The former Disney star is 12 years younger than Washington.
Zendaya responded to recent backlash over the age gap between her and co-star John David Washington in the upcoming Netflix drama "Malcolm & Marie."
In the black-and-white drama, the "Euphoria" star, 24, plays the girlfriend of 36-year-old Washington. While the trailer sparked Oscar-buzz, it also left some fans feeling a certain way about the 12-year age difference between the leads.
One follower tweeted, "Anyways, my criticism of the film is that Zendaya could've gotten a male costar HER age. John almost 40 years old. It's tiring for me..." as another shared, "And especially because she was a Disney channel star, and because she plays a teenager in Spiderman and Euphoria, that age-gap becomes more noticeable."
Speaking with E! about the controversy, Zendaya said, "I've played a 16-year-old since I was 16. You have to remember, also, people grew up with me as a child. It's like watching, I guess, your younger sibling now, you know, they're grown."
"So it's hard for people to wrap around the idea that I am grown in real life. You know, even though I do play a teenager on television still."
She echoed the sentiment to People, saying "People often forget -- which is understandable because I've been playing 16 since I was 16 -- I am grown."
Anyways, my criticism of the film is that Zendaya could’ve gotten a male costar HER age. John almost 40 years old. It’s tiring for me...
But the Emmy winner said she always held out hope the right part would come along to break out of the child star image.
"I knew that, as I grow and as I evolve, there would be that moment where I could play someone my own age," she told the outlet.
Washington, who also produced "Malcolm & Marie" alongside Zendaya, reacted to the age gap criticism as well.
"I wasn't concerned about it because she is a woman," he told Variety. "People are going to see in this film how much of a woman she is. She has far more experience than I do in the industry. I’ve only been in it for seven years. She’s been in it longer, so I’m learning from her. I’m the rookie."
"I appreciated her wisdom and discernment when it comes to this business," he added. "I admire that. What I'm really excited for people to see when the film is released. They're going to see how mature she is in this role."