Zazie Beetz was working as a server in New York City when she found out she’d been cast as Van on Atlanta. She was thrilled with the role, but shortly before the first season began shooting, she had a terrible dream that she descended into a black cloud. Despite her success, she struggled with extreme anxiety. She talks about the responsibility that comes with playing a character who means so much to viewers (“women come and tell me they are wearing their hair [natural] now because of me”).
Zazie and Justin open up about the dual journey toward mental health, while climbing the Hollywood ladder. Plus, even as black performers and creators gain ground, the reality is that lighter-skinned, straighter-presenting people tend to be seen more favorably. For Zazie, who’s biracial, and Justin, who is often read as straight, those privileges are one more reason to speak up for others.