The second season of “Atlanta” gave Zazie Beetz more room than the first to explore her character, Van. As a result, she delivered performances that were powerful and nuanced, earning the actress an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. As she explained to The New York Times on Friday (August 24), Van’s narrative arc—especially in an episode in which the biracial actress drew on her own German heritage—let Beetz address some personal struggles:
We got to see a bit more of Van this season. One of the most fascinating moments was in the episode “Helen,” when you and your friend Christina have this debate about “choosing Black” vs. “choosing White.” Did you have any input into that conversation?
We definitely improvised a bit in that scene. I think there is a culture of people who choose culturally one or the other. But even in the context of the show, though, I also hesitate to enter into that conversation just in general, because I think it’s really complex. And I think that especially for people like me, I guess, who are biracial, there are elements of both in your life. I think the question of, “Are you choosing White or are you choosing Black?” can also be sensitive….I think that’s just the context of the country we live in, in terms of just the history and, obviously, slavery. Just the nature of colonization and what it means to have been culturally owned and erased for hundreds of years. There is a lot of complexity to that.
Beetz also candidly addressed her personal struggles with anxiety and imposter syndrome, which she connects in part to the issues of representation that Black actresses face:
In the context of being a woman of color: Honestly, I don’t worry as much about feeling like things in five years aren’t going to come. I worry more that I’m being cast just because they need to fill a Brown quota, and because they feel obliged to do that, and not because they actually want me. I feel like, does that mean my work isn’t as good? Would I have been cast if there wasn’t public pressure now to make sure that one Brown face is among the sea of White? So, that’s where I believe that comes from, this feeling like I’m not actually maybe wanted, and that they’re just feeling pressure to want me.
Read more from Beetz at NYTimes.com.