Zendaya: ‘Young Black women are not taken seriously in the film industry’
Zendaya, the critically acclaimed singer and actor, has been openly discussing the role of young Black women within the film industry, outlining the battles to be taken more seriously in a professional capacity.
For 24-year-old Zendaya, her rise through the world of Hollywood has been a meteoric one. With roles in the Disney sitcom Shake It Up, The Greatest Showman, Spider-Man: Homecoming and more cementing her platform, it was her performance in hit 2019 drama series Euphoria that really propelled the actor to international critical acclaim.
Building on her success, Zendaya has established her presence as a major inspiration to young creatives and people of colour, often being outspoken on crucially important societal topics, speaking with a sincerity that has allowed a progressive discussion to take place.
Having found a creative partnership to help express her talents, Zendaya has again teamed up with Euphoria creator Sam Levinson and stars in the new Netflix film Malcolm & Marie alongside John David Washington. For the young actor, the film offered an opportunity too good to turn down: “I’m grateful that [Levinson] listens to me, because sometimes you can feel like people don’t listen to you, or people don’t take your opinions,” she said in a recent Q&A.
She continued: “Especially being a young woman in this industry, a young Black woman in this industry, your opinion is not taken as seriously. Or maybe I don’t have the knowledge of film or the time or the experience, or whatever the case may be. But I’ve never felt that, not from day one with Sam. I always felt like my creativity and what I had to say definitely mattered inside the work, and I think this is like an example of that.
“Being able to have a creative partner that you can talk to, and go back and forth with, and there is no bad idea – and that’s why it was something I wanted to do so badly, because I never have had that experience as an adult, to be able to do something with that much dialogue and that much conversation involved.”
Malcolm & Marie, a black-and-white drama which was shot during the coronavirus lockdown, tells the story of a filmmaker who returns home with his girlfriend following a celebratory movie premiere as he awaits what’s sure to be an imminent critical and financial success. “The evening suddenly takes a turn as revelations about their relationships begin to surface, testing the strength of their love,” the synopsis reads.
Zendaya, discussing the creative process behind the film in the Q&A, added: “[Levinson] had this brilliant idea that now that is Malcolm & Marie, and as soon as he talked about stripping things back and possibly shooting it in black and white, trying to create a skeleton crew.”
Levinson, adding his own thoughts on the film’s concept, added: “I needed a catalyst for it: What’s a really terrible thing a person can do to their partner? Here’s the truth: I forgot to thank [Ashley Levinson, his wife] at the premiere of Assassination Nation, which was a brutal film to edit, and she was upset. I felt very guilty about it.
“Supposedly, we only talked about it on the car ride home. In my head, I imagined we’d had 1,000 conversations about it. I took that as the catalyst for this piece.”