All About Zazie Beetz, the Breakout Star of Joker and Atlanta
“I don't know what it's like to be famous!” the actress Zazie Beetz joked in an Instagram caption back in March 2018.
When she made the post, the 29-year-old actress was on the cusp of fame. Deadpool 2, her most prominent movie at the time, was two months away from its premiere. Though Beetz had already received acclaim for her work on the FX show Atlanta, Deadpool 2 was her definitive initiation into the movie star pantheon.Deadpool 2 became the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time—until Joker, a movie Beetz also starred in, came out in October 2019 and beat all previous records.
As her past year’s successes prove, Beetz better get used to being famous, because she is.
Beetz has a natural charisma on screen. In Joker, she plays the troubled Arthur Fleck’s (Joaquin Phoenix) understanding neighbor. It’s easy to believe she would show kindness to a man everyone else overlooks—which is what makes the movie’s later revelations all the more devastating.
And her off-camera persona is just as appealing. On her Instagram, she appears less like a celebrity, distant and glamorous, and more like a down-to-earth woman you can admire and want to befriend all at once.
That said, Beetz resists the idea of being boxed in by the internet’s perception of her. “They see me as a natural chick who, like her hair, is kind of weird and crazy. She likes patchouli and doesn’t wear deodorant. And I don’t mind that, but I didn’t necessarily choose it for myself,” Beetz told her friend and Atlanta collaborator, Donald Glover, in a feature for Interview magazine.
We may not ever really know Beetz–but it sure is easy to like her.
Zazie Beetz's name is easy to pronounce, once you get the hang of it.
With a name as unique as Zazie Beetz, she was bound to be famous. Beetz cleared up her name's pronunciation in an Instagram post. "Zazie" rhymes with "Marie" and "Beetz" is pronounced like "Bates."
On an episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live, Beetz revealed her name’s origin story. Her father was inspired by the French movie Zazie dans le metro (1960), a nonlinear film about a 12-year-old girl who wanders around the Paris Metro.
She grew up between Germany and New York.
Thanks to her parents' epic love story, Beetz was raised between cultures. Beetz's father is a cabinet maker from East Germany. After the Berlin Wall came down, he visited the United States and met Beetz’s mom, a social worker. The couple moved to Germany, and in 1991, Beetz was born.
When Beetz was eight years old, her family moved back to New York more permanently. Though she spent most of the year in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, she returned to Germany every year for summer camp. Beetz speaks with her father exclusively in German, and is fluent in the language.
Given this upbringing, she has a strong connection to her German roots. “I may not look particularly German but my German identity is really important to me and is a big part of who I am,” Beetz told The Independent. She's so German that her first paid job was at an H&M in Berlin.
She can navigate the differences between cultures, too. According to Beetz, German people are more genuine than Americans. “If you go to a party, they won’t pretend to like you unless they actually do,” Beetz told Jimmy Kimmel.
Beetz rose to fame on Atlanta.
Until Atlanta’s first season premiered in 2016, Beetz’s credits mostly consisted of low budget (or no budget) projects.
Then came Atlanta, a critically acclaimed comedy created by Donald Glover (whose rapper name is Childish Gambino). Her character, Van, has a child with Earn, Glover’s wandering Princeton drop-out. Their relationship evolves over the course of the show.
She played Domino in Deadpool 2.
Her first major film role was in the disaster movie Geostorm—but her big break came in the form of 2018’s Deadpool 2, a daring, fourth-wall-breaking superhero movie set in the Marvel universe.
Beetz was cast as Domino, a superhero with a very convenient power: She’s the luckiest woman alive. Nothing can touch her. “They kept me very beautiful because [Domino] doesn't get hurt. Nothing happens to her. It's sort of a joke," Beetz told Refinery29.
In 2019, Beetz appeared in Joker, a record-shattering movie that tells a villain's origin story. No longer in action hero mode, Beetz played Sophie Dumond, Arthur Fleck’s (Joaquin Phoenix) neighbor who witnesses his transition from clown to Joker, the iconic villain from the Batman comics.
And she's been busy in Hollywood ever since.
Beetz shines in the Netflix movie High Flying Bird, a Steven Soderbergh movie centered around the behind-the-scenes dealings of a sports agent during basketball season. She’s also in Easy, a Netflix show about interconnected love stories. Though Joker was her most prominent 2019 movie, she also appeared in two movies based on true stories: Seberg and Lucy in the Sky, based on the story of former NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak.
Next up, catch Beetz in Slice, a horror movie co-starring Chance the Rapper.
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