Spider-Man Actress Thought It Was All Over After Zendaya Was Cast As MJ

Laura Harrier and Tom Holland as Liz and Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming
(Image credit: (Marvel))

It sounds like the audition process for 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming was an emotional rollercoaster for just about the whole cast. You may have heard Tom Holland tell the story about how he found out he’d be playing the next Spider-Man -- through Instagram. Yep, that’s one way to watch your life change in front of your eyes. And here’s how it went down for the actress who played Peter Parker’s love interest Liz, in Laura Harrier’s words:

After I did my screen test for Spider-Man, before I had heard anything, it came out a few weeks later that Zendaya was going to be cast in it, so I just figured I hadn’t got the job. She must have.

When Zendaya was announced to have a role in Spider-Man: Homecoming back in 2016, a lot of us were confused, too. Her character was said to be simply called “Michelle,” hiding away clues of her role in the franchise as the new MJ. And from Laura Harrier’s point of view, if they already had cast a woman of color, they were not going to cast two. Thankfully, the Jon Watts’ film was an exception to a frequently used Hollywood rule. She continued to Net-A-Porter with:

I called my agent and they reassured me I was still in the running. I thought it was incredible and ground-breaking of Marvel to put us both in those roles and not to make it about our blackness. We were just girls who went to a school in New York and that’s what New York City looks like; films should reflect that. We had the best time making that movie. Zendaya and I are friends now and I’m really grateful for her. Swinging around on those wires was fun!

Laura Harrier’s breakout role had the actress playing Peter Parker’s first crush and high school it-girl, who he ends up scoring a date with for the Homecoming dance. Hope of romance between the two simmers down, however, when Parker finds out his crush's father is Michael Keaton’s Vulture. Spidey ends up putting Vulture behind bars and Liz moves away, leaving her character out of 2019’s Far From Home antics.

Although Laura Harrier has had a smaller role than Zendaya in the MCU’s Spider-Man movies, there’s something powerful about the both of them being in the mix at Spider-Man’s high school in Queens. Today, the cast of Homecoming and Far From Home reflect New York City better than any previous adaptations have.

Since leaving the Marvel Universe, Harrier has also found roles in Spike Lee’s Oscar-winner BlacKkKlansman, alongside John David Washington and Adam Driver, and Ryan Murphy’s recent Netflix show Hollywood. The 30-year-old’s stressful audition for Spider-Man: Homecoming was clearly the beginning for her, and writer/director Jon Watts has even shown interest in bringing the character back. In his words:

Oh yeah. I mean like, yeah, we talked about it a little bit. I mean, that's something that I would love to explore more [in] future films... She was [five years older than everyone] when we shot the movie, so now she can just actually play her. Now she can just play her actual age.

Laura Harrier’s Liz could come back into play if the Vulture makes a comeback in the franchise, perhaps to form the Sinister Six? Michael Keaton made a cameo in the trailer for Morbius, potentially connecting the Spider-Man films to Sony’s Spider-Verse, which also includes Venom.

The not-yet-titled Spider-Man 3 is swinging into theaters on November 5, 2021. Stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more updates on Marvel films.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.