Zendaya opened up about the negative feedback surrounding the controversy behind her portrayal as Lola Bunny and the character’s new look in the “Space Jam” sequel, entitled “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” on Monday, July 12, during an interview with “Entertainment Weekly.” The film, which stars LeBron James, is about James and his character son getting trapped in a digital world by a rogue artificial intelligence named Al G. In order to return home, the Lakers forward, alongside Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Lola Bunny and other Looney Tunes characters, has to play in a high-stakes basketball game against AI’s digitalized team.
The Emmy Award-winning actress’ role in the film was initially announced earlier this year, and fans were given a preview of the finished product last month.
Zendaya told the publication she understood the backlash because of how significant Lola — who was initially introduced in 1996 in the original “Space Jam” starring Michael Jordan — was and still is to everyone who grew up with her. She said, “She’s special to a lot of people and their childhoods and they’ve been able to grow up with her, so I get that sense of protection.”
The 24-year-old added,”I was like, listen, just as long as I did what the director and the producers and everybody wanted me to do, I’m just here to offer my services. No, but I felt really grateful just to have the opportunity.”
The “Euphoria” star also shared her initial stunned reaction when Lola’s desexualized new look was met with outrage from the public. She stated, “I definitely know we love her, but I didn’t know it was going to be as much of a focus as it was. But I understand because she’s a lovable character. She’s very important, so I get it.”
In addition to Zendaya’s response about Lola’s new look, the director of “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” Malcolm D. Lee, disclosed why it felt necessary not to “objectify” the bunny. Lee said, “I had no idea that people would be that up in arms about a bunny not having boobs.”
He added, “Listen, I understand people don’t want things to change, but I think we needed some evolution with her, not by objectifying her but by making her strong and still feminine. And, yes, we had all these other women who were like, ‘Oh, you can’t be strong and have big boobs?!’ Sure you can, but we’re talking about a cartoon bunny not women!”
Last month, many fans expressed that Zendaya wasn’t the right fit for the casting of Lola Bunny, despite her superstar status, after the initial clip of the bunny was released. In fact, one Twitter user went as far as to compare the casting role to Beyoncé’s portrayal as Nala in the 2019 live-action version of “The Lion King.”
“So, did we learn nothing from Beyoncé as Nala? Is it hard to cast actual voice over artists or actors who understand the characters their already familiar with ie Kristen Wig or Kath Soucie? Celebrities can’t be the answer to every voice role just because they’re celebrities.”
“Space Jam: A New Legacy,” starring LeBron James, Zendaya, Don Cheadle and many others, is slated to be released nationwide in theaters on Friday, July 16.