Pop Culture

Zigging and Zagging With Zazie Beetz

Perhaps it’s this fascination with conception, this awareness that life, whenever it begins, continues long after the camera stops rolling that made Beetz such a natural fit for the maternal Van on Atlanta. Ironically, one of Beetz’s most cherished moments on Atlanta came when she played against her groundedness in the season three finale “Tarrare,” which saw Van live out a Parisian fantasy, complete with an Amelie-inspired wig. In the episode, Beetz got to demonstrate her range as an actress—comically swinging for the fences in one moment while seducing Alexander Skarsgård, and then in the next, emotionally breaking down thinking about her daughter. It’s a bold episode with an even bolder turn that required Beetz to give it everything she’s got.

“I feel proud of ‘Tarrare,’” Beetz tells me. “I felt like, alright, I’m just going to go for it. I really might straight up eat shit in this episode, but I’m just going to jump and fly or fall…. I’m less rooted in fear than I used to be. I’m finally coming into a place where I just want to explore and have a good time.”

She used to torture herself if she had a bad take, she says. Now, in part to keep from spiraling, she tries to remain blissfully ignorant of the public’s reception of the show or her work. “I’m not on Twitter…. I don’t like googling myself. It’s just too much—whether it’s positive or negative. I generally try to avoid all that.” And yet, Beetz wrestles with the constant pressure to be seen, especially in her chosen profession. “Of course you want to be relevant. It affects your career and it affects your quote, unquote ‘possibility’ or something,” she says. “It’s very hard to not compare yourself, especially when you have five people that you always come up in the same conversations [with] for stuff. You’re like, ‘What do I have or not have, that they have or don’t have?’ It’s hard to not feel like, oh, I’m lacking here, I’m lacking there.”

But she’s learning to let that go. “I really don’t want to feel beholden to other people’s expectations,” she says. “I keep trying to come back to what is just healthy for me.” Part of that is finally trusting her instincts as an actress, which she credits to the environment that Atlanta fostered over time. “I don’t think I could have done ‘Tarrare’ season one,” she says. “I didn’t have that same security in terms of my relationships with everybody and the trust that happens after time spent.”

But now that time is over. While the world is just now getting ready to bid farewell to Atlanta, Beetz has already said goodbye, having wrapped filming on the series over a year ago. “The majority of my life right now is really occupied with other stuff,” she says.

The other stuff includes starring in Steven Soderbergh’s secretive new limited series, Full Circle, with Claire Danes, Dennis Quaid, and Jharrel Jerome for HBO Max. Knee-deep in her next project, Beetz is already somewhat nostalgic for her Atlanta days. “I do think there’s a sacred bond in a way of having done something that all collectively changed our lives,” Beetz says. “Whether or not you’re best friends, calling each other every night…. We all went through this great transition together and that will forever be our connecting tissue.”

Beetz tugs at her hair again as she contemplates what life after Atlanta might look like. “I really want to write my own script. Really give birth to my own story,” she says. She’s already written a script with her fiancé, actor David Rysdahl. She name-checks Zendaya as someone who’s doing it all, an inspiration. “She’s doing music, she does fashion, she’s now producing,” Beetz says. “I saw an interview once where she talked about how you can do everything you want, in a way.” For someone who loves to zig and zag, that freedom is alluring to Beetz.

“I got really into writing after I read Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut because that book is unlike any book,” she says. “I remember reading it, being fascinated and thinking, I can write whatever I want. I can do whatever I want,” she says with a smile. “There is no formula.”

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