Hollywood is not a place generally known for rewarding modesty and patience, but in Zoë Kravitz’s case, it’s paying off. After over a decade honing her skills in supporting roles, the 28-year-old actress has joined the major leagues. She’s riding high on the success of Big Little Lies, the recent HBO show in which she played Bonnie, the yoga-teaching second wife of Reese Witherspoon’s ex-husband, and has a raft of prominent roles in films on imminent release, including the comedy Rough Night, with Scarlett Johansson, and indie mystery Gemini, with Lola Kirke. Next month, she’ll begin filming the second installment of J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. But the suggestion she might be Having A Moment is met with humility. “I’m working my way up, for sure,” she demurs. “I’m still waiting for those roles of my life, but I have work to do as an actor. It will happen at the right moment; I’m taking my time.”
For all her self-effacement, Kravitz is fast becoming as widely recognized as her extremely famous parents – musical legend Lenny Kravitz, and Lisa Bonet, star of ’80s sitcom The Cosby Show. In showbiz style, the couple eloped to Las Vegas on Bonet’s 20th birthday, had Zoë a year later, and had divorced by the time she was five.
“It’s good to see women behaving [badly]. We don’t just sit at HOME doing our makeup and waiting for the BOYS to come home – we go hard OURSELVES sometimes”
When we meet for lunch in New York’s Williamsburg, Kravitz arrives almost completely covered up, swaddled in a black overcoat with enormous round sunglasses, her black hoodie pulled up. She whips down the hood to greet me, revealing her newly acquired bleached-blond crop. “People aren’t quite used to it yet, so I have a little more anonymity,” she smiles.
Her rapidly rising profile is, in part, thanks to Big Little Lies, the public and critical reaction to which has been overwhelming for all those involved, even her veteran co-stars Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley. “I saw Reese the other night for dinner, and we were like, can you believe it?” enthuses Kravitz. “We all felt we were working on something amazing, but you never really know…”
Rough Night is a serious change of pace: an anarchic, messy, female answer to The Hangover, in which four old friends – plus one random Antipodean – head to Miami for a bachelorette weekend, where alcohol, strippers and accidental homicide ensue. “I think it’s good to see women behaving like that,” says Kravitz. “We don’t just sit at home doing our makeup and waiting for the boys to come home – we go hard ourselves sometimes.”
Alongside Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon and Broad City’s Ilana Glazer, Kravitz plays Blair: glossy, groomed and high maintenance. “It was really fun to play a conservative rich b***h, with a bob and nice clothes and heels,” beams the actress. “She is so unlike me, and so unlike what I’m often cast as.”
“When my NAME is brought up in a casting office, I’m SURE the fact that I’m BLACK comes up in discussions”
Casting has been a challenging issue for Kravitz. The actress, whose parents are both African-American and Jewish, was once told she couldn’t audition for a part in a superhero franchise because the casting directors weren’t “going urban”. “I’m sure it would still happen now,” she says, matter-of-factly. “When my name is brought up in a casting office, I’m sure the fact that I’m black comes up in discussions. I just read a script in which there were two couples, and one was written as black. When I talked to the directors, they said I should play the wife of the black guy. It’s insane that they still think the black girl needs to be married to the black guy, and everyone else is white. Their thinking is so compartmentalized.”
“When your dad and your mom are both so COOL, but you’re not… I think maybe that’s where I get this IDEA that I’m really not cool – that has STUCK with me forever”
After growing up with her mother in LA – surrounded by stars including her godmother, Marisa Tomei, and her “big sister” Alicia Keys – Kravitz moved to Miami aged 11 to live with her dad. Was that not a little destabilizing? “Oh, totally. It was a mess,” she readily agrees. “And I really didn’t fit in there. There were all these hot blond girls with boobs, Louis Vuitton purses and cell phones, and I was this mixed-race girl with crazy kinky hair that didn’t know how to relate.” Rather than helping anoint her with coolness, her famous surname did quite the opposite. “When your dad and your mom are both so cool, but you’re not…” She trails off. “I think maybe that’s where I get this idea that I’m really not cool – that has stuck with me forever.”
It was during the Miami years that her father was, briefly, engaged to Nicole Kidman, a fact which only emerged in Kidman’s interview with PorterEdit earlier this year. “I think she forgot that no one knew that,” laughs Kravitz. “I hadn’t seen her in a long time before Big Little Lies, but there was a point where we were all kind of living together. I was about 13, and she would take me to see movies; she was so nice to me.”
At 15, Kravitz moved to New York, attended high school in the city, and landed her first film roles, first in the romance No Reservations, then playing a teenage prostitute in action thriller The Brave One. Officially, she was living with relatives, “but I was kind of living by myself by the time I was 17. And I was quite wild then, too,” she admits with a grin. “I had a lot of older friends and could get into clubs. I got it all out of my system early on; now I stay at home and watch Netflix,” she laughs.
Home is in Brooklyn, with her fiancé actor Karl Glusman, 29. Kravitz gets dreamy-eyed at the mere mention of his name. “We’re happy, he’s wonderful,” she grins. They met through mutual friends at a bar one night. “And that was it, done. We just never separated.”
“I don’t want it ONLY to be photoshopped photos of me [on social media], with PERFECT hair and makeup. It’s important to let people know: I did NOT wake up like this”
With her distinctive style, Kravitz has become a front-row fixture. “Fashion is another medium to express yourself: this is how I feel today, this is the external representation of what’s going on inside,” she explains. Today’s representation is a pair of wide-legged pants, silver Saint Laurent boots and an Alexander Wang overcoat. She and the designer met almost a decade ago and became fast friends. “I love him. And I love his clothes, so it’s a very good relationship to have,” she laughs. Other favorite labels include The Row, Saint Laurent and Oscar de la Renta, in whom she dazzled at this year’s Met Gala in New York.
But Kravitz, who struggled with eating disorders in her teens and part of her twenties, also retains a healthy ambivalence about her image, particularly on social media. “I don’t want it only to be photoshopped photos of me, with perfect hair and makeup,” she says. “It’s important to let people know: I did not wake up like this.”
She also finds time to record and perform with her band, Lolawolf. The name is a conjugation of her two younger half-siblings’ names, Lola, 9, and Wolf, 8 – her mother’s children with her stepfather, Game of Thrones actor Jason Momoa. “I always wanted siblings, and I’m totally obsessed with them,” she beams. “But I still have only-child syndrome. I’m bossy.” It’s an attribute she believes will assist her in her next career ambition: “I really want to direct; I think I’d be quite good at it.” And that’s probably as close to a boast as you’ll get from Zoë Kravitz.
Season 2 of Big Little Lies premieres June 9 on HBO
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