During the early years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel Studios was unable to introduce the fan-favorite superhero Spider-Man due to the character’s rights being held by Sony Pictures. However, after The Amazing Spider-Man 2 failed to live up to expectations both critically and financially, Sony and Marvel were able to strike a deal that led to the introduction of new big-screen Peter Parker (Tom Holland) earlier this year in Captain America: Civil War. Since the annoucement of Sony and Marvel’s partnership, fans have been eagerly anticipating the premiere of Spidey’s solo outing, Spider-Man: Homecoming — due out next year.
The production of Spider-Man: Homecoming has been widely documented by officially released set photos featuring Holland in the iconic superhero role, but many aspects of the film are being held tightly under wraps. For instance, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige only recently confirmed Michael Keaton will play the villain Vulture, while the exact nature of co-star Zendaya’s part is still unclear. Many have speculated, and rumors have claimed Zendaya will play Mary Jane Watson, a classic romantic interest to Peter from the comics. However, new comments from the actress/singer indicate that may not be the case.
In an interview with THR, Zendaya was asked if her character — which is reportedly named Michelle, though that’s believed to be a placeholder name for a recognizable Marvel character — will be the love interest to Holland’s Peter Parker. The actress responded simply, “No,” and expanded on her character’s personality:
My character is not romantic. My character is like very dry, awkward, intellectual and because she’s so smart, she just feels like she doesn’t need to talk to people, like “My brain is so far ahead of you that you’re just not really on my level.” So she comes off very weird. But to me, she is very cool because she’s deep. She’s always thinking about something, always reading. I like that. And I also like that I don’t really have to do anything for hair and makeup. I just get to walk in and walk out.
Based on Zendaya’s description of her character’s personality, it doesn’t seem to be that of Mary Jane as comic fans have known her. MJ has historically been outgoing, friendly, and confident, so the personality of Zendaya’s Michelle doesn’t seem to align with the comic character — though it does somewhat resemble the Ultimate Universe’s iteration of fellow Spider-Man character Gwen Stacy.
Of course, it remains to be seen which character exactly Zendaya is playing, and considering the amount of secrecy surrounding her role especially, it may not be officially revealed for some time. We may learn more when the first trailer, sneak peek, or footage is released, but as of now it’s unclear if Zendaya will play a new take on MJ, a version of Gwen Stacy, another Marvel role, or a new character entirely.
No matter her official identity, Zendaya’s character is a major aspect of Spider-Man: Homecoming, which will focus on Peter Parker’s high school experience. The footage that screened during Comic-Con International in San Diego this summer featured a number of school scenes that included Zendaya’s character. So, it’s likely we’ll learn more about her role once the first trailer is debuted to the public — though, as the actress hints, it may not confirm her to be playing MJ.