Philicia Saunders is an American actress of Jamaican parentage. She is best known for her role as Tabala Zo in the Star Wars Universe, The Force Awakens. Born in Los Angeles, her early formal education nurtured her interest in the performing arts. Philicia attended Princeton University where she participated in live theater performances, and as her senior thesis project she presented a solo performance of Anna Deavere Smith’s one woman show, Fires in the Mirror.
Philicia completed a master’s degree program in acting at UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. At UCLA, she appeared in many stage productions, including William Wycherley’s The Country Wife, Elmer Rice’s The Adding Machine and Noël Coward’s Hay Fever. She also attended the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, England with an emphasis on classical acting and Shakespeare. In addition, she attended the Guthrie Experience for graduate actors in training in Minneapolis, MN. During this time, Philicia also worked as a production and casting intern on Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, Salim Akil’s Jumping the Broom and Justin Tipping’s Kicks.
She started her professional career in acting when she made her stage debut at Ark Theater in Los Angeles as Hermia in William Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, portraying Portia with the Independent Shakespeare Company in a production of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, and at Stage 52 as Monica in a Jamaican play called Which Way is Out? Her film debut started with a series of featured roles in 88 Soul, Don’t Let Her Pull you Down, Blaxican Brothers, The Doctor of Bagram, Enhanced, Sleight, and Straight Outta Compton. She has appeared in film with supporting and lead roles in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Bound to Kill, The Morning After, Come Here Often?, He’s Watching and Poe. Her television credits include co-star and featured roles in Shameless, REL, Speechless, Strange Angel, Bulge Bracket and Lost Angeles.
Philicia is a competitive synchronized swimmer and she volunteers with local children’s theater groups in Los Angeles.