For a lot of people, Zazie Beetz is truly her character Van from Atlanta. But Beetz is very much an actor with range and shows it with the many diverse projects she chooses. There’s her turn as Stagecoach Mary in The Harder They Fall as well as her other memorable roles as Sophie in Joker and Domino in Deadpool 2. And then to top it off, she’s also a voice actress with credits that include Amber Bennett in Invincible. Now she’s making a vocal splash in The Bad Guys as Diane Foxington AKA The Crimson Paw.
The PG film has a cute concept of criminal animals trying to be good. In addition to Beetz, Anthony Ramos and Craig Robinson are some of the actors that get in on the fun. Diane, Beetz’s character, is the love interest of Mr. Wolf played by Sam Rockwell. But, in addition to being stunning, she’s very smart and cunning. She’s also trying to change her thieving ways.“mI just really enjoyed the character Diane,” Beetz tells EBONY. “Her past is sort of complicated and it was fun for me to explore that part of the character and to infuse her past into her present.”
Beetz says that doing an animated project has many differences from doing live action. “In voice acting, a lot of the work is a lot more individual. I had an opportunity to work virtually with Sam Rockwell a couple of times, the majority of the time, though, I was in a studio on my own [in addition to] our sound engineers and producers on Zoom and the art director guiding me through the text. Part of that is nice actually to be on your own because, in some ways, you’re not constrained at all by what other performers are doing.”
For Beetz, animation is reminiscent of her early beginnings in the craft. “Animation is much more theatrical in terms of how you're using your voice and how you're acting. I grew up in theater and have a love for theater. But, for screen acting, a lot of this outward energy has to be condensed and it's more like a simmer that happens under the surface versus being pushed out. In animation, you push it out,” she explains.
While playing a recognizable character on a hit show is not what drives her to pursue diverse projects, she also recognizes the pitfalls of not doing so. "Just as a performer, I'm always just curious and interested in different things [but] I absolutely don't want to get pigeonholed into a certain way that the industry may see me."
Bad Guys, she reveals, does have messaging she personally finds useful. "I think the message that resonates in my life is the idea that you are the captain of your life and the captain of your ship, and you can't really let the people around you determine what's going to be your life. You have to take responsibility for your actions,” shares Beetz.
As far as the steps she’s taking for the future she says, “I'm trying to be more aware of what I want that to look like and not just let the tide of life carry me forward."
"The Bad Guys" is in theatres now, plus season three of Atlanta is currently on FX.
Ronda Racha Penrice is the author of Black American History For Dummies and editor of Cracking The Wire During Black Lives Matter.