No overnight sensation, Saldana has been grafting for a decade, serving as support in everything from Pirates of the Caribbean to the Terminal, in which she played a Star Trek-loving immigration cop . . .. which probably helped snare the attention of two of Hollywood J's: Abrams and Cameron.
Prepare to be transported by her slinky lieutenant Uhara in JJ's Trek reboot before she joins James and his plans to become king of other worlds with Avatar.
Empire: You are clearly drawn to strong female roles. Who were your heroines growing up.
Zoe: Oh my God....Ripley. Sigourney Weaver's Ripley. This woman could not only kick any man's ass, but she can kick alien ass. How do you top that? In working with Sigourney on Avatar for two years made me realize she's definitely one of those actresses that I've loved since I was a little girl.
Empire: Was it hard on Avatar and Star Trek being one of the only girls?
Zoe: You know, I'm a guy's kind of girl. I'm not the kind of woman to incorporate sexual tension in a sea of men. I can hang out, get drunk and play poker with a whole bunch of men, and be the only girl, and nobody will reach their hand to grab my ass. And if they do, they might lose their hand! It was awesome on Star Trek. There was farting contests, there was everything.
Empire: Do you see yourself being confined to strong action-pack roles from now on?
Zoe: Not all, sometimes I don't mind playing those soft roles. I like being swept off my feet once in awhile. Just not everyday. Sometimes I like to sweep Romeo off his feet.
ZOE SALDANA: It was nothing but that! I fell off a horse. I had a horse step on me. I was taking archery lessons. Training in martial arts. Learning a new language. For seven months, six days a week. I was loving it.
Video Interview with Zoe Saldana for Avatar
December 22, 2009 - Here's an interview with Zoe Saldana about her role as Neytiri in James Cameron's 3D sci-fi extravaganza, Avatar.
She discusses her character, the story, the love story, Pandora, the performance capture process, working in the volume, working with James Cameron, and riding the banshees.
INTERVIEWS - ZOE SALDANA
'Avatar' star Zoe Saldana says the movie will match the hype: 'This is big'
By Geoff Boucher |Source:
Our daily coverage leading up to the release of "Avatar" continues today with a chat with Zoe Saldaña, who may be the sci-fi actress of the year with her spirited turn as Uhura in "Star Trek" and now her "Avatar" performance.
She talks about her role, her fellow cast members and also boldly declares that, with "Avatar," James Cameron has gone where 3D and motion-capture rival Robert Zemeckis has never gone before.
GB: Some of your costars have said their work on "Avatar" gave them the feeling they were part of Hollywood history because of all the film's innovations and ambitions.
ZS: Well it was amazing, yes, but for me I'd have to say I'm just excited that I got to work with an amazing director and a great cast and crew.
GB: You had to deal with learning a language that was invented for the film. Was that hard?
ZS: I was really concerned about it. I'm bad with languages, and I was worried about it. Jim created the words and then we worked with a linguist who helped us, and he figured out the language. One of the things that was even harder was figuring out how to speak English with a Na'vi accent, trying to decide what that sounds like. The actors are from all over and have different accents. My family background is from Puerto Rico, CCH Pounder is the West Indies, Laz Alonso is Cuban, all of us with our own accents. We had to find a way to make this new accent, and all of us sat down and tried to meet in the middle.
GB: It's a big film in every way, but how would describe it from your personal point of view?
ZS: It's a beautiful love story. It's a story of a young man's self-discovery and growth. He belongs to two worlds and needs to figure that out.
GB: You're talking about Jake Sully, the character played by Sam Worthington, who comes to the troubled moon of Pandora on a military mission and inside a lab-created alien body. He meets your character, Neytiri, and finds himself questioning that mission. What can you tell us about her?
ZS: She grew up as a rebellious little girl. She's a warrior, she wants to be off hunting and training for a warrior life. She doesn't want to be a princess and marry a prince.
GB: This has been quite the year for you after your duty aboard the USS Enterprise and now your major role in "Avatar. " You're going to a queen of the Comic-Con tribe...
ZS: I'm very happy about that! I can't think of better fans. These are people with a passion, and I love that. And science fiction is wonderful. We can't limit our imagination and that's what science fiction never wants us to do.
GB: Sometimes the genre can slip into hardware movies, but that was certainly not the case with "Star Trek." It doesn't seem to be the case with "Avatar," judging by the footage I've seen...
ZS: You look at some films and sometimes there is little that is human right now. All of the technology in this pioneering film is used in a story about the human heart. This is not an insensitive movie, it has very soulful messages, simple messages, the film is very soulful.
