UPDATED 10/30, 10:10 a.m. ET: After Jeanise Jones spoke about her experience shooting the Borat sequel, which she thought was a documentary, star Sacha Baron Cohen has donated $100,000 to go toward her community.
The money will be distributed by the Ebenezer Baptist Church at the request of Jones, with it going toward shelter, food, and other community-based causes. "I was blown away but not surprised because I was told about what type of heart this man has," her pastor, Derrick Scobey, told People of the donation, which he says will help the community following recent struggles with power outages and ice storms. "Maybe it's a little risqué, some of the things in the movie, but he has a good heart."
Scobey set up a GoFundMe campaign for Jones earlier this week, considering she had only been paid $3,600 for her appearance in the movie and is currently unemployed. Scobey wrote that she represents "a light shining in darkness," and that he and Jones had been helping to house senior citizens impacted by the storms.
The fundraiser has raised over $144,000 for Jones.
"While all these people around the world are loving how [Jeanise is] the moral compass of the movie, she's sitting here serving people in the dark and in the cold," Scobey added. "This is who we are. This is what we do for our community, and we love our community."
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In the film. 62-year-old Jeanise Jones, one of the few individuals featured in the film who doesn't paint themselves in a negative light, is hired by Borat to babysit his daughter Tutar, who is portrayed by Maria Bakalova. Their scenes have been widely praised as some of the best moments of the movie, providing a contrast from the behavior of some of the other people in the film.
In an interview with the New York Post, Jones has said she was never told that what she was working on was a comedy. She was reportedly recruited for the project through a church in Oklahoma City, but was given the impression that it was a documentary. "I’m feeling like she’s from the Third World and that kind of stuff does happen where they sell women. I’m thinking this is for real so I felt kind of betrayed by it," she explained. "They told me it was a documentary for this young lady to understand she has rights and can do whatever a man can do."
Shortly after she wrapped filming on the project, Jones told others at her church to pray for Tutar because they were "concerned." She only found out it wasn't a documentary when one of her cousin's showed her a trailer for the film last week. "I was just kind of shocked that it was that kind of movie," she said.
Jones' pastor, Derrick Scobey, said the producers approached him to recruit Jones because they wanted a "sassy" Black woman in her 70s to participate in a documentary.
Despite the report from the New York Post, Jones indicated that she didn't actually feel "betrayed" by the filmmakers in an interview with Variety. "What I said was that I didn't know it was a movie or an R-rated movie," she explained. "'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 that I didn't read the contracts. I'll take my responsibility on that."
In total, Jones was paid $3,600 for her participation in the film. "I can't say it was fair because they knew it was going to be a movie, and I didn't," she told Variety. "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."
Asked what she would say to Cohen and Bakalova now that she knows the true nature of the film, she said she'd give the latter a hug as she's "glad to know she's not really in that situation." As for Cohen, though, she says she doesn't know. "It wasn't real, so I would shake his hand and say, 'You got me.'"
Since losing her job due to the pandemic, Jones' pastor launched a GoFundMe to help raise funds for Jones. "She is one of the most authentic people I've ever met," he said. "Please consider giving a contribution to simply to say thank you to Jeanise for being 'a moral compass and a light shining in darkness' in this movie," People have already raised over $50,000 for Jones through the fundraiser.
The news comes after Amazon Studios revealed that "tens of millions" viewed Cohen's much-talked about Borat sequel during opening weekend, Deadline reports. Amazon, which reportedly paid a significant amount of money to acquire rights for the film, claims Borat Subsequent Moviefilm has seen "huge engagement" since its release on Amazon Prime Video last week. The company didn't reveal specific numbers regarding the viewership, but they did imply the movie was a "great success."
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm has received mostly positive reviews since its release, although it hasn't been without controversy. One particularly controversial scene in Borat 2 features Trump's personal attorney (and ghost of Christmas future) Rudy Giuliani putting his hand into his trousers while alone in a hotel room with Bakalova. When Trump was asked what he thought of the scene, he called Cohen "a creep" who he doesn't think is funny.
He might be alone on that one.