Zazie Beetz Interview: ‘Atlanta’
“She wants independence,” says “Atlanta” co-star Zazie Beetz about her character Van’s emotional journey through season two of the critically acclaimed FX comedy. But Van is ambivalent. She has a child with Earn Marks (Donald Glover), but she doesn’t know exactly what her relationship to Earn actually is. So while she strives to “be seen as Van” and not just as a mother or a girlfriend, “she still is placing her value on other people’s validation … She’s still carrying what she was trying to let go.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Beetz above.
Van and Earn’s relationship reached a crossroads this season in the episode “Helen,” in which they had to finally pick a path: be a full-fledged couple or just amicable co-parents. “I think they both individually need to figure out what is truly important to them,” Beetz explains about the couple’s impasse, and there may never be a way to truly bridge the gap between them. “We wish it could work but I don’t think it ever really will be completely right.” They “want different things,” and “ultimately that isn’t going to align.”
“Helen” also brought the characters to the small town of Helen, Georgia, for the Fastnacht festival, which gave Beetz a chance to explore her own German heritage. It was a “lovely personal touch” for Glover to include such an important part of Beetz’s own identity in Van’s story. It’s “a part of my life that most people don’t really have access to because of the language barrier … It was such a lovely dive into Van and her identity, and varying identities of blackness in America as well.”
The loosely structured, often experimental series has more freedom to explore characters and themes like that than most comedies on the air. It often ricochets between the absurd, the tragic and the “surreal,” and that’s one of the appeals of the show for Beetz, especially in season two after developing a better understanding of the show and her character in year one. “Atlanta” “creates its own world” without “so many rules governing” it, and it’s “still opening up new doors that hadn’t really been explored before.”