Zendaya Defends Aaliyah Casting: 'I'm Gonna Channel Her & Do My Best To Honor' Her

On August 25, 2001, just hours after Aaliyah finished shooting her music video for “Rock The Boat” in the Bahamas, she and eight others were killed in a plane crash. At the time of her death, Aaliyah had sold millions of albums and acted in movies.

Now, her life is the subject of a Lifetime TV movie starring a rising star of today, Zendaya, putting a lot of weight on the Disney star’s young shoulders.

“I want it to be something [Aaliyah’s family] is proud of and that she would be proud of,” Zendaya told Billy Bush and guest co-host Meghan McCain on Monday’s Access Hollywood Live.

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She’s only 17, and as a singer, dancer and actress, Zendaya has a lot in common with Aaliyah, whose career also began to skyrocket as a young teen. So, she was surprised by the fan backlash when she was cast in a Lifetime TV movie to portray the young woman whose life tragically ended at the age of 22.

“Some people know me from the Disney Channel and they know me from this and that and maybe don’t think I can handle the role, I won’t be able to do whatever. But at the same time I was cast in the part,” she said. “I auditioned like everyone else and I was cast.”

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Zendaya – whose new Disney Channel movie, “Zapped,” premieres Friday at 8 PM – said she hopes her respect and admiration for Aaliyah comes through during her performance.

“My passion, my love for Aaliyah is so strong that I feel like I’m just gonna channel her and do my best to honor someone that I love so much and have taken so much from in my career,” she said.

-- Erin O’Sullivan

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