Zendaya Unfazed by Spider-Man Casting Controversy, Talks Using Snapchat to Discuss Black Issues

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Zendaya (David Needleman/The Hollywood Reporter)
Zendaya (David Needleman/The Hollywood Reporter)

Zendaya has been in the news for everything from her reported casting as Spider-Man’s love interest to calling out a grocery store on Snapchat for racism. And in a new interview, she’s discussing both topics to varying degrees.

The 20-year-old actress spoke to The Hollywood Reporter magazine for its Next Gen 2016 issue, on which she posed on the cover with her Spider-Man: Homecoming co-star Tom Holland.

On the topic of her alleged role as Spider-Man’s love interest Mary Jane, Zendaya did not confirm the news.

“You’ll find out. It’s funny to watch the guessing game,” she told the publication. But she addressed the controversy that emerged over speculation of her casting as the first Black Mary Jane. In August, Atlanta Black Star reported Spider-Man devotees criticized the move as “jumping on the PC bandwagon.”

“People are going to react over anything. But nothing [about who she is playing] is fact. It’s like, you guys are just making s— up at this point and then reacting to it,” Zendaya told THR. “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.’ ”

Zendaya and co-star Tom Holland cover "The Hollywood Reporter" (David Needleman/The Hollywood Reporter)
Zendaya and co-star Tom Holland cover “The Hollywood Reporter” (David Needleman/The Hollywood Reporter)

While Zendaya remained demure about her exact role in Spider-Man, she explained her character is not romantically involved with Spider-Man’s alter ego Peter Parker.

“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,” the Disney star explained. “But to me, she is very cool because she’s deep. She’s always thinking about something, always reading. I like that.”

Another thing Zendaya likes is educating her followers on Snapchat about Black issues. While the Disney star said she enjoys posting things like selfies, she also uses the platform to expose racism. In September, Zendaya accused a grocery store cashier of racial profiling her after she allegedly assumed the actress could not afford $400 worth in gift cards. However, the chain said it acted within store policy, apologizing for the “misunderstanding.”

“Recently my Snapchat has become like a history class,” Zendaya said. “I have become an African-American history professor. I thought, ‘People are going to be so irritated.’ A lot of kids don’t even learn some of this stuff in school. Like how is it that some of my fans are learning more about Black history on my Snapchat in second increments than in school? I feel like if you have a platform, it’s your obligation to talk about how you feel. To me, there’s no excuse to be ignorant anymore. Everything is at your fingertips. You can’t pretend like you’re not seeing innocent Black men being killed. We have videos, and they’re circulating all over the internet.”

Atlanta Black Star reported police murdered 1,200 people in 2015, with Black men being the most vulnerable. And as 2016 draws to a close, many more similar high-profile killings have occurred. They included Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Terence Crutcher, Donnell Thompson and Keith Scott. Officers around the country shot and killed the men in July, August and September respectively.

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