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Darnell Appling Praises “Little Sister” Zendaya’s Immense Talent

Darnell Appling is bursting with love and pride for Zendaya!

In a now-expired post on his Instagram stories, Darnell who portrays a very memorable umpire in the tennis thriller, says he can’t wait for the world to see Zendaya taking on the role of Tashi Duncan, a fictional tennis prodigy turned coach.

“Words cannot describe how proud I am of you!” he begins his message.

“You consistently amaze me by raising the bar higher and higher and doing it with such grace. I know what you put into your craft. Being on each set watching you transform from my sweet little sister into each character is magical and my all time FAVOURITE thing to witness!”

Darnell continues, “Being by your side daily is a blessing and an honour because you’re an amazing human with the purest soul and the most beautiful heart! The world knows you as Zendaya the actress, I know you as Zendessha, my sister and best friend and I gotchu for eternity.”

For those wondering, Darnell and Zendaya aren’t related they’re very much “family” – he’s been her long-time assistant, and friend (and now co-star!) – and Z often reciprocates the love, referring to him in social media posts as her “brother”.


Mike Faist and Zendaya in a still from Challengers

Mike Faist stars as Art and Zendaya as Tashi in CHALLENGERS
Photo credit: Niko Tavernise © 2024 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Josh O'Connor and Zendaya in a still from Challengers. It's dark and they're sitting at a table, looking at each other.

Zendaya stars as Tashi and Josh O’Connor as Patrick in CHALLENGERS
Photo credit: Niko Tavernise © 2024 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Mike Faist, Zendaya and Josh O'Connor as their characters in Challengers. They're sitting on a bed with Zendaya in the middle, laughing.

(L to R) Mike Faist as Art, Zendaya as Tashi and Josh O’Connor as Patrick in CHALLENGERS Credit: Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures


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Challengers, from visionary filmmaker Luca Guadagnino, also stars Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor as Art and Patrick, two best friends and tennis players who find themselves entranced by Tashi. The film follows their encounters 15 years apart, when the trio are teenagers and then again, when Tashi is married to Art who has to face-off against Patrick in competition.

“It would be very easy to make Tashi into a one-sided character, simply a woman of strong will,” Luca says of Zendaya’s character in the film’s production notes.

“But Zendaya does the opposite. She brings a sense of control and a sense of power, while at the same time, she developed a lot of  sense of fragility within that strength that Tashi exhibits. It’s a self-definition.”

He adds, ” Zendaya is a great actor and a wonderful producer as well here – she does everything her way to try and excel.”

Challengers is out in theatres from April 24.

(Feature Image Credit: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images) 

Nehal is an award-winning news presenter, author of "A Kids Book About Kindness Online" and founder of CelebrityKind. She has dedicated her career to creating connected and healthy spaces in the media. When she's not writing, you'll find Nehal hanging with family, dancing to Beyoncé, interpreting Taylor Swift lyrics or watching old eps of Oprah.