Zazie Beetz Says Goodbye To Atlanta And Shares Her Broadway Dreams

This story about Zazie Beetz and “Atlanta” first appeared in the comedy series theme from TheWrap Awards Magazine.

Over four seasons of “Atlanta,” Zazie Beetz has played some brilliantly weird situations as Van. (See, among others, his mysterious double life in Paris in season 3.) But in the final season of the groundbreaking FX series created by Donald Glover, Beetz did some of her best work yet, particularly on the acid “Work Ethic!” episode satirizing a Tyler Perry-esque study in which Beetz chases after his daughter (Austin Elle Fisher) after she swallows her, almost Willy Wonka-esque, on the dozens upon dozens of soundstages dominated by one Mr. Chocolate (Glover, almost unrecognizable).

“Work ethic!” it’s an incredible half hour of television. Did it read more comical or more surreal when you first encountered it?
I remember reading it more as a critique of the creative industry, but the mother-daughter relationship caught my attention the most. I was quite taken with the comedy about Mr. Chocolate and the commentary about black art. But the importance of Van’s instincts as a mother and her growth within it and her relationship with her daughter became central to everything. “Atlanta” does well to be surreal and absurd, but always rooted in the heart and soul.

I think it solidified Van as an all-time great TV mom.
It’s interesting, because in Season 3, particularly after the Paris episode, my Instagram comments would be like, “How could you leave your daughter?” And I’m like, “Guys, I’m not Van!” [Laughs] But I also found it interesting that people didn’t understand what she was going through or that this happens to people. Parents continue to search for their own identities and sometimes need space to do so.

Zazie Beetz (Photographed by Catie Laffoon for TheWrap)

You seem able to slip into any genre and fit perfectly into their universe. Is that by design or just luck?
I think it’s a combination of trying to find longevity and being moldable. I keep thinking: What can I do now that could also translate to me being an 80-year-old actor? But I always need to remember that I came into this industry because I had fun acting and I don’t want to lose that fun. Alexander Skarsgård does it very well. He does intense and serious stuff, but he also has the ability to be super playful. He told Donald when he did the Paris episode, “I’ll only do the part if I wear leopard print underwear,” or something like that. and now he is [just done] great job on “Succession”.

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It also seems to be a favorite of its directors. Steven Soderbergh, David Leitch and Todd Phillips have worked with you several times.
I am grateful that people enjoy working with me. Quinta Brunson recently said that networking is just about building a community and genuinely making friends. I love working with people again. It’s nice to have a layer of confidence and comfort that you can already build on and take more risks and have more fun because you’re not as scared.

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