Following the backlash over Zendaya’s age-gap in Malcolm & Marie with John David Washington, the 24-year-old star is finally addressing the controversy for herself.
Zendaya is 12 years younger than John David Washington, the 36-year-old actor who plays her onscreen love interest in her new movie, Malcolm & Marie. When the Netflix original—a romantic drama shot entirely in black and white—was first announced in the summer of 2020, many fans grew concerned about the Disney Channel alum’s large age-gap with her costar. But the Euphoria star believes that the concern comes from having “played a 16-year-old since I was 16,” she told E! News’ Victor Cruz on Wednesday, January 27.
“You have to remember, also, people grew up with me as a child,” Zendaya explained. “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,” she added, referring to her role as Rue Bennett on HBO’s Euphoria.
Meanwhile, Zendaya’s co-star admits he “didn’t know what the industry was going to look like.” Washington, who plays filmmaker Malcolm in the Netflix flick, told E! News on Wednesday, “I didn’t know if I was going to have an opportunity to do what I love to do the most, which is act.”
In an earlier interview published on January 12 with Variety, Washington defended his age-gap with Zendaya and noted that he was “really excited for people to see when the film is released how mature she is in this role.” The actor and son of Denzel Washington went on to explain that audiences “are going to see in this film how much of a woman she is.”
“She has far more experience than I do in the industry,” Washington told Variety at the time. “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.”
He continued, “Some of the stories she’s shared about what she’s had to go through with Twitter and everything,” noting fans’ recent concerns. “I appreciated her wisdom and discernment when it comes to this business. I admire that.”
Malcolm & Marie premieres February 5, 2021, on Netflix.