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Welcome to Filmographies, a column for completists. Every edition brings a working actor’s resumé into focus as we learn about what makes them so compelling. In this entry, we spotlight the filmography of Zendaya.


Zendaya is an entertainer in every sense of the word. The erstwhile Disney Channel mainstay has cultivated one of the most sensational onscreen careers of the 2010s, moving seamlessly from the machinations of the Mouse House towards equally coveted, if more mature, acting roles as an adult.

In the past, Filmographies has covered a couple of actors with their own version of mega mainstream success. However, celebrity status in and of itself has long been built into the foundation of Zendaya’s performances, given that a large portion of her career spotlighted the star’s very own poise and charisma.

Many of Zendaya’s early professional credits put her front and center plainly as herself, while Disney-fied fictional roles utilized her exceptional singing and dancing skills to create larger-than-life personalities. But what’s even more compelling about Zendaya’s résumé is that although she very much embodies and embraces the term “triple threat,” her brand of success evolves with so much precision and intention that it allows her to break free from it, too.


Shake It Up (2010-2013)

Zendaya’s initial break arrived in one of the Disney Channel’s sparkly tween sitcoms. In Shake It Up, she plays Rocky Blue, one of two precocious girls who land their dream job as professional dancers on their favorite eponymous TV program. Simultaneously, Rocky and her best friend, CeCe (Bella Thorne), navigate varying misfortunes in their regular lives that could impede their presence on Shake It Up! Chicago, taking their families and friends along for a ride of saccharine self-discovery.

The three-season Shake It Up operates in the vein of Disney Channel crowd-pleasers such as Hannah Montana and Sonny with a Chance — flagship shows that propelled their respective stars, Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato, to the forefront of kids’ minds everywhere. Yet, while sitcoms like these are generally a dime a dozen in Disney’s back catalog, Zendaya showcases an affinity for spectacle that goes beyond classic cute kid appeal.

Although Shake It Up tends to classify Rocky as CeCe’s sidekick, I beg to differ. Audiences see her evolve from an awkward, skittish brainiac to a confident, composed dancer who stands up for what she believes in. This is all due to Zendaya’s wholehearted espousal of the show’s borderline slapstick tendencies as well as its genuine relationship arcs.

Zendaya certainly holds her own as a dancer as well, having begun her career as part of an Oakland dance troupe when she was eight. Furthermore, she and Thorne foster naturalistic onscreen chemistry with one another that highlights their individual quirks. They are each other’s linchpins when portraying their respective sweet and sassy archetypes, easily playing off and sometimes even adopting each other’s supposedly opposing traits. Rocky and CeCe are ultimately fuller characters because of Zendaya and Thorne’s easygoing performances.


Frenemies (2012)

This pair-up reasserts itself in other Disney Channel projects, albeit in a much smaller amount. The anthology movie Frenemies banks on Zendaya and Thorne as recognizable bookends for narrative segments featuring fellow up-and-coming stars Nick Robinson and Stefanie Scott.

The Shake It Up duo gets a portion of the movie to call their own, too. This time, they play aspiring fashion bloggers. Once again, Zendaya and Thorne lean into their strengths and personalities — the former being on the wordier side of their joint web venture with the latter focusing on styling the outfits they post.

Unfortunately, not enough time is afforded to either actress to really explore this dynamic in the movie. To Zendaya’s credit, she makes her character very likable with the right balance of flustered nerves and headstrong determination. Still, there is little reason to invest in her role in Frenemies unless you’re already a Shake It Up fan.


A.N.T. Farm (2012)

Perhaps dedicating an entire section of this column to one of Zendaya’s smallest roles comes across as an odd decision. But her guest appearance in A.N.T. Farm is noticeably enjoyable because it exhibits a potential villainous streak that I’d love to see more of.

A.N.T. Farm tells the story of an eleven-year-old musical prodigy attending a school for gifted kids. Zendaya makes an appearance in the show’s second season as a famous actress named Sequoia researching her next big movie role at the institute. This requires her to tail the aforementioned protagonist and study her every action, although it slowly seems like Sequoia is trying to steal the latter’s identity entirely.

Mostly, this guest spot works well due to its meta nature, considering that Zendaya was by then a couple of seasons into Shake It Up. Her onscreen endeavors were in tandem with the release of her very first single, too. Zendaya’s celebrity bubble bolsters the appeal of this random little side character, which is further amplified by her gleeful depiction of the age-old stereotype of entitled fame. Zendaya’s role in A.N.T. Farm is one of her most outrageous, and it adds further intrigue to her body of her work.


Zapped (2014)

Zapped notably invites change in Zendaya’s filmography — incremental though that shift may be at first. She steps into the shoes of Zoey Stevens, an average sixteen-year-old who must adjust to living with a new family after her mother remarries. Gaining a loud, ebullient stepdad and three overbearing stepbrothers overnight makes for a tough transition for Zoey. That is until she discovers an app that can control the minds of the boys in her life.

The premise is just as abrupt to witness as it is to…

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