Zendaya reflects on ‘Spider-Man’ journey as ‘No Way Home’ hits theaters

EXCLUSIVE: "I think MJ's got this beautiful, brutal honesty, which sometimes I wish I had more [of]," Zendaya tells theGrio.

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The last few years of Zendaya‘s life have been a whirlwind, to say the least.

The 25-year-old actress has gone from Disney starlet to a bonafide movie star, with over 113 million Instagram followers, an Emmy-winning performance in Euphoria, an A-list relationship with co-star Tom Holland and the starring role as Mary Jane ‘MJ’ Watson in Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home.

On the eve of the release of the third Spider-Man film, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Zendaya is reflecting back on her time as a MJ, which she describes as an “interesting rollercoaster.” The first Black actress to star as the iconic character in Marvel’s cinematic history, Zendaya tells theGrio exclusively that the public has not always been “the most warm and welcoming,” but she’s gotten “nothing but love and support” from the Marvel team and her fans.

Sony Pictures' "Spider-Man: No Way Home" Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals
Zendaya attends the Los Angeles premiere of Sony Pictures’ ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ on December 13, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

“I feel incredibly honored to be a part of the Spider-Man films,” Zendaya explains. “I am grateful for all the love and continued support that our MCU’s [Marvel Cinematic Universe] version of MJ has received. It’s been very special for me just to be able to kind of do a new version of this iconic character. You know, I remember the first day that I went and met [director] John Watts. I knew that I was playing MJ, but I didn’t know what her personality would be like in this new version.”

She continues, “We got to kind of take things, iconography and things, from the comic books that we recognize to be Mary Jane, and then kind of do our own interpretation of them and create something for our modern world. I think I’m very proud of being a part of this film. I hope to [see] more young women that look like me, and don’t look like me, in sci-fi. I would love to see more Black girls in sci-fi.”

Zendaya went on to explain that playing MJ has taught her that she needs to “read more.”

“She’s always reading and I do not read enough. I don’t know if that’s because I’m busy, but I’d like to say that. I feel like a lot of my peers are just as busy as I am and they find a way to read books.”

Most importantly, however, starring as MJ has shown Zendaya the importance of “beautiful, brutal honesty.”

(Credit: Sony Pictures Publicity)

“Sometimes I wish I had more [of that honesty],” the Emmy winner shares. “[MJ] does have a filter, but she’s not afraid of being exactly who she is and saying exactly what’s on her mind. Literally in the trailer, Dr. Strange says something to her and she’s like, ‘Wait, hold up. I’m gonna need you to bring that back and add a please.’ You know what I mean? I love that part about it. There’s absolutely nobody she wouldn’t check, if necessary. So I appreciate that about her.”

As for No Way Home, Zendaya says that there are several “beautiful, emotional scenes” made more impactful by the fact that the cast doesn’t know if there will be another Spider-Man film in the series. Marvel executives have yet to announce a sequel to the 2021 film, which also stars Holland, Marisa Tomei and Jamie Foxx.

“The sheer fact that we didn’t know if this would be our last one, and we don’t know if this is our last one, or if we’ll be coming back. It’s kind of a bittersweet feeling of this beautiful moment kind of coming to a close. I think that was one of my fondest memories because it was so emotional for everyone [finishing this film]. I mean, we were all just like bawling.”

“I’ve grown up with these films and I’ve grown up with seeing these villains so I feel [an] attachment to the Spider-Man legacy, just as much as anybody else,” she continues. “I think the best way to kind of deal with the nerves is just to be excited about it, and think of all the joy, hopefully, that will come from just being able to see that the multiverse is possible.”

Spider-Man: No Way Home premieres in theaters nationwide on Friday, Dec. 17. Fans can watch theGrio‘s full interview with Zendaya above.

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