Zendaya Reveals Why She Loved Playing A “Complicated And Messy” Role In ‘Challengers’

Zendaya is currently riding the momentum of Challengers’ official release, which debuted in theaters over the weekend and already achieved box office success. In a new interview with ESSENCE, the leading lady reveals why she fell in love with the steamy script.

“I think the script was brilliant. Sometimes I have difficulty getting through scripts, like if it doesn’t capture my interest, my brain starts wandering. And this was one of the ones where I kept turning the page,” she said about how the plot caught her attention.

Although Zendaya has played major roles in releases like Euphoria, Dune, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Malcolm & Marie, she said Tashi was one of the most testing characters of her career.

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“And it felt like a challenge,” she continued. “The character was incredibly complicated and messy and difficult. That alone, not even including learning how to be a tennis player, presented this big challengem but I think sometimes being a little bit nervous is good.”

The 27-year-old star then delved into how she was able to lean on the film’s director, as they both shared the same intricate vision for her character. “And I think in trusting in Luca [Guadagnino], who was the perfect person for this piece, and understanding that he felt the same way about the character and the story that I did, and wanted to create the same thing that I wanted to create. Being able to be creatively a part of something and have a real seat at the table in some way is very special,” she concluded.

Challengers is already garnering celebratory stats, as it earned $15 million this weekend, the biggest opening ever for Guadagnino, per Deadline. For the Shake It Up alum, the movie stands as her biggest debut for a live-action, original, non-IP movie.

Alongside the Zendaya, Challengers also stars Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor. The film is based on Tashi, a tennis player turned coach, who “has transformed her husband from a mediocre player into a world-famous grand slam champion. To jolt him out of his recent losing streak, she makes him play a challenger event — close to the lowest level of tournament on the pro tour.” The movie brings viewers into a tense love triangle when he “finds himself standing across the net from the once-promising, now burnt-out Patrick, his former best friend and Tashi’s former boyfriend,” per the official synopsis.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – APRIL 24: (L-R) Josh O’Connor, Zendaya and Mike Faist pose as Challengers Trio Kickoff Summer Movie Season in the Big Apple on April 24, 2024 in New York City.

Jenny Anderson/Getty Images for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc