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Euphoria - Zendaya

Zendaya on turning down ‘one-dimensional’ female roles that only help men

The Euphoria actor says she rejected a number of job offers in 2020 because the characters only served as a prop for the male protagonist

Not many people had a good 2020. Most of us spent it trapped in lockdowns, working from our bedrooms, and only looking forward to our one stupid little walk a day. Not Zendaya, though – she was nominated for, and then won an Emmy; she starred in two bonus episodes of Euphoria; became the face of Valentino; and landed the lead in Netflix’s forthcoming romance, Malcolm & Marie

Despite her astronomical rise to the top, last year, the actor found herself being offered a number of roles which cast her as a prop for the male protagonist. In a new interview with GQ, Zendaya reveals that, because of this, she ended up turning down a lot of job offers.

“It’s not necessarily that any of (the scripts) were bad or something like that,” she explained. “I just felt like a lot of the roles that I was reading, specifically female roles, were just like, I could have played them all as the same person and it wouldn’t have mattered.”

“The best way to describe it is just like, they’d usually serve the purpose of helping the male character get to where they need to go, do what they need to do,” Zendaya continued. “They don’t really have an arc of their own, and they usually feel very one-dimensional in the sense that there’s not a lot of layers to them, meaning they all seem like the same person over and over again. It would have been fine, but I wouldn’t have grown at all.”

This feeling stands in stark contrast to Zendaya’s casting in Malcolm & Marie, which was written by Euphoria creator Sam Levinson, and came from “quarantine conversations” between the pair, in which they discussed “wanting to create something and wanting to do it safely”. The black and white film stars Zendaya and John David Washington as a filmmaker and his girlfriend, whose relationship unravels over the course of an evening, as they wait for reviews of his latest film.

“(Marie) gave me an opportunity to use these words in a way,” Zendaya told GQ. “I don’t yell. I’m not a very argumentative person, but it’s nice to just release shit and be able to… I guess ‘emote’ would be the word? To just use her as this vessel to get shit out that maybe I had pent up or hadn’t said.”

Watch the trailer for Malcom & Marie below – out on Netflix on February 5 – and read Zendaya’s full GQ interview here.