Kadeem Hardison Shares How Zendaya Reacted When She Landed ‘Spider-Man’ Role

A Different World alum Kadeem Hardison headed to the Disney Channel in 2015 as a regular cast member on K.C. Undercover. Playing Zendaya’s dad, Craig, for three seasons, Hardison got to know the young actor and was able to celebrate with her when she got news of landing a Marvel film role.

Kadeem Hardison and Zendaya of 'K.C. Undercover'
Kadeem Hardison and Zendaya of ‘K.C. Undercover’ | Tony Rivetti/Disney Channel via Getty Images

Zendaya put a different spin on ‘MJ’ in ‘Spider-Man’

Spider-Man Homecoming hit theaters in 2017 with Tom Holland taking over the role of Peter Parker and his superhero alter ego. While MCU fans remember Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane (MJ) in the original Spider-Man trilogy that kicked off in 2002, Zendaya was named for the part for the most recent iteration. The young star was a steady presence on the Disney Channel when she started branching out into films. Though her first appearance in the MCU film was minimal, the Disney personality was grateful for the opportunity.

Spider-Man was one of the first movies that I did outside of the Disney Channel,” Zendaya told Variety in 2020. “I didn’t have much to do in the first movie, but I was so just excited to be doing the movie at all.”

Zendaya was motivated by the new take on MJ and noted how the character was vastly different from the 2002 persona.

“I was lucky because they already kind of wanted to re-create the character and turn her into a new version of what I think maybe the original Mary Jane character represented, and just do it in our own way in this Marvel Cinematic Universe,” the Euphoria star explained. “There was already on the page a smart, quick, sharp young girl who comes off a bit quirky or offbeat. I have a lot of fun doing it. I like being able to do comedy and things that aren’t so heavy.”

‘K.C. Undercover’ co-star celebrated ‘Spider-Man’ news with Zendaya

Hardison got to work with Zendaya from 2015 to 2018 on K.C. Undercover. He recalled when his co-star received the career-making news about landing some film roles.

“I was there when she booked Spider-Man and we jumped around the room like, ‘Holy sh*t, you’re going to be in Spider-Man? What?!’” Hardison told Allison Kugel on her podcast Allison Interviews. “And I was there when she got the musical with Hugh Jackman, The Greatest Showman.”

The former star of A Different World pointed out that Zendaya was making some strategic career choices that would show her range as an actor.

“All of these moves she’s made have been really well thought out,” Hardison remarked. “I knew that once we get out of Disney world, we just want to get a chance to get our hands on some meat, to see if we can really act, because we’ve been doing nice, easy cotton candy for so long.”

Kadeem Hardison almost passed on ‘K.C. Undercover’

Hardison was hoping for more dramatic material when the role for K.C. Undercover was presented to him. He hadn’t yet heard of Zendaya and came close to turning the opportunity down.

“When K.C. Undercover came along, I didn’t really know who Zendaya was and I was a little skeptical about Disney Channel,” he admitted. “I wanted to curse, bleed, and do all kinds of adult stuff, and that’s not going to happen with the Disney Channel.”

When some of his family members convinced him that his co-star was a rising talent, he reconsidered.

“When I got word of the audition I was in New York and my nieces and my sisters were asking me, ‘What are you doing next?’” Hardison shared. “I said, ‘Well, there’s this show with this girl named Zendaya or something like that, and they want me to be her daddy.’ Everyone from my six-year-old niece to my 30-year-old sister all flipped out and said, ‘You have to take that. That girl is going to be something!’”

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