Anyone who has seen a photo of Zoë Kravitz in a magazine or encountered her out at night in an artful mishmash of vintage and designer discoveries has probably clocked her as an effortlessly, almost untouchably cool nymph. The kind of girl who can make partying with Dad seem like a fun pastime (it helps when your father is Lenny Kravitz) and can imbue a teen fragrance with rock ’n’ roll chic (see her TV spots for Vera Wang’s Princess perfume). Ask Kravitz to describe her high school experience, however, and a slightly different picture emerges.
“I was a total drama geek,” she says, without a hint of faux self-deprecation. “I was in the drama club and did all the plays I could do.”
That marginally dorkier incarnation lives on in Kravitz’s adult focus: her budding acting career. After a breakout turn as a child prostitute in Neil Jordan’s 2007 “The Brave One,” the 21-year-old has no fewer than five films in the pipeline, the most recent of which is “Beware the Gonzo,” premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival on Thursday.
In the dark teen comedy, Kravitz stars as Evie, a precociously hip teenager with a troubled past. When her classmate Gonzo (Ezra Miller) goes rogue from the school newspaper’s bullying editor and starts his own rebel publication, she joins forces with him in the hopes of taking down their shared nemesis.
The role caught Kravitz’s eye thanks to its less-than-clichéd take on the high school hottie.
“What I really liked was that in the first part of the movie, you think she’s this kind of slutty, crazy chick, and it totally flips around and you see how she’s this sweet innocent girl who’s been put in a bad situation,” explains Kravitz, who called on her “dear, dear friend” Alexander Wang to loan her threads for almost every scene. “Evie is kind of a soldier and had to put up whatever armor, using her physical appearance and sexuality, to defend herself.”
Though Kravitz spent most of high school at New York’s Rudolf Steiner School on the Upper West Side (“so incredible, open and warm”), a few earlier years at Miami Country Day School gave her some fodder for channeling Evie.
“It was a lot of kids with a lot of money and little attention from their parents. And it can cause some really destructive environments sometimes,” she recalls. “I had to get out of there. I had to get back to New York. So I definitely had some experience about how lonely that environment can be.”
Fortunately, the majority of her upbringing provokes only the fondest memories. The daughter of Lenny Kravitz and actress Lisa Bonet, Kravitz was born in Los Angeles but spent most of her formative years in New York. As a child, she went after every school theater production she could, from “The Three Sisters” to “Alice in Wonderland,” in which she played the caterpillar.
“I wore this spandex, hot green, tie-dyed outfit with a big caterpillar head and these little John Lennon glasses. And I sat on top of this giant mushroom and talked like a hippie,” she says.
When she was 15, an agent who had heard about her interest in acting approached her. and she started going on auditions. She spent her first year after high school studying at SUNY Purchase’s Acting Conservatory, then left to start working.
In addition to “Beware the Gonzo,” Kravitz will soon be seen in “Yelling to the Sky” opposite Gabourey Sidibe; “Twelve” with Chace Crawford, and “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” with Emma Roberts. She is also the lead singer of Philadelphia-based band Elevator Fight.
Unlike other progeny of famous parents, Kravitz is the first to credit her mom and dad for her creative endeavors.
“I think it’s like that with any kind of profession. You know, your father owns a store and then you work in the store. Your father’s a blacksmith, and then you become a blacksmith,” she says. “A family’s trade is a family trade. My dad’s mother was an actress and my mother’s father was an opera singer. Definitely things run in my family.”