Why Nobody Can Stop Zazie Beetz' Rise to Stardom

The Atlanta star is nominated for her first Emmy Award

By Billy Nilles Sep 13, 2018 6:50 PMTags
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Zazie Beetz feels like a bit of an imposter.

Despite the actress having quite a moment this year—she earned high praise for her work as comic book superhero Domino in Deadpool 2, the year's sixth highest-grossing film, and will find out if she'll be taking home her first Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Emmy for her work in the stellar second season of FX's Atlanta as the ceremony unfolds on Monday, Sept. 17—the relative Hollywood newcomer is still struggling to accept that she's, as they say, made it.

"I think this is actually a little bit weird — it's where my not resounding, complete excitement for receiving an Emmy nomination is coming from; a feeling of complete impostor syndrome, and feeling like I don't deserve it," Beetz told The New York Times last month, reflecting on the anxiety that's plagued her throughout her life. "I don't know … I hesitate saying that publicly, because I don't want to come off like I don't appreciate it."

2018 Emmys: Meet the Presenters

It's not that her concerns of tokenism or "being cast just because they need to fill a brown quota," as she explained in the interview aren't valid or a possibility that must plague artists like Beetz "coming into the industry during a time where this is a huge shift," as she described it, but it's not every day that Marvel changes the look of an iconic character, including their race, to accommodate their desire to cast you.

"I don't look like comic versions, and there was a lot of exploration of we could do. And that was also discussed — to what extent do we stick to the classic version of who she is physically, versus making our own interpretation?" Beetz told Bustle in May. "I actually was prepared to go more classically in terms of the marking on her eye and even her hair. I was prepared to cut it and straighten it. But production was super, super interested in having my hair be natural. I'm really happy that they did, and they always pushed for it."

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And it paid off. Beetz' Domino was one of the sequel's most shining bright spots, catapulting her to further comic book film fame (she's attached to the upcoming Joker origin story) and the character to potential leading-lady status in the X-Force film in development. Not only that, but the next few years will see Beetz star in a Steven Soderbergh film, star alongside Armie Hammer and Dakota Johnson in a horror film, join Natalie Portman and Jon Hamm in a drama from Fargo creator (the TV adaptation) Noah Hawley, and appear with Kristen Stewart political thriller biopic Against All Enemies.

And then, of course, there's more Atlanta to look forward to. Season two saw Beetz' Van become more of a full person and not just girlfriend/baby mama to Earn (creator Donald Glover), something that was deeply important to the actress. "That was one of the first things, after wrapping on the first season, they asked: 'What direction would you like to see Van take?' I emphasized wanting to take her out of the context of just being a mom and just being with Earn [Donald Glover]," she told the Times.

"It's a male-driven show, and in the first season I really enjoyed having the episode where I was engaging with another woman and with a friend, and learning about Van outside of just being a mother and just being a partner," she continued. "Because those are two identities, but that's not a whole person. So, I was really excited to explore that a little bit within this season, and for her to be O.K. with not needing to feel like she was supposed to be in a relationship in order for her to be a good mom."

While the wait for season three shouldn't be nearly as long as the wait for season two, Glover's schedule is still what it is (the dude's really, really busy, if you hadn't heard), meaning that Beetz hasn't seen any scripts for the new episodes as of yet. But she's certain that the continued development of Van isn't going anywhere. "We were going to start shooting next year, but Donald's schedule is really full, so we don't know really when things are happening," she admitted. "But just based off of initial conversations, yes, I think we're definitely going to continue on that path."

Emmys 2018: First-Time Nominees

Soon, Beetz' own schedule will likely prove give Glover a run for his money in terms of business. Especially if the 27-year-old comes out victorious at the Microsoft Theater at L.A. Live on Monday. Regardless, here's to hoping that she soon realizes what we've all known since we first took note of her when Atlanta began: Zazie Beetz is no imposter. She's the real deal.

"You know, I used to cry on planes. I don't anymore. It probably took almost a hundred agonizing flights to get there," she wrote in an essay on anxiety for Glamour back in March. "Now, when I take off, a smile quivers on the corner of my lips. A new adventure is coming. How terrifying. How exhilarating."