GB: The technology of the film includes what producer Jon Landau has been describing as emotion-capture instead of motion-capture. It's to get rid of the "dead face" problem with CG characters. Did it work?
ZS: Yes. Robert Zemeckis [director of landmark motion-capture film efforts such as "A Christmas Carol" and "Polar Express"] was unable to maintain that intimacy with actors. He was in a different room and the technology wasn't there. For "Avatar," they created these [miniature cameras mounted near the actor's jawline on] head rigs that captured all of our [facial] motions. And Jim was there, 3 feet away, and the technology never interrupted with performance or story or imagination. It was Jim, Sam and me there in our forest and it was like our workshop, our sandbox to play in every day, and we weren't interrupted by anything coming into our environment.
GB: Sam seems like he could be on the verge of major stardom, although no one can predict those things. Tell me what you found in him during your time in the sandbox.
ZS: He owns the same pair of boots he's had for years. He is so not into appearances or superficial things. He is a true artist. He is a selfless artist, willing to do anything to get to what's important in the art. Jim and Sam and I were intimately connected for two years off and on, at such close range, and they are both so committed and talented. It wasn't always smooth. Sam and I would fight head to head when we saw things differently, but even then it was amazing. It was always for the film. And now finally we get to share this film with the world after 2 1/2 years. The anticipation is amazing.
GB: Don't take this the wrong way, but what if the film falls short of all that anticipation, either commercially or critically? It's a possibility considering the way the hype is ramping up.
ZS: I remember watching "Star Trek" in Japan. ... Audiences everywhere are different, and in Japan they're very reserved, discreet and respectful. They watched "Trek" and they're just sitting there. And the movie did great. Then when 25 minutes of "Avatar" was shown there, there was clapping and cheering, which is unheard of. This is big.
Zoe Saldana Talks To io9 About Avatar
We caught up with Zoe Saldana, who plays Uhura in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek. While she couldn't reveal too much about her work in Trek and James Cameron's Avatar, she did give a little bit of a behind the scenes look into both.
Plus she addresses whether the skirts in the new Trek will be shorter than in the original series — and gives us hope that by the end of the year, we could have an Avatar trailer.
How did you prep for your role in Avatar, I heard your role is very intense?
I took marshal arts, archery, horseback riding everything. I did an intense six-month prep for Avatar and I loved every minute of it. I was training non-stop. Because we were creating a language that was from scratch. Jim wrote this amazing story out of nothing. It has an amazing message.
And the technology that he's using is so ahead of his time that's why it took so long to shoot it. And it's going to [take] a long time for the film to come out, but it's going to be so worth it. It was one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had.
How did you get ready for this new technology?
It's about trusting your director. I think with the technology that they decided to use, everybody knows that James Cameron is the biggest perfectionist in this business. I was afraid and we had endless conversations at first. But he just said figure out whatever you need and I did. Because we shot in motion capture and you had to have to create this world in your imagination. He didn't want it to look like I was working in front of a green screen and I didn't want that either. So I worked with what I had and I fell so in love with the story and the characters that it all became very real to me.
What can you tell us about your character, sounds like she's tough?
Given the female characters that James Cameron is known to write, it's just the most impressive ass-kicking girl I've ever played, it's pretty cool.
Is there going to be a lot of war and mayhem?
I'm not going to go into that. The story is very deep, but it's a story that everyone can watch.
Why should people go and see Avatar?
Because Mr. Cameron never ceases to excite. He's always pushing the envelope. I think Avatar is going to represent a lot of change in film history. With motion capture, it's not like shooting green screen. It's deeper it's Beowulf and The Polar Express. But the difference between those films and Avatar is those films were aiming to look like a cartoon. As opposed to Avatar which is aiming to look real. I've seen only three minutes of the film and I can't even put it to words. I can't compare it to anything I've ever seen, because I haven't seen anything like it before. It's going to be just as big as when sound was introduced, or color.
When do you think we might be able to see a trailer for Avatar?
I would say, maybe by the end of this year, but I could be pushing it. So maybe the beginning of next year.
What were you most impressed with on the three minutes that you saw?
I would have to say Jim and what he's done. He's working with Peter Jackson's company Weta in New Zealand and I was down there and I had the honor of meeting all of these people who were working for Weta and I was so blown away. Just Jim, he will not settle for anything other than great. And those three minutes were great, they were beautiful.
Did you get to see what you looked like in Avatar?
Yes I did, all I'm going to say is oh my god, I was so impressed.