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In a new interview with Variety, John David Washington is opening up about filming Malcolm & Marie with costar Zendaya. He dishes on why he decided to film during the COVID-19 pandemic, whether or not he relates to his character, Malcolm, and more. He also addresses the criticism regarding his and Zendaya’s age difference. Read his thoughts below.

On why he chose to do Malcolm & Marie at this point in his career:

For one, I love to act. I love writing, but especially because of the time we were in. I get this script and a call from Sam, and he starts reading me the dialogue between Malcolm and Marie for about 10 pages. I couldn’t believe it. It was beautiful words I heard, and at the same time very disturbing with visceral confrontations. I started getting anxious and nervous because I don’t hear any stage direction. I get nothing but dialogue.  So I’ve heard all these words, and I said, “I love it, but can I read the thing?” And Sam said, “No, not yet.” And he hangs up [laughs].

I just knew I had to do it. It was something I desperately needed artistically. I had all these feelings and anxiety, with this concern about my future. My usual outlet for those things is work. So it’s was perfect, and I said, “when do we start?”

On whether or not any aspect of Malcolm felt personal to him, or if he drew from past relationships to play the character:

I can’t relate to the back and forth with the significant other. Those aren’t my tactics. I don’t like confrontation, I like to use my words and be clear, and I don’t like to yell. I’ll say this, and I’m not going to get into details because it’s too private. But there are a couple of things that were triggering. A couple of moments where I found myself truly lost in the emotion and where I was going. Some things started brewing up that I was grateful to use but didn’t realize they were in there, in my spirit. And in some ways, it was therapy to get it out in that way. I’ve heard this word thrown around during these interviews and Q&A’s – “villain” – I heard it and said, “not a villain.” I don’t think he’s a villain, but “it’s receipt time” during the back and forth.

On the criticism regarding his and Zendaya’s age difference (he’s 36, she’s 24):

I wasn’t concerned about it because she is a woman. 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. 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.

If you missed the official trailer, check that out here. Thoughts on what he had to say? Chime in.

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