Zendaya Understands the Malcolm & Marie Age Gap Backlash

Zendaya understands the backlash aimed at her casting as John David Washington’s love interest in their upcoming Netflix film, Malcolm & Marie. But it’s time for the world to, respectfully, get over it.

In a new interview with E! News‘s Daily Pop, the actress addressed the drama regarding the age gap between her and Washington, explaining that because she was a Disney child star, she understands why some may struggle to watch her in more mature roles. For context, Zendaya is 24 years old, and Washington is 36.

“I’ve played a 16-year-old since I was 16. You have to remember, also, people grew up with me as a child,” the actress said. “It’s like watching, I guess, your younger sibling now, you know, they’re grown. … So it’s hard for people to wrap around the idea that I am grown in real life. You know, even though I do play a teenager on television still.”


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Washington also addressed the criticism ahead of the film’s release, crediting Zendaya’s personal maturity and professionalism as negating any controversy stemming from their age gap.

“I wasn’t concerned about it because she is a woman. People are going to see in this film how much of a woman she is,” Washington previously told Variety. “She has far more experience than I do in the industry,” Washington explained. “I’ve only been in it for seven years. She’s been in it longer, so I’m learning from her. I’m the rookie.”

The film, which will premiere on Netflix on February 5, was completely written, rehearsed, and filmed amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. According to Zendaya, she’s immensely grateful that she was able to creatively collaborate with her Euphoria showrunner, Sam Levinson, again, while so many other filming projects are on hold.

“Sometimes when you don’t see the roles that you want, sometimes you gotta be a part of creating them,” said Zendaya. “So I’m grateful Sam wrote this movie for us.”

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