John David Washington on ‘Malcolm & Marie’ 12-Year Age Gap: ‘Zendaya Is a Woman’

Sam Levinson’s “Malcolm & Marie” earned rave first reactions last weekend after its debut virtual screening, with significant praise being given to the performances by Zendaya and John David Washington. The film is set over a single night as a couple confronts the cracks in their relationship. Pairing 36-year-old Washington and 24-year-old Zendaya as romantic partners is proving divisive for some as it represents a 12-year age gap, but “BlacKkKlansman” and “Tenet” actor Washington tells Variety such an age difference did not raise any red flags given Zendaya’s personal and professional maturity during the making of the film.

“I wasn’t concerned about it because she is a woman,” Washington said. “People are going to see in this film how much of a woman she is. She has far more experience than I do in the industry. I’ve only been in it for seven years. She’s been in it longer, so I’m learning from her. I’m the rookie. I was leaning on her for a lot.”

Washington continued, “Some of the stories she’s shared about what she’s had to go through with Twitter and everything. I appreciated her wisdom and discernment when it comes to this business. I admire that. What I’m really excited for people to see when the film is released – they’re going to see how mature she is in this role. We’re talking about versatility, and Sam and Zendaya brought both.”

Levinson’s “Malcolm & Marie” script also reckons with the age gap between the characters. Washington stars as a filmmaker who arrives back home with his girlfriend (Zendaya) after the debut screening of his latest project. While awaiting the publication of reviews, the partners spar as it’s revealed Malcolm did not thank Marie at the screening despite using her life as the basis for his film.

IndieWire awards expert Anne Thompson wrote earlier this week that Zendaya in “Malcolm & Marie’s” best shot at landing an Oscar nomination. “The 24-year-old ‘Euphoria’ Emmy-winner is on a roll and could steal the win from ‘Ma Rainey’ star Viola Davis,” Thompson wrote, adding the biggest obstacle facing the film in the Oscar race is visibility as it’s debuting so close to the eligibility cutoff date. “Malcolm & Marie” begins streaming February 5 on Netflix.

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