Zazie Beetz is a German-American actress known for her roles in Deadpool 2, The Joker and the FX show Atlanta. Beetz’s father was born in East Germany and met her American mother when traveling to the US for the first time after the Berlin Wall fell. Beetz was born in 1991 in Berlin and lived primarily in Germany for the first half of her childhood. Although the family continued to share time between the US and Germany, they relocated more permanently to New York City when she was eight years old. The move was prompted by Beetz’s mother after years of feeling uncomfortable being one of few people of color in Berlin. Throughout the rest of her childhood, Beetz returned to Germany most summers for camps and to spend time with her German family. She has stated she feels strong ties to both German and African American culture.
Beetz emphasizes that her parents were very supportive of her various artistic activities growing up and she felt a lot of freedom to explore her interests. She discovered a love for acting in the third grade when she was cast in her school’s production of Annie. She continued to appear in school productions until her graduation from Skidmore College in New York where she studied French. Beetz got her first big acting job in 2015 when she was cast in the popular FX show Atlanta, where her character Van’s background mirrors Beetz’s Afro-German identity. A Van-focused season two episode depicts her taking her off-and-on partner, Earn, to a German festival outside of Atlanta. There, Van feels at home in the mostly white crowd participating in traditional dances and having friendly conversations in German. However, both she and Earn experience racial microaggressions, including a festival goer who confuses Earn for a white person in blackface as part of a German tradition.
– Elizabeth Dulle (University of Missouri)