Actor Spotlight is a feature in which the career of a singular actor is analysed. We discuss their life, career and the impact they had on their projects.
Originally published in 2019, edited and re-published in May 2020.
On 1 September 1996, Zendaya Coleman was born. Fast forward twenty-two years and she is a successful actor and singer. Her projects include the Disney series Shake it Up (2010 – 2013) and KC Undercover (2015-2018), musical drama The Greatest Showman (2017) which also starred Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron and a recurring role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Alongside her acting career, Zendaya also has the distinction of being a producer on KC Undercover, a rarity for Disney actors also starring in the show. Her theatre background through her mother was helpful preparation for Shake It Up, unlike her co-star Bella Thorne, who had no professional dance training.
Her character in Shake It Up was Rocky Blue, one of the two leads. A smart, responsible and likeable character. Along with her best friend, CeCe Jones (Bella Thorne), she is selected to star on “Shake It Up Chicago”, a fictitious dance show. Zendaya won the part of Rocky at the age of 14. The show ran for 75 episodes over three seasons.
While also maintaining a relationship with Disney, Zendaya used KC Undercover as a stepping stone for her later career. This began with significantly changing the initial character ‘Katy Cooper’ in order to better fit the actor.
Among the guest stars were Ross Butler (13 Reasons Why), Francois Chau (Lost) and Zendaya’s former Shake It Up co-star, Bella Thorne. KC Undercover also concluded after 75 episodes, bringing a total of 150 episodes in which Zendaya appeared on a Disney Channel series.
After her time at Disney came to end, Zendaya began appearing in mainstream film projects. Most notably thus far are The Greatest Showman (2017), in which she played Anne Wheeler, a trapeze artist and the Spider-Man films set in the MCU as Michelle Jones, who, SPOILER, was revealed at the end of Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) to be the MCU’s version of MJ, Spidey’s traditional love interest.
MJ can be viewed as a mirror image of Rocky Blue. Both girls are extremely intelligent and responsible but whereas one is outgoing and enjoys dancing, the other is quieter, blunter and more cynical.
Be sure to check back in next week for the fourth Edition of Actor Spotlight.
Hint: It’ll be a magical time.