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Zendaya and John David Washington, Malcom & Marie
courtesy of Netflix

Zendaya and Sam Levinson discuss making Malcolm & Marie over lockdown

John David Washington and Zendaya star in the Netflix romance, which was shot over 14 days with a limited crew

While we were staying inside and watching Netflix over lockdown, Euphoria creator Sam Levinson and star Zendaya were busy creating a whole new Netflix film, titled Malcolm & Marie. Premiering on the platform yesterday (February 5), the black and white romance sees the relationship of a filmmaker, played by John David Washington, and his girlfriend (Zendaya) unravel over a single night, as they receive reviews of his latest film. 

Ahead of the release, Levinson and Zendaya spoke about making the film in lockdown, and how the film likely wouldn’t have come about without the coronavirus pandemic, which saw most major releases grind to a halt

“I think that because of the restrictions that COVID was forcing upon us we had to reverse engineer this movie and work out the story we could tell in those conditions,” says Levinson, in a recent interview with Esquire, adding: “It’s two people, one location, no place to go, not a tonne of costume changes. I think it is unique to the restrictions of the world we were living in at that time.”

The filmmaker also explains how the cast and crew adhered to strict COVID protocol, isolating separately on a ranch as filming began. “There was no script supervisor, no first AD, no real props department, Z was doing her own hair and make-up and there was no schedule,” he says. “John David, Zendaya, myself and our cinematographer (Euphoria’s director of photography, Marcell Rév) were able to spend those ten days really diving into the material and breaking down every scene and line.”

In a December 2020 interview on Pharrell Williams’ OTHERtone podcast, Zendaya explained that the idea for Malcolm & Marie came from “quarantine conversations” with Levinson. In a Twitter thread ahead of the film’s release, she adds: “Normally I’m pretty self-critical and that leads me to be far too fearful to make things myself or trust myself enough to even try. This is really my first time believing that maybe I could.”

“This is my first time being a leading lady, but also my first time being this creatively involved in something, producing something, co-financing something, owning something and sharing it all with my crew.”

Discussing the stripped-back production of Malcolm & Marie, she adds: “We made this as a family, shot it in 14 days with a 22 person crew I am eternally grateful for. For their talent, their time, their hard work, and their willingness to believe in this film. If there’s anything to learn from this year, and I hope from our little movie, it’s gratitude for every moment and every person we get to love.”

Late last year, Zendaya also starred in the first of two special episodes of Euphoria, intended to bridge the gap between the first and second seasons of the acclaimed HBO show. The second special episode, focusing on Hunter Schafer’s character, Jules, aired in January, 2021.