“I feel like I’ve recently come into the role of being able to curate what I do,” asserts Zazie Beetz between yawns during our 8am call (her time; this side of the Atlantic sandwich shop trade is approaching booming). “I try to do things that really speak to me: something that needs to be told, or that’s unusual or different.”
This revised awareness of her pull as an actor is presumably down to the last couple of years. The German-born New York-based 26-year-old has gravitated towards roles in some of the industry’s better output: Netflix’s comedy-drama anthology Easy, and Atlanta, Donald Glover’s critically and culturally acclaimed show that returns for spring.
As Noelle and Van respectively, Beetz is a mother (a part she adores, finding maternal characters “such a challenge and something I’m interested in for my future”), opposite Dave Franco’s Jeff and Glover’s Earn. While Noelle’s vibe is primarily chill, Van’s narrative is more pragmatic, though ultimately parallels can be drawn between the two and certainly each makes space for the LaGuardia alumna to shine.
“I feel almost spoiled,” Beetz confirms of Atlanta’s success; series one picked up multiple awards, amongst them two Golden Globes and two Emmy’s, while high praise was universal. “None of us expected that, at all. It’s been fascinating and such a huge gift to have happened. I remember — one of the last days [shooting] me and the director were hanging on set — talking about how, we had this little thing that was about to be shown to the world and it won’t be ours anymore…”
“It’s specific,” she continues. “You either truly identify with it as being your story, or I think people are curious and feel compelled to learn about a life they don’t know about.” Series two she warns, is a lot heavier, darker, “the stakes are just higher.”
Beyond Van, this summer will see Beetz introduced to new audiences, when she infiltrates the world of Marvel as Deadpool 2’s Domino. “I took a step back and just watched a bunch, like absorbed how this culture of film works,” she notes of the major studio experience, something she describes as “overwhelming, exciting and emotional”, but essentially “an easy yes.”
Beetz is enthusiastic in conversation, answering questions with a stream of delicious tangents. She appears just the same on social media, where her uncensored captions include DIY body butter recipes and commentary on how red carpet prep works (joyfully accompanied by a clip of her singing to Maggie Rogers). Her self-curated career is charged with a personal desire to traverse genres: 2018 has her tapped elsewhere for comedy horror Slice (with Chance The Rapper), and Dead Pigs, in a role which, it transpires, was initially earmarked for a producer. “It was just this little serendipitous thing,” that came about as a result of following IRL beau David Rysdahl to the set in Shanghai, and subsequently led to her Sundance debut. “She steals the scene we are in together,” Rysdahl writes on Instagram. “Of course she does.”
Taken from the Spring 2018 Issue; out now and available to buy here.