You may not spot Zazie Beetz in every episode of Atlanta, the FX fan favorite created by Donald Glover, but she has plenty to keep her busy in her downtime. When the 26-year-old Afro-German (who speaks fluent German) isn’t playing Vanessa “Van” Keefer, main character Earn’s on and off girlfriend and the mother of his child, she’s on to other projects. She’s in talks to play alongside Kristen Stewart in the Jean Seberg biopic Against All Enemies. She’s also landed a role in the horror film Slice starring Chance The Rapper. Next year, she’s already been tapped for a role in a Stephen Soderbergh film, and don’t forget you can look forward to her getting her superhero on as “Domino” in Deadpool 2.
But despite grabbing the attention of a collection of television and movie power players, Beetz still doesn’t think she deserves it all. In an exclusive interview with GQ, the actress talked about her struggles adjusting to fame and the distance she sometimes feels between herself and her celebrity status. When it comes to receiving accolades for Atlanta, Beetz shared she’s over the “noise” of others telling her how she should feel about success:
“It’s interesting because it’s a little like [I have] two separate lives going on. I have my private life, and what I feel in my home on a day to day basis. And then it feels like, to me that there’s surrounding white noise of other people having opinions or the expectation I think of how to feel about certain things. For example, when we got the Golden Globe for Atlanta, I thought that was exciting but I also felt kind of blasé about it? Like, Okay! Next thing. You know? I don’t feel so much attachment to the identity of celebrity lifestyle.”
She also wants to make it clear that fame and fortune never completely eliminates problems from anyone’s life. Beetz wrote an essay for Glamour magazine last month in which she shared her battles with depression and anxiety. She tells GQ those struggles sometime affect her work:
“For me it also flows a little bit into insecurity with my work, and I think that’s just something that over time, will hopefully—I’m sure it’ll never completely go away, but to where it doesn’t overwhelm me, and kind of take over my emotions.”
“Depression and anxiety are real, and don’t evade fortunate people. You can still have good fortune and deal with that in terms of what goes on in your life. Everything might circumstantially be good: I’m in a healthy relationship, I have a loving family, I’m doing well in my career. But when I go home at night I still struggle with this, I still have good days and bad days.”
Beetz also shared her thoughts on fame and fortune and fighting feelings that she didn’t do anything special to be afforded the opportunities she has:
“I sometimes worry about what did I do to deserve this or earn this. I have so many people around me who I feel work so much harder than I do or had to—not that I didn’t. I also had an extended period of time where I was working and doing this at the same time but I was able to put that behind me faster than some people… I didn’t grow up rich at all but my parents were just so loving.”
“I grew up here in New York, but I didn’t have anything special. My dad’s a cabinet maker from Germany, moved when he was 25, has a high school degree. My mom, she’s got a master’s but works in social work and administration.”
“I just want to know that where I am, I deserved it. I earned it. That’s something very important to me.”
Beetz also shared exactly what “scares” her about playing “Van” a former grade school science teacher who deals with her child’s father shenanigans and the only prominent female character on Atlanta:
“I completely acknowledge [that], and maybe I’m just sort of scared of that responsibility, right? Of having this platform, of having an ability to have a voice for other people. It’s interesting, just having access, access to people.”
“With great power comes great responsibility, and maybe I’m hesitant about the responsibility.”
“Particularly in Atlanta being a more male-driven show, I think I feel honored to have this female lead, and I’m glad they have a prominent female voice in the show.”
“I don’t want executives in studios to be like, “Oh, we have to do more exactly like Van.” Because, like, Insecure! That’s a whole other thing, that’s another version, that’s another black woman. I am just careful of taking on or feeling that we have found representation in you, Zazie, and Van. Because there are a lot of other dope woman putting stuff out.”
The Berlin-born actress also shared how she feels about playing superhero “Domino” in the upcoming Deadpool 2, a role that’s a departure from the usual for her:
“I’m more of a drama girl. Drama and crying, stuff like that. But it’s pretty cool! To have, like, the super suit. For me, costumes are always a big thing. I like costumes. It always gets me into a role, especially something like that, which is so specific. I don’t know, I never thought I’d do something like that! It’s surreal, I don’t know it’s completely sunk in yet.”
You can read more about Beetz’s thoughts on portraying black motherhood on TV and wondering where her next check will come from here.
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