is that true?
I saw that comment, and I had to let them know that I never felt betrayed. What I said was that I didn’t know it was a movie or an R-rated movie. “Betrayed” never came out of my mouth. I don’t know where they got that from. I’m not ever going to say I was betrayed because it was partially my fault I didn’t read the contracts. I’ll take my responsibility on that.
[Editor’s Note: The New York Post reached out after publication with a recording of Jones’ quote to confirm the validity of their story.]
What would you say to Sacha and Maria now?
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.”
Do you think “Borat” is the start or the end of your Hollywood career?
I would be open to other movies, sure. But I do not expect anybody to knock on my door. I don’t think I’m that famous.