When Zendaya was first announced as joining the cast of ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’, it was believed that she would be playing a radically different take on Mary Jane Watson. It turned out that her character’s name was Michelle Jones, but as she declared at the end of the movie, “My friends call me M.J.” But it seems that M.J. was originally conceived as a role closer to Mary Jane in the comics.
Brooklyn native Jon Watts, who directed ‘Homecoming’ and the now-shooting sequel ‘Far From Home’, wanted Peter Parker’s high school to reflect the diversity that Watts himself had seen growing up. In the original script, M.J. was written as a Caucasian character, but as Zendaya said, when she went in to audition, Watts had already decided to “go ethnic” with that particular role.
“At first I thought I would have to [fight] because you’re kind of used to the notion that, OK, even though the character is fictional and could be anybody, they probably are going to go with the standard of what they want and what they’ve always had. I definitely went into it like, ‘Hopefully they’ll’—as they call it in the industry—’go ethnic.’ I remember making the decision to straighten my hair. I didn’t know that they were going to be more diverse in their casting. I didn’t know that I was walking into a situation where they were already breaking the rules. You get so used to having to break the rules for people.”
Zendaya is currently in London filming ‘Far From Home’ along with Tom Holland, who plays Peter/Spider-Man and Jacob Batalon as Peter’s best friend Ned Leeds. Tony Revolori’s Flash Thompson is also due to return, but it’s unclear if he has reported to set yet. The new film welcomes Jake Gyllenhaal as the villain Mysterio alias Quentin Beck. Returning from the first film are Marisa Tomei as Peter’s Aunt Man and Michael Keaton as The Vulture/Adrian Toomes.
‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ will come home to theaters on July 5, 2019.