Odessa A’zion Isn’t a Troublemaker, She Just Plays One on TV
“The world just can’t get enough of shoving white-boy stories down our throats, and labeling them as American culture at its finest,” says Joey, Odessa A’zion’s character on the new Netflix drama Grand Army, to her classmates and her white male English teacher. Her body is shaking and tears of defiance trickle down her face as she catches the eye of a friend, who, the night before, was complicit in her sexual assault. “This is as bad as Catcher. This is basically 1920s Woody Allen. And I hope she’ll be a fool. That’s the best thing a girl can be in this world. A beautiful little fool.’ That’s genius?” Early in her career, A’zion has already shown an affinity for troubled and troublemaking young women. The 20-year-old actor appeared as a Daria-loving unhoused teen on Nashville and as a high-school dropout on last year’s CBS sitcom Fam. This month, she stars alongside an impressive cast of newcomers in Grand Army, a millennial Kids set at a public school in Brooklyn that was adapted by Katie Cappiello from her 2013 play Slut.
As a popular, unruly teenager dealing with issues such as terrorism, racial tension, income inequality, sexual identity, and substance abuse, Joey challenges her friends and authority figures with equal zeal. “She thinks she’s hot shit, but she’s just this little girl trying to navigate her way through high school,” says A’zion from her apartment in Los Angeles, where she’s been quarantining with her ten pets: four dogs, three cats, two snakes, and an iguana.
While the series tackles themes that are familiar to the young star, A’zion’s Hollywood-adjacent adolescence was intense in other ways. For the past four years, her mother Pamela Adlon has loosely mined life with A’zion and her two sisters for her critically acclaimed FX series Better Things. A’zion (who recently changed her surname) prefers not to draw too many real-life parallels to the show, but she fondly describes the family dynamic as “weird,” especially when she and her older sister Gideon audition for the same roles. “Everybody’s biting their fingernails,” she says. “We used to be insanely competitive, but it’s gotten better.”
A’zion will follow up her breakthrough performance in Grand Army with the one-take horror movie Let’s Scare Julie and the open-relationship indie comedy Mark, Mary, & Some Other People (she plays one of the other people). Going forward, though, she wouldn’t mind challenging her reputation for spiky characters. “I don’t want to always be, like, the train wreck,” she says. “I’d like to play Little Miss Sunshine.”
Location Manager: Isaac Calvin
Photography Assistant: Seth Calvin