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Zazie Beetz Talks Donald Glover’s New TV Series ‘Atlanta’

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Photographed by Carla Tramullas. Styled by Liz Rundbaken.

The show premieres tonight on FX

The following feature appears in the September 2016 issue of NYLON.

It seems as though, between Desiigner bragging about his “broads in Atlanta” and Donald Glover’s forthcoming FX series named after Georgia’s largest city, the Southern metropolis is having a moment. Also having a moment is the eponymous show’s breakout star, Zazie Beetz, who, surprisingly, may be the only 25-year-old on the planet who has never heard the Brooklyn rapper’s summer anthem “Panda.” Stranger still, her show chronicles two cousins trying to make it in the rap game. Apparently Beetz was too busy becoming the next big thing to turn on the radio. 

In the offbeat dramedy, Beetz plays Van, Glover’s baby mama. But given that Atlanta is, according to Beetz, more Louie than Empire, the character is hardly a hot-tempered cliché. “They really didn’t want her to come across as an angry black woman,” she says. “They emphasize her nuances.” 

Aside from being a native New Yorker without a driver’s license, Beetz herself fits no stereotypes: her mother, a social worker, is African-American and her father, a cabinetmaker, is German. Unsurprisingly, she does a killer German accent (Glover, on the other hand, “does a great Cookie Monster,” she says). And while her parents were always supportive of their daughter’s aspirations, her biggest fan is easily her nine-year-old brother, who’s taken to singing “Paper Boy,” the catchy rap song featured in Atlanta’s pilot.

Beetz thought she did such a “terrible job” at her audition for the show, she couldn’t even recall what the project was when they called to do a screen test. But few people are better prepared for their big break than Beetz. She attended LaGuardia High School—a performing arts school that was the inspiration for Fame—and then majored in French with a side of theater at Skidmore, a minuscule liberal arts college. She was, as she puts it, “lucky enough to always have theater in my life.” 

Not only is Atlanta Beetz’s big break, but the series is refreshing in its portrayal of its primarily black cast of characters, something that’s not lost on the actress. “If a movie features a black family, it’s about them being black, and not about them being a family. If you watch Friends, it’s not about them being white, it’s about them being friends,” she says. “[Atlanta] shows all different kinds of black people, and not all the jokes are Kool-Aid jokes. That’s funny, I guess, but I’m a little over that.” 

There’s one last thing Beetz gained from playing Van: the chance to portray a mother. “Literally my uterus sings every day,” she says, adding that if she weren’t an actor she’d be a midwife. Though her career is taking off, there’s still one last piece missing from the puzzle: “I have always felt that my highest calling was to be a mother.”

Coat by Mademe, Beetz’s own earring. Makeup: Janice Kinjo at Exclusive Artists Management using Diorshow. 

Cara Delevingne, Ashley Benson, and Agyness Deyn also star

Elisabeth Moss is trying to keep it together as punk rock artist Becky Something in the trailer for forthcoming movie Her Smell. She's surrounded by iconic faces who make up her band Something She, Gayle Rankin as Ali van der Wolff and Agyness Deyn as Marielle Hell, as she grapples with the fact that her musical prowess just doesn't draw as big a crowd as it used to.

In addition to the wavering fame, Becky is "grappling with motherhood, exhausted bandmates, nervous record company executives, and a new generation of rising talent eager to usurp her stardom," according to a press release. "When Becky's chaos and excesses derail a recording session and national tour, she finds herself shunned, isolated and alone. Forced to get sober, temper her demons, and reckon with the past, she retreats from the spotlight and tries to recapture the creative inspiration that led her band to success." And what's clear from the trailer, Moss is absolutely meant for this role, transforming into the punk on the brink of collapse.

Rounding out the cast are Ashley Benson, Cara Delevingne, and Dan Stevens. Watch the official trailer, below. Her Smell hits theaters on April 12 in New York and 14 in L.A., with "national expansion to follow."

Her Smell | OFFICIAL TRAILER HD www.youtube.com

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Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

In an acceptance speech at the BRIT Awards

As The 1975 accepted the BRIT Award for Best British group, outspoken frontman Matty Healy shared the words of journalist Laura Snapes as a way of calling out misogyny that remains ever-present in the music industry. Healy lifted a powerful quote from Snapes' coverage of allegations against Ryan Adams for The Guardian: "Male misogynist acts are examined for nuance and defended as traits of 'difficult' artists, [while] women and those who call them out are treated as hysterics who don't understand art."

Snapes reacted almost immediately on Twitter, saying she was "gobsmacked, and honoured that he'd use his platform to make this statement." Snapes had originally written the line for an interview she published with Sun Kil Moon singer Mark Kozelek back in 2015, in response to Kozelek publicly calling her a "bitch" who "totally wants to have my babies" because she requested to speak in person rather than via e-mail, which she brought up in the more recent piece on Adams. Kozelek's vile response, and the misogyny that allowed it to play out without real consequences, it could be argued, could have easily played out in the same way in 2019, which makes her reiteration of the line, and Healy's quoting it on such a large platform, all the more important.

It should be noted that back in December, Healy caught a bit of heat himself on Twitter for an interview with The Fader in which he insinuated that misogyny was an issue exclusive to hip-hop, and that rock 'n' roll had freed itself of it. He clarified at length on Twitter and apologized, saying, "I kinda forget that I'm not very educated on feminism and misogyny and I cant just 'figure stuff out' in public and end up trivializing the complexities of such enormous, experienced issues."