At 28, model and actress Zoe Kravitz has scaled TV series, studio tentpoles, and small indies. She stopped by SXSW this week with her drama “Gemini,” a film noir in which she portrays an A-list celebrity caught up in a whodunit that involves her assistant. On HBO’s mini-series “Big Little Lies,” she plays a housewife in the outer circle of a group of suburban California women. In J.K. Rowling’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” she’s Leta Lestrange, a witch who befriends our protagonist (played by Eddie Redmayne).
Kravitz, the daughter of rock singer Lenny Kravitz and actress Lisa Bonet, has also been vocal on social media about the 2016 election. After backing Bernie Sanders and then Hillary Clinton, she’s criticized President Donald Trump’s policies and participated in women’s marches. She spoke to Variety about her projects and politics.
How did you come across “Gemini”?
I got involved in it through Lola Kirke, who is a friend of mine. She was really excited about [director] Aaron [Katz] and the story. I think she has great taste. I wanted to work with my friend; it all came together like that.
Did you base your character on a real-life movie star?
Not a particular person. I’ve been around a fair amount of celebrities in my life, and I’ve seen celebrities in their own world. It’s hard for them to go in public and they end up surrounding themselves with people who work for them. If everyone is on your payroll, no one is going to be honest with you. I drew on experiences and pieces of that.
Ricki Lake is also in the movie.
She plays a reporter. She’s really fun to work with.
Where do you think the best material is right now — TV or the movies?
I think the idea of doing things in an episodic way is exciting, because you can develop character slowly and with more details. I like the energy that’s happening between TV and film. What does it mean to do a film, whether it’s on Netflix or in theaters? Everything is folding in.
You were the voice of Catwoman in the “Lego Batman Movie”?
It was really quick — I did my voice in a day. I tried to channel my inner child, with a high-pitched enthusiastic voice. And I’d throw a “meow” in every sentence. It was a challenge to figure out where to put it.
When will you shoot the sequel to “Fantastic Beasts”?
We don’t start until June or July. That’s all I know at the moment.
You haven’t read the script?
Not at all.
What was it like meeting J.K. Rowling?
I haven’t met her yet. I’ve only heard things about her through Eddie and David [Yates, the director]. I know she was involved in my casting. After my screen test, they were waiting for her to watch it and get her approval. It’s cool to see how hands on she is on these projects. I can’t wait to meet her.
Was it a long audition process?
It wasn’t too long. I sent in an audition tape, and went in again into a casting office in L.A. and worked with a dialect coach. I think they were shooting already; I went there [to London] and worked with Eddie. I was nervous, especially doing a British accent in front of these English people. They were very welcoming. I think that helped me feel confident enough.
You’ve been vocal about the election. What’s your message for women who are feeling disempowered right now?
I think they should be scared. It’s a scary and confusing time. We just have to use our anger and our fear and all the emotions that are coming up right now. We have to use that to educate ourselves and educate each other. And stay angry and stay awake and stay aware. I think you need to allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you’re feeling.
Do you think that more women will get involved in politics as a result of what’s happening?
I hope so. Politics is such a daunting thing. The wrong people are in the wrong places right now.
What scares you most about Trump’s presidency?
I think he wants power and he acts out of fear when there’s something he doesn’t understand or someone, a kind of people. He lets his fear navigate the way he handles things, and that’s a really dangerous path to go down.