Zendaya Reminds People Upset by ‘Malcolm & Marie’ 12-Year Age Gap That She’s a Grownup

“Malcolm and Marie” has generated career-best reviews for leading actors Zendaya and John David Washington, but it’s also been criticized in some reviews and on social media for featuring 36-year-old Washington and 24-year-old Zendaya as romantic partners. Zendaya can understand why people might be uncomfortable with the 12-year age gap between the actors since her career thus far has been defined by playing characters who are high schoolers (or younger), but the Emmy winner told People magazine that viewers need to remember she’s an adult in real life.

“People often forget — which is understandable because I’ve been playing 16 since I was 16, you know — [but] I am grown,” Zendaya said on “People (the TV Show!).” “I knew that, as I grow and as I evolve, there would be that moment where I could play someone my own age.”

Washington shared similar thoughts on the matter during an interview with Variety earlier this month, saying he “wasn’t concerned” about being 12 years older than Zendaya because the “Euphoria” actress “is a woman.”

“People are going to see in this film how much of a woman she is,” Washington said. “She has far more experience than I do in the industry. 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. I was leaning on her for a lot.”

Washington continued, “Some of the stories she’s shared about what she’s had to go through with Twitter and everything. I appreciated her wisdom and discernment when it comes to this business. I admire that. What I’m really excited for people to see when the film is released — they’re going to see how mature she is in this role. We’re talking about versatility, and Sam and Zendaya brought both.”

“Malcolm and Marie” was made last summer during the height of the pandemic. Netflix picked up distribution rights to the film in September in a deal reportedly worth $30 million. Buzz around the project, plus strong reviews for performance, have thrust Zendaya into the Oscar race for Best Actress. “Malcolm and Marie” begins streaming February 5 on Netflix.

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