Zendaya is no stranger to taking risks in her career — and her latest movie is proof of that.
The Challengers actress, 26, spoke with Elle for a cover interview published Wednesday about playing Tashi, a retired tennis star who pushes her husband Art, an average player, to become a star.
“From a character perspective, I want to find things that will push me,” Zendaya told the magazine for its September 2023 issue. “As I get older, you know, I can’t play a teenager for the rest of my life.”
The Spider-Man: No Way Home star further explained that the character was a big change and an opportunity for viewers to see her differently as an actress, joking fans are “more ready than her” for the experience.
“It’s not an unbelievable volte-face,” Zendaya said. “I felt like it was a good step into a more, I guess you could say, ‘grown-up’ role and into that next phase.”
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Zendaya on the cover of Elle‘s September 2023 issue.
ELLE Magazine/ Steven Klein
Zendaya Is a Tennis Star Mixed in a Love Triangle in Thrilling First Trailer for ‘Challengers’
“It was a little bit scary to take on, which I think is a good feeling,” she continued. “To be like, ‘Ooh, can I do this?’ You could run from that feeling and stay safe and comfortable, or you can go, ‘You know what, f— it.’ ”
When Zendaya first opened up about Challengers to a stranger, she said she was puzzled by her character’s choices.
“I still don’t understand the decisions she makes, and we had so many conversations about the psychology of her and why she is that way,” the actress said. “What was important to me was that she was unapologetic about it.”
Zendaya added, “Sometimes characters who are messy and conflicted and wield power over other people are reserved for [actors] who don’t look like me, so when I get an opportunity to play a character like that, I’ma take it!”
Challengers tells the tale of Tashi, played by Zendaya, a former tennis ace turned coach who pushes her husband Art (Mike Faist), a formerly mediocre athlete, to become a Grand Slam champion.
Following Art’s losing streak, Tashi spurs him on to compete for courtside supremacy in a match against his former best friend — and Tashi’s former boyfriend — Patrick, played by Josh O’Connor.
After the trailer for Challengers was released in June, Zendaya opened up about the sexual tone of the sports dramedy, directed by Luca Guadagnino.
“What Luca’s really good at is finding sensuality and desire,” Zendaya told Empire in an interview published Aug. 1. “There’s so much in just glances. The tension builds. Not having the release is a good thing sometimes.”
Challengers is in theaters April 26, 2024.