Entertainment Movies Zendaya Addresses Controversy Over Her 'Space Jam' '2' Character Lola Bunny's Reworked Appearance While Zendaya understands a "sense of protection" over her Space Jam: A New Legacy character Lola's original look, she says, "I didn't know it was going to be as much of a focus as it was" By Jen Juneau Jen Juneau Twitter Jen Juneau is a digital news writer for PEOPLE. A '90s teen and horror film connoisseur, she started at the brand in 2016, after a decade of working as a technical writer and then moonlighting as a journalist beginning in 2013. Originally from New Orleans, Jen grew up both in NOLA and Florida and eventually attended the University of Central Florida in Orlando (still her home base!), where she earned a bachelor's in English/technical communication, with a minor in magazine journalism. People Editorial Guidelines Published on July 14, 2021 01:51 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Zendaya; Lola Bunny in Space Jam: A New Legacy. Photo: Randy Shropshire/Getty; Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures Zendaya couldn't be more thankful to have gotten to voice the "iconic" Lola Bunny in Space Jam: A New Legacy — but she admits she was a bit thrown by the controversy over the character's updated look. Speaking with Entertainment Weekly ahead of the film's premiere, the 24-year-old actress said she "didn't know" any backlash would come out of the difference in Lola's appearance compared to her version in the original film. "I definitely know we love her, but I didn't know it was going to be as much of a focus as it was," Zendaya said with a laugh. In 1996's Space Jam, Lola is shown wearing a crop top and short shorts throughout the film, while the 2021 version sees her don a basketball uniform more akin to that of her male counterparts. Added Zendaya of the controversy in her EW interview, "I understand, because she's a lovable character. She's very important, so I get it." Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human-interest stories. Lola Bunny and LeBron James in Space Jam: A New Legacy. Warner Bros. Pictures Zendaya Channels Her Character Lola Bunny in Bright Ensemble and Ponytail at Space Jam Premiere Zendaya said she realizes the character of Lola is "special to a lot of people and their childhoods and they've been able to grow up with her, so I get that sense of protection." "I was like, listen, just as long as I did what the director [Malcolm D. Lee] and the producers and everybody wanted me to do, I'm just here to offer my services," she added, laughing. The Euphoria Emmy winner also said she has "always appreciated Lola because she's the only girl on the team, kind of holding it down for the ladies — and she's also an incredible player." "I think in this reimagining of who she is, it just leans into that a little bit more, the fact that she's got these skills and she's an MVP. When we meet here, she's like, 'I'm being a warrior, an Amazon princess, I don't have time for this right now,'" Zendaya explained. "But she obviously ends up being such a crucial member of the team and really holding them all together. When they're going off on their looney moments, she brings everyone back." Zendaya at the premiere of Space Jam: A New Legacy. Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic RELATED VIDEO: Why Don Cheadle Couldn't Turn Down a Role in Space Jam 2: The Original Was "So Iconic" Lee, 51, previously told EW that "Lola was not politically correct" in the original movie, and that the rework of her appearance was meant to present her as "feminine without being objectified." In the more recent interview, the director told EW, "I had no idea that people would be that up in arms about a bunny not having boobs." Listen below to our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day for more on Space Jam: A New Legacy. "Listen, I understand people don't want things to change, but I think we needed some evolution with her, not by objectifying her but by making her strong and still feminine," he added. "And, yes, we had all these other women who were like, 'Oh, you can't be strong and have big boobs?!' Sure you can, but we're talking about a cartoon bunny, not women!" Space Jam: A New Legacy hits theaters and HBO Max Friday.