Variety has put out its annual “Power of Young Hollywood” issue, and this year it’s featuring the talents of Zendaya, Chloe Grace Moretz and John Boyega, along with the stars of “13 Reasons Why”, Katherine Langford and Dylan Minnette.
The young actors talk about everything from pursuing film careers and working with Hollywood legends to politics and social justice.
“There were a lot of opportunities that weren’t really what I wanted to do,” says Zendaya of deciding to go into film. “I think a lot of people look at me in a certain way because I’ve been on the Disney Channel a long time.”
The “Spider-Man: Homecoming” star talks openly about her being cast as Michelle in the film. “A lot of time, the thought process of an actor of colour is, I’m going to go and give it my best shot, but they are probably not going to go with an actor of colour for this,” says Zendaya, who is biracial. “We all think it. I didn’t know they were going to switch up the characters and really cast the best people for the roles, instead of what’s most like the comic book. I think that was the coolest part for me, knowing they embraced the diversity.”
Then there’s Zendaya’s rumoured romance with “Spider-Man” co-star Tom Holland, which she firmly denies. “We are friends,” she says. “He’s a great dude. He’s literally one of my best friends. This past how many months we’ve had to do press tours together. There’s very few people that will understand what that’s like at 20 years old.”
“He says when we first met it was super awkward because he went for a handshake and I went for a hug,” Zendaya says of her initial chemistry with Holland. “But I don’t remember that. I thought it was cool. I was worried because he’s so much shorter than me. I was like, ‘Damn it! It’s going to be weird because I’m super tall.’ But then we ended up doing the audition sitting. So that was good.”
Chloe Grace Moretz, who stars in the upcoming film “The Miseducation of Cameron Post”, about gay conversion therapy, is very open about current politics. “There’s a massive issue in this country, and we’ve got to speak up,” she says. “We’re having a mockery made of our system.”
“I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. I’m going to work on a gay conversion therapy movie, which [Vice President Mike Pence] supports,’” Moretz recalls. The day after the presidential election last November hit especially hard. “We all sat there on this tiny little movie, and [director Desiree Akhavan] gave a speech about how in this moment, this became one of the most important movies being made right now,” Moretz says. “It was heartbreaking, but being able to use that outlet made it so therapeutic.”
“Star Wars” star John Boyega has had to tackle racism regarding his casting in the series head-on. “When I was exposed to the world in ‘Star Wars’, I also was exposed to the reality of ignorance that still exists around the world,” he says. “When I was in ‘Star Wars’ there was a semi-kind of racial discussion that was quite negative when it first came out.”
“I was the only person to always talk about the colour of my skin,” Boyega says of his experience on red carpets for “The Force Awakens”.
“In every interview my skin colour comes up. If Daisy does an interview, her skin colour is not going to come up,” Boyega adds. “It doesn’t matter what position you’re in — once you’re black, you’re black, and these idiots always have something to say about it.”
Still, the experience of working on the “Star Wars” films has been great for Boyega, including working with the late Carrie Fisher on the upcoming “The Last Jedi”.
“Carrie Fisher means freedom,” Boyega says. “She influenced people to be authentic and say what you want, however you want. I’ll miss her energy. You were always going to hear Carrie Fisher somewhere saying something that she has no business saying, that makes everybody laugh.”
The stars of “13 Reasons Why” have faced their share of attention, particularly surrounding the controversy the show about teen suicide inspired.
“We show Hannah’s suicide not to glorify it. We show the rape not to glorify it,” Katherine Langford says. “It’s uncomfortable when you watch it. So we made decisions creatively, acting-wise and writing-wise, that contributed to us wanting to show this in a way that felt truthful and authentic. Personally, I don’t feel like it glorifies it at all. When I watch those scenes, I get a visceral response – it makes me sick and it makes me sad.”
Langford’s co-star Dylan Minnette adds, “What bothers me is that I noticed most of the people who had negative things to say, they didn’t see it. They would say, ‘I’m not going to watch this because this glorifies suicide.’ Well, how would you know, unless you watched the season? You’re judging the series and what we’ve done based entirely off of something that you’ve heard or read.”
“I think anyone in their right mind would be able to watch and process what we did and put together the piece that we laid out and be able to see exactly why we did what we did, and know our real intentions,” Minnette continues, “because everybody behind this had the greatest intentions and the best heart and cared so much about this.”