Let’s Stop Asking Actors If They Mind Kissing Their Co-stars

Zendaya and Timothée Chalamet are right to shut down questions about their onscreen chemistry

Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya at the Dune 2 premiere in South Korea

by Nikki Peach |
Updated on

Acting is ‘the art or occupation of performing fictional roles in plays, films, or television’, according to the dictionary. Yet this seems to be something people forget – particularly when they’re asking TV and film stars whether it’s awkward kissing their colleagues on set. During the press junkets for Dune: Part Two, friends and co-stars Timothée Chalamet, 28, and Zendaya, 27, fell prey to this somewhat lazy line of questioning.

In the trailer for their new film, which hits cinemas on 29 February, their characters Paul Atreides and Chani are seen kissing and it quickly became a talking point during their press interviews.

In one viral clip, Timothée is asked whether it’s easier or harder to feign a relationship with someone you know onscreen. The Wonka star looks unenthused by the question and responds, ‘There’s no good answer to that. It’s what the story required and maybe in some ways, because we are good friends, it was less weird.’

In other clip, a journalist bemusingly asks Timothée, ‘What is it about Zendaya that makes kissing her look so natural?’ She rightly jumps in and says, ‘It’s a little weird. It’s definitely strange and I think both of us are like, “okay, this is our job, we’re gonna do this.”’ A polite rebuttal all things considered, and Timothée then adds that they’re ‘so close platonically’ that kissing is definitely the ‘strangest part of the job’.

While there are factors at play which affect these kinds of interviews from the journalist's point of view, for example, pressure for clips which will perform well on social media and almost certainly hoops to jump through when it comes to sign off on questions from the star's team, there are also a number of reasons why these questions are a little silly. Not least because it’s literally part of the script and therefore part of their job. They are both professional and experienced actors who are capable of meeting the basic requirements of their roles.

Although it might seem like a harmless thing to ask, it unwittingly implies that any chemistry onscreen might exist offscreen too. That, in turn, makes ‘acting’ seem like a radical new concept and something that ordinary people can’t wrap their heads around. Bearing in mind that they are playing mystical characters on a desert planet who have the fate of the universe in their hands, it’s kissing a co-star that must be the most challenging part of the job.

Then there’s the fact that both of them are in long-term relationships with other people. Timothée has been dating Kylie Jenner since April 2023, and Zendaya has been in a relationship with Tom Holland since 2017 (they also own a house and two dogs together). The question is therefore not only awkward in its insinuation that their onscreen romance might cause tension offscreen too, but it undermines their relationships in real life.

Of course, there are countless examples of actors meeting on set and entering into a relationships (as there are in workplaces up and down the country and around the world since the dawn of time), but that doesn’t mean it’s a rule.

Are these types of questions just a product of journalism designed to go viral in social media clips? Or are the interviewers genuinely hoping Timothée might fall to his knees and say kissing Zendaya at work was the hardest thing he's ever done because he can't stop thinking about her and wants to get married? We can't be sure. One thing we can be sure of, however, is that it seems to make the actors feel uncomfortable.

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