All the Major Movie & TV Roles That Slipped Through Zendaya’s Fingers

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While Zendaya was once known simply as a Disney Channel star, she’s now a feminist icon, Hollywood superstar, social media goddess, and SO much more. But just because the entire world is basically OB-SESSED with the actress doesn’t mean that every career move goes exactly as planned.

In some cases, the 20-year-old actually turned down a major role. In others, her audition didn’t go as well as she would’ve hoped. Keep reading to see all the ‘almosts‘ that Zendaya probs still thinks about to this day.

1. Aaliyah Haughton, Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B — When it was announced that Zendaya would be playing this iconic singer who tragically died in a plane crash when she was just 22 years old, she was SUPER excited (“She’s been an inspiration and influence in my whole career, her talent still shines brighter than ever. All I wanna do is honor her,” she tweeted following the casting news). A few weeks later, however, the 20-year-old decided that she did NOT want to be a part of the Lifetime Original Movie anymore and backed out of the project.

“The main reasons [why I backed out] were the production value wasn’t there, there were complications with the music rights, and I just felt like it wasn’t being handled delicately considering the situation,” she explained on Instagram. “I tried my best to reach out to the family on my own and I wrote a letter, but I was unable to do so. Therefore, I felt not really morally okay with moving forward with the project.”

Zendaya just recently said that the film “wasn’t well done” and she “didn’t feel that it was a project [she] should be a part of.”

2. CeCe Jones Shake It Up! — While you first fell in love with Zendaya as Rocky Blue on Disney Channel’s Shake It Up!, it was Bella Thorne‘s part she originally auditioned for. She told J-14 magazine, “The really cool part about my audition process was I originally came in for CeCe, and they asked me to read for Rocky. And I really felt Rocky. I had a connection with her character. And when I went with Bella [Thorne] it was like instant chemistry.”

3. Host, Fashion Police — Before Fashion Police host Giuliana Rancic made those horribly racist remarks against Zendaya, the K.C. Undercover actress reportedly went in to audition for GR’s spot as a style critic. “Zendaya had been a guest on the show several times and Joan [Rivers] really took a liking to her, so they brought her in to audition,” a source told Radar Online. “[She] auditioned for Giuliana’s position because Giuliana was unsure if she wanted to return to the show after Joan had passed away.” Imagine??

4. Mary Jane Watson, Spider-Man: Homecoming — It was first reported that Zendaya would be playing a new character in the upcoming Spider-Man flick, but then one report surfaced that said she was actually going to play the iconic Mary Jane. The actress cleared up the rumors to ET Online saying, “Well, I’m not Mary Jane unfortunately, but I am in the movie, which is exciting. My character’s name is Michelle, if that’s what everybody wants to think. I’m gonna let people think whatever they want to think.” You can see Z as Michelle this summer when the film premieres.

8 Black Actors Who are the Main Character on a Disney Channel TV Show:


Zendaya has been the lead on not one, but two shows on Disney Channel over the course of her career. We were first introduced to her on Shake It Up! in 2010, on which she starred alongside Bella Thorne. Since 2015, she's played the title character on the series K.C. Undercover. Both roles allowed her to showcase her star power, and gave Disney a much-needed chance to make the network more diverse once again.

Photo: Disney Channel


Who could ever forget the amazing show that was That's So Raven? A show about a teenage psychic and her friends, and how they managed to get themselves into the craziest predicaments, but somehow still stay friends in the end. For a girl who could see the future, her gift got her into more trouble than anything else. Now, Disney is even bringing the show back for an untitled spin-off soon, so stay tuned for more crazy antics!

Photo: Disney Channel

Kyle Massey

That's So Raven was so great that they even gave Kyle Massey his own spin-off called Cory in the House. Although the show didn't do that great and only lasted two seasons, it at least gave us Jason Dolley and Maira Walsh, so it was definitely worth it. The series took place in D.C., after Mr. Baxter was hired to be a chef at the White House. It was a big stretch, but at least Disney gave Kyle the chance to be the star of his own show. While it didn't turn out as great as the world had hoped, it definitely opened doors for more African-American-led comedies to be made in the future.

Photo: Disney Channel

Skai Jackson

Skai Jackson played a supporting role on the show Jessie, before being offered one of the lead roles on the spin-off series Bunk’d. She is still playing the same character, only this time she is a little older, a little wiser and even more talented. It's a show about a summer camp, but somehow it really works and proves that Skai might even be able to handle her own lead show on Disney someday. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll give us one.

Photo: Disney Channel

China Anne McClain

A.N.T. Farm is probably one of the best Disney shows of the last decade. It featured China Anne McClain as a musical prodigy who was a part of a group of students chosen to attend the local high school's advanced group. A.N.T. stood for Advanced Natural Talents, and each of the characters had their own special gifts. It painted her as a genius, and was a great way to show off her incredible musical chops.

China is tapped to star in Descendants 2, but we're hoping to see her in a lead role on the small screen sometime soon.

Photo: Disney Channel

Brandon Mychal Smith

BMS is no stranger to Disney Channel. He has starred on a lot of their programming over the years. Everything from That's So Raven to Phil of the Future, until he landed a coveted spot on Sonny with a Chance, as a supporting star ('cause, obvi, it was Demi Lovato's show), and then went on to star on the spin-off series of So Random!. The program was, sadly, short-lived, but definitely one of the funniest sketch comedy shows on Disney.

Photo: Disney Channel

Lee Thompson Young

The Famous Jett Jackson was unlike any show of its kind when it first debuted in 1998. It followed the life of Jett Jackson, who played a teenage secret agent on a fictional TV show called Silverstone. The show had three seasons, and even a fabulous TV movie, plus it definitely made Lee Thompson Young a star, and opened the doors for a lot of future African-American-led content to be made on the network.

Sadly, the talent committed suicide in 2013.

Photo: Disney Channel

Kyla Pratt

Kyla Pratt had a lot of major film and television roles throughout the early 2000s. Although she has since slowed down a little, we will never forget her lead role on the animated series The Proud Family, a series about family, friendship and how awkward teenage life can be. Kyla was a hilarious addition to the Disney family, and was definitely a force to be reckoned with when it came to her acting chops.

Photo: Disney Channel

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  • Elton Hite

    Zendaya is a totally beautiful girl! Both inside and out. I love Zendaya!