Zoe Kravitz has her parents' features and, with a role in the new X-Men film, she will soon share their fame. Kaleem Aftab meets the New York actress and musician daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet.
It's just her luck that Zoe Kravitz has got the best features of her impossibly beautiful parents, rocker Lenny Kravitz and the actress Lisa Bonet. The 22-year-old has followed her mum into the acting profession, starring in the biggest role of her career so far: playing Angel Salvadore in X-Men: First Class.
The blockbuster is a prequel to the first three X-Men films and is set in the 1960s, when the mutants were young bucks experimenting with their powers for the first time, just as the Cuban Missile Crisis has the global population fearing a nuclear apocalypse. James McAvoy stars as Professor Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender is Magneto. Kravitz's character, Angel, possesses several superhuman abilities akin to those of the common housefly.
Having wings and pretending to be able to fly was something of a challenge for the actress, who trained at the Rudolf Steiner School in Manhattan. Up to now she has tended to appear in more dramatic roles, such as a prostitute in Neil Jordan's The Brave One and a troubled teenage rebel in the coming-of-age drama Yelling to the Sky, which just received its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival.
"It was impersonal in so many ways," says Kravitz of making X-Men. "My character flies and I'd be wearing a harness and wires all the time. Then I'd have to stand in strange ways, pretending there are not wires and pretending that I'm flying and floating, like it's the most normal thing in the world.
Also ... you want to look the other actors in the eye and connect. But it's kind of hard when all this other crazy stuff is going on."
Luckily, her time on set in London was made easier by the friendship she struck up with her co-star Jennifer Lawrence, who this year received an Academy Award nomination for her performance in Winter's Bone.
"It was great having her in London and we became best friends," says Kravitz. "However, when she got nominated for all those awards, I was telling her to come over and watch a movie with me and just stop going over to award shows. In the end it was like, 'please, just hurry up and lose to Natalie Portman so we can hang out'."
Despite being born in Los Angeles, the young star definitely sees herself as a New Yorker. She lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which has become hipster central over the past decade, and she has the style and accessories of a sexy, upcoming actress making it in the city that never sleeps. But most of all, she has the cocksureness and self-belief most commonly associated with the city's inhabitants - although she almost didn't go for the role in X-Men.
"When it comes to stuff like X-Men, I just didn't think that I would get that part," admits the actress. "I just think I auditioned because people were auditioning and my agent was, like, 'please go', and had to talk me into going."
She also makes good use of all the amenities that are on offer living in New York. "I keep life normal by being a New York chick, nothing has changed," she says. "I hang out with all my old friends. I take the subway and do normal things. I only take a cab if I really have to. I love public transport. I don't even know how to drive."
Now that she is in the public eye in her own right, she admits that having the surname Kravitz is sometimes a heavy tag around her neck. "Having well-known parents is kind of a double-edged sword," she says. "It's given me wonderful opportunities, but people also like to knock you down because of it too and say that you have got things because of that."
Her parents divorced when she was just 5 years old. She looks more like her mother, who became a household name in the 1980s playing Denise Huxtable on the popular sitcom The Cosby Show and its spin-off series, A Different World. She lived with her mother until she was 11, and then with her father, spending the summers with her mother.
It was an eclectic upbringing that even saw her go on the road with her father during one of his tours. She remembers, "In middle school I took two months off and went on tour with my dad to Europe. I would have a teacher with me and we would do history and my teacher would say, 'we are learning about the Sistine Chapel and that is it, right there'. I'd be like, 'okay'. We'd go around and actually be in these amazing places, which was really cool."
The musical influence has also played a strong part in her life. She fronts the band Elevator Flight, who have played at Austin's super-cool South by Southwest music festival. She also starred in Jay-Z's music video for the single I Know, and she has appeared in six episodes of the TV series Californication, playing an uninhibited musician who fronts an all-girl band.
But she says that music is no more than a fun hobby. "I don't want to be a famous singer, necessarily, and touring is a lot of work. It's a lot of sitting on the bus and waking up, going to the gig, performing, moving on, and that is insane. It would be fine to do for a while. I've done small tours with my band, and we just travelled in a small van with no air conditioning. Music is something I have a bit more under control."
Her father, the rock legend Lenny Kravitz, is still a doyenne of cool, something that can be a bit annoying when your friends are listening and rocking to your dad on their MP3 players.
"I think it's funny. I couldn't listen to my dad because it was kind of weird. I was worried people would judge me and it felt kind of mean. I obviously know all of his music and then about a year ago I looked at my iPod and began listening to Let Love Rule and I was like, 'shit, he's really good', so when I'm on my own I will listen to his music."
Her parents gave her advice when she made the choice to take up acting as a vocation. "They told me not to take it seriously. People get very serious about the Hollywood fame thing and the reason I think I came out level-headed was that they didn't raise me to think it was anything serious. I had no illusions. People get way too deep about it and in the end it's just a job and we are all equal."
Yelling To The Sky is Kravitz's first major lead dramatic role. It's a semi-autobiographical tale about the troubled lifestyle of a mixed-race student, Sweetness O'Hara, growing up in Queens, New York. The resemblance to last year's Sundance smash Precious is apparent, right down to the casting of Gabourey Sidibe in a supporting role.
"It's a real character study," Kravitz says of playing Sweetness. "It's something you can really stick your teeth into, which is what I really want to do."
The actress has also signed on to play a role in the Mad Max reboot, Fury Road, set shortly after the end of the 1985 movie Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. "I'm really excited," Kravitz says. "I hope it happens. It's been pushed back a few times now, but the other Mad Max films are incredible."
At this rate of success, and with roles spanning the globe, pretty soon Dad will be asking his daughter if he can join her while she's filming.