Spider-Man: Homecoming, directed by Jon Watts, is Marvel's highly-anticipated take on the famous web slinger. We're still a ways off from release, but the actors are already being pressed for details. Zendaya is the most recent. She has a lot to say about her character but is still keeping tight-lipped on the most contentious aspect.
Just this week Kevin Feige confirmed the previously cast Michael Keaton was indeed playing the villain Vulture. Tom Holland recently revealed he's signed on for three Spider-Man solo movies and three appearances in other MCU films (one of each is already done). But we don't know about their plans for Zendaya.
When first cast in the Marvel/Sony Pictures team-up, they were calling her character “Michelle,” which absolutely seemed like a code name. A few months later, reports started surfacing that she was going to be playing the famous Mary Jane Watson, aka MJ. The Hollywood Reporter asked Zendaya about this and she replied, “You'll find out. It's funny to watch the guessing game.”
Regardless of whether or not Marvel confirms or denies this before the film is released, some folks had a tremendously bad reaction to the idea of a woman of color playing MJ. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 director James Gunn thought it was such a gross reaction he made a big post about it to his followers. “I do not believe a character is the color of his or her skin,” he said. “For me, if a character's primary attribute – the thing that makes them iconic – is the color of their skin, or their hair color, frankly, that character is shallow and sucks.”
Here's what Zendaya told THR of the backlash:
People are going to react over anything. But nothing [about who she is playing] is fact. It's like, you guys are just making shit up at this point and then reacting to it. Whenever we were on set, one of us gets some random character name [on the call sheet]. [Bloggers were] like, “Oh they must be so and so.” And we just crack up about it, because it's like, “Whatever you want to think. You'll find out.” It's funny to watch the guessing game. But of course there's going to be outrage over that because for some reason some people just aren't ready. I'm like, “I don't know what America you live in, but from what I see when I walk outside my streets of New York right now, I see lots of diversity and I see the real world and it's beautiful, and that's what should be reflected and that's what is reflected so you're just going to have to get over it.”
“I see lots of diversity and I see the real world and it”s beautiful, and that”s what should be reflected and that”s what is reflected so you”re just going to have to get over it” is such a simple and beautiful sentiment.
Thinking they'd try and get an MJ answer out of her indirectly by asking if her character would be romantically involved with Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, didn't work either though.
“My character is not romantic. My character is like very dry, awkward, intellectual and because she's so smart, she just feels like she doesn't need to talk to people, like 'My brain is so far ahead of you that you're just not really on my level.' So she comes off very weird,” she said. “But to me, she is very cool because she's deep. She's always thinking about something, always reading. I like that. And I also like that I don't really have to do anything for hair and makeup. I just get to walk in and walk out.”
While she hasn't had much experience with Spider-Man growing up, Zendaya did say she loves the character and has specific reasons why. “Spider-Man is always the coolest because he didn't come from money. He wasn't born with his superpower,” she said. “It kind of just happens to him and he's just a kid, and he's just trying to balance living life and being a teenager and like hormones and problems and issues while also like doing the most outrageous things. He's always been the most relatable.”