Zawe Ashton Covers AMAZING Magazine | Issue 4

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Actor, author, playwright and new mum Zawe Ashton adds another string to her bow: supervillain. As she joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe, she tells AMAZING about her love of poetry, getting physical on the set of The Marvels and the unwavering support of her own parents. 

Zawe Ashton is no stranger to playing the antagonist. From her very first film role as rude schoolgirl Bianca in 2009’s St Trinian's 2: The Legend Of Fritton's Gold, to playing the intimidatingly cool Violet “Vod” Nordstrom in four seasons of student sitcom Fresh Meat and – more recently - as the rejected Julia Thistlewaite in 2022 period drama, Mr. Malcolm’s List, Ashton has a knack for taking on characters who appear unlikeable on paper… and making audiences fall in love with them. However, for her latest role as Dar-Benn in The Marvels, she had to go full villain.
“Very little can prepare you to have to embody an antagonist at this level, in a Universe that is literally not known to anyone – like our Space - and to make it real and impactful,” says the London-born actor, a new recruit to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “There's something deeply humbling about having to return to the sandbox; you have to go back to the playground and that was something I was not expecting. You have to indulge in adult play and it’s surprisingly vulnerable. I know that there are gamers out there, there are cosplayers out there, there are adults who have managed to keep that level of childlike play going and I respect it so much. There's a self-consciousness that can take over if you are not careful. Trying to react realistically to a laser coming towards you is not something I’d done since I was seven years old, and I had to get to that level of childlike confidence to just delve into the imagination. Once that was all clearer, the villainous elements came so much from the physical world, with costume and hair.” 

For 39-year-old Ashton, adult play will likely become a more frequent fixture in her life, thanks to her most exciting new role – as a mother. She welcomed her first child in 2022 with fiancé Tom Hiddleston, her co-star in the 2019 revival of Harold Pinter's Betrayal on London’s West End, later transferred to Broadway. “What has genuinely surprised me about motherhood is how much I don't feel ready to talk about it,” she laughs. “And this isn’t to shut down the conversation. I have gained so much insight from public people who have this incredible candour and this disarming, relatable dialogue about it very early on, but it's something that I am just dedicating time to absorbing. I’m listening rather than expelling energy. That genuinely has surprised me, because it's something you want to shout from the rooftops about; it's the most unparalleled, most important role in my life. The surprise has been how quiet I want to be about it. Maybe that's also me as a writer and this is something that will come through the pen at some point.”

Ashton attended London’s Anna Scher Theatre School from the age of six and was a member of the National Youth Theatre, before getting her degree in acting at Manchester Metropolitan University, but writing has always been significant in her life. She won the London Poetry Slam Championship in 2000, becoming the event’s youngest winner, at 17. “I may have been knocked off that pillar long ago, but in my head I'm still the youngest,” she laughs. “I love poetry. I had not written for a really long time; during the pandemic I lost a huge chunk of my creative soul when it came to putting pen to paper, which was really scary and was clearly the fallout of being in survival mode and feeling quite fearful. People's attention spans just went all sorts of different ways, didn't they? It was very hard for me to read, and it was very hard for me to write, which is very strange for me.

“More recently, a friend of mine from drama school who I used to do open mic nights with in Manchester – I used to perform poetry and she used to sing -  asked me to write a poem for her wedding. I had a few moments where it was really tough, but I did it. I love her and I'm so happy for her, and being inspired enough to get a poem out and read it aloud really opened the floodgates. So, weirdly enough, I've been writing a lot of poetry recently and found a new love for it. I will always continue to use poetry as a way to understand the world. It's just so much part of who I am.”

For Zawe's full interview and shoot, order your copy of AMAZING issue 4 now. The Marvels is out now.
Zawe Ashton wears Michael Kors and JOSEPH

Photography by David Reiss
Fashion by Gregory Russill
Hair by Stefan Bertin at The Wall Group
Makeup by James O'Riley at One Represents using Rare Beauty Tinted Lip Oil in 'Delight'
Nails by Julia Babbage at Frank Agency
Words by Jennifer Lynn
Editorial Director Charlotte Morton 
Editor in Chief Juliet Herd
Editor Jennifer Lynn
Creative Director Jeffrey Thomson
Art Director Livia Vourlakidou 
Art Direction Assistant Beth Griffiths
Photography Assistant Raphael Orphelin
Fashion Assistant Susie Lethbridge

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