Zendaya Spent the Last Year Rejecting Scripts Where She Only ‘Serves the Male Character’

Zendaya’s career is skyrocketing after her Emmy win for “Euphoria” in September and rave first reactions over the weekend for “Malcolm & Marie,” for which she’s being touted as a major Oscar contender for Best Actress. The Netflix-backed “Malcolm & Marie” is the brainchild of Zendaya and her “Euphoria” creator Sam Levinson. When production on “Euphoria” Season 2 was delayed in March on account of the pandemic, the two started brainstorming ideas for a project that could be pulled off safely in quarantine. Levinson’s first thought was “a twisty meta-Disney thriller,” as revealed in Zendaya’s new GQ magazine cover story.

“I was just on the pavement outside in my backyard because I didn’t have outdoor furniture yet, talking to Sam,” Zendaya told the magazine. “He’s like, ‘What if we did something almost like a horror movie where you’ve lost it because you still think you’re on K.C. Undercover? You could be in the house like dah, dah, dah, and you’re still stuck being this Disney Channel actress, and people are like, ‘No. You’re not K.C. [anymore].’”

Zendaya and Levinson eventually found their way to “Malcolm & Marie,” which excited the actress because, as GQ explains, “it offered something more than the passive girlfriend or an accessory in someone else’s narrative.” It turns out Zendaya spent the last year getting offers to play women that merely exist to serve the movie’s male character. She turned all of them down.

“It’s not necessarily that any of [the scripts] were bad or something like that,” Zendaya said. “I just felt like a lot of the roles that I was reading, specifically female roles, were just like, I could have played them all as the same person and it wouldn’t have mattered, if that makes sense. The best way to describe it is just like, they’d usually serve the purpose of helping the male character get to where they need to go, do what they need to do. They don’t really have an arc of their own. And they usually feel very one-dimensional in the sense that there’s not a lot of layers to them, meaning they all seem very kind of like the same person over and over and over again. It would have been great and it would have been fine, but I wouldn’t have grown at all.”

With “Malcom & Marie,” Zendaya tackles one of her most complex characters yet and is earning some of the best reviews of her career because of it. The movie begins streaming February 5 on Netflix.

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