Zendaya Dismisses Criticism of Age Gap with John David Washington in Malcolm & Marie: 'I'm Grown'
Zendaya, 24, stars opposite John David Washington, 36, in the upcoming Netflix drama
The costars share the screen in Netflix's Malcolm & Marie, streaming Feb. 5, in which the 24-year-old Emmy winner explores the complexities of a romantic relationship opposite the 36-year-old Tenet actor. After some social media users expressed concerns about the 12-year age gap between the stars, Zendaya assured them she's not a child star anymore.
"People often forget — which is understandable because I've been playing 16 since I was 16, you know — [but] I am grown," she told PEOPLE (the TV Show!) host Lawrence K. Jackson. "I knew that, as I grow and as I evolve, there would be that moment where I could play someone my own age."
Currently, Zendaya stars as high school student Rue on HBO's Euphoria, and she's at work on a new Spider-Man sequel, in which she plays teenager MJ. The actress rose to fame as a Disney Channel star with the show Shake It Up.
Washington, who's the son of Denzel Washington, previously addressed criticism of their age difference, telling Variety that he isn't "concerned," noting that, "People 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," he said. "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."
Washington further added that he had been "leaning on" Zendaya "for a lot" while making the movie, which was filmed under pandemic protocols last year during quarantine. "Some of the stories she's shared about what she's had to go through with Twitter and everything," he said, "I appreciated her wisdom and discernment when it comes to this business. I admire that."
And what Washington is "really excited for people to see when the film is released" is "how mature she is in this role." He said, "We're talking about versatility, and [director Sam Levinson] and Zendaya brought both."
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