Zawe Ashton has revealed she got into ‘the best shape’ of her life while filming The Marvels but ended up having to reshoot the film after becoming pregnant.
The actress, 39, portrays the warrior Dar-Benn in the film opposite stars Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris and Iman Vellani.
Zawe, who admitted to being ‘traumatised’ from working in Hollywood, felt the gruelling training regime required for the blockbuster ’empowered’ her.
Speaking at the Bazaar At Work Summitt 2023, she said: ‘There was this opportunity for me to get in the best shape in my life [with The Marvels] which I really hadn’t been in – getting fit and in shape, but strong and eating well, was a massive part of this journey for me.
‘And then the process of learning stunts and fighting is probably one of the most empowering things that I’ve ever done.’
Blockbuster: Zawe Ashton has revealed she got into ‘the best shape’ of her life while filming The Marvels but ended up having to reshoot the film after becoming pregnant
Role: The actress, 39, portrays the warrior Dar-Benn in the film opposite stars Brie Larson , Teyonah Parris and Iman Vellani
Zawe welcomed her first child with her partner Tom Hiddleston last October, with the pregnancy interfering with the shoot.
She said: ‘I thought the film was finished, and I got pregnant and had my baby. And then they told me to come back and reshoot basically the whole movie.
‘That, to me, has been the biggest journey with this movie: my physical wellness, my ability to endure, to mentally switch back into that place, postpartum, and come back, and try and kick some ass again. That’s really what the landmark of the film is to me now.’
Zawe also spoke about working in the film industry as a young actress and how there were not many measures in place to protect performers from exploitation.
She said: ‘I’m probably deeply traumatised! I was working at a point in our industry that is so different from industry that we are working on making for ourselves now. There were no safety protocols.
‘There were no conscious ways that we were thinking about protecting young women. I sort of wipe my brow sometimes, thinking: ‘Wow, I actually emerged quite unscathed.’
‘There are so many different ways that we’re thinking consciously about protecting the people who are working in front of and behind the camera now.’
Zawe elaborated on sexism in the industry, saying she felt ‘fatigued’ from spending so much time worried about her looks.
Candid: Zawe, who admitted to being ‘traumatised’ from working in Hollywood, felt the training regime required for the blockbuster ’empowered’ her (pictured in October 2023)
Couple: Zawe welcomed her first child with her partner Tom Hiddleston last October, with the pregnancy interfering with the shoot (pictured in November 2023)
She said: ‘I realised that I’d spent nearly 30 years as an actor, but I’d also sort of spent 30 years performing as a woman, and I felt suddenly so tired.’
‘That kind of patriarchal eye, that just gazes on you since birth, it suddenly felt really like that had depleted me in a very deep way.’
‘I was suddenly hit with this fatigue, where I didn’t want to think about my face, or about my hair and my looks. I didn’t want to think about how I could keep presenting myself for a camera or a lens that basically represents this very, very problematic gaze.’
‘Where do we draw the line? This is all part of the same spectrum. If you’re not seeing women’s humanity, if you’re not seeing a full human life when you’re thinking about the ways that you’re putting these kinds of [character breakdown] descriptions together, then the extreme end of the spectrum is you’re not valuing women, and that’s a much bigger conversation than my industry.’
The actress, who was born to a Ugandan mother and an English father, also spoke about representation on screen.
She said: ‘When I starred in period drama, Mr Malcom’s List, there was suddenly this healing moment. I had never ever seen any actor who looked like me invited to the table to perform these entertainment pieces.
‘I hadn’t known necessarily that I was hurting so much, until I saw that representation happen, and the success of it take everyone by storm.’
‘Growing up as a young biracial girl in Hackney, I was really drawn to the left-field, drawn to the alternative. And part of the bullying I encountered in my teens was because of that.
‘There weren’t really any people of colour who were representing this alternative landscape. When I got the part of Vod in Fresh Meat, I thought: ‘This is now my opportunity to be that for someone else who didn’t maybe have it.’
‘I was willing to do whatever it took to make that character as edgy and authentic as I felt she could be, so that it would invite that person who is not seeing that kind of representation on screen, to really feel seen.’
She said: ‘I thought the film was finished, and I got pregnant and had my baby. And then they told me to come back and reshoot basically the whole movie’ (pictured together at the BAFTAs in March 2022)
Zawe, who has not revealed the name or sex of her child, told how she feels like she is ‘growing up’ with her baby.
She said: ‘The most surprising thing for me has been how quiet I feel like I’ve gone in motherhood.’
‘Right now, it’s been really about collecting women’s stories. For some reason, we don’t value ageing in our society. And there are women who have given me nuggets of wisdom that I literally could not live without. And they are all over the age of 60.
‘Why we’re not opening a platform and listening to women who have actually lived life is crazy to me. I’m a new mum. I know so little. I’m growing with my child… the child is going to teach you and lead you if you’re open to it, and that’s the moment to enjoy so much.’