Zoe Saldana talks sci-fi and being a strong woman in a house full of blokes.
You starred in Avatar, one of the highest-grossing movies in history, but the film’s director, James Cameron, has quite a reputation on sets (allegedly nail-gunning inappropriately ringing mobile phones to a wall, for example). What was your experience? Working with Jim was amazing. I feel he’s misunderstood. He’s continued to evolve, and the fact that he’s such a perfectionist, so relentless and so imaginative is the reason he’s giving us such amazing stories. So getting to work with him, it’s like working with that teacher who is super-tough, but is probably the person who teaches you lessons you apply for the rest of your life. When you first read the Avatar screenplay, did you have any idea that it was going to be as successful as it was? I couldn’t understand it [laughs]. I think in Spanish and then I think in English, so I read a highly technical script with an amazing story – it was like 200 and something pages long – and they held me captive in an office all afternoon, and I just kept reading every page two or three times over because I didn’t understand the world. Then the door opens at around five o’clock in the afternoon – I’ve been there since noon – and it’s James Cameron, and he’s dissecting my face and I’m in shock. He says, “Do you wanna come in to my office and meet yourself?” He showed me a sculpture of Neytiri [Saldana’s Avatar character] and it was love at first sight. A part of me knew [it would be successful]. I mean it’s JAMES CAMERON, you know? He’s the creator of The Terminator and Titanic. And I’m a sci-fi buff; I love Aliens, I love The Terminator – Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley were the only action heroines I could identify with growing up. So to work with him… I just knew I was going to be a part of something special. Your career has literally been out of this world. Apart from Avatar, you’ve also starred in the sci-fi blockbuster Star Trek and are reprising your role in Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2. What do you find so appealing about the genre? I get to imagine the unimaginable. I’m always in awe of writers, directors and actors who are able to pull off a world we’ve never seen – I love working with people who let their imaginations go. Plus, you get to play characters who defy gravity. I like that. It makes me feel superhuman because, obviously, it’s been brought to my attention continuously since I was born that I’m not a conventional person because of the colour of my skin or my gender or my cultural background. So I think science fiction has given me the ability as an artist to be colourblind, and gender-blind, and to imagine and reinvent myself and be the chameleon actors are supposed to be.
“James Cameron is super-tough, but he teaches you lessons you apply for the rest of your life”
Your Guardians Of The Galaxy character, Gamora, has green skin – is it easy being green? Let me tell you, it’s super-fun. It’s not fun putting it on, because it’s time-consuming. And before I had children, whatever extra time you have when you’re not working, you’re sleeping, or drinking, or partying – you have no responsibility for anyone’s life. But now I have to answer to three little guys and a husband – as soon as I come home from work, I’m working till everyone’s asleep, you know? And I love it. It’s just that sometimes you realise your body can’t keep up with you anymore. What was it like working with Aussie actor and recent Stellar cover star Elizabeth Debicki in the GOTG sequel? She was absolutely phenomenal. I only had two days of work with her and I was in awe. First of all, she’s strikingly beautiful, she’s so tall and they painted her completely in gold – she’s just striking. I couldn’t stop staring at her. Is your GOTG co-star Chris Pratt as funny on set as he seems? Yes, he is. And he’s actually a decent human being. This man is all about checks and balances, and I like people who go on that way, who are human and always trying to be better and trying to be nice. He has a natural knack for comedy – I ask him all the time, “Are you and Anna [Faris, Pratt’s wife] always cracking jokes and making up lines?” He’s like, “All the time!” and I’m like, “That must be a really happy home.” You recently gave birth to your third son, Zen – what’s it like to be so outnumbered by blokes? It’s funny – people tell me this all the time, “You have a house full of boys.” I’m excited, I’m curious, I’m nervous, but I’m accepting this challenge. I come from a family of women, of matriarchs, and we’ve survived many things. We’ve learnt. We’ve overcome. We’ve achieved. I’m just excited about this adventure and getting to explore the opposite sex from the inception. The moment I found out I was pregnant with twin boys [Cy and Bowie, now two years old], I thought I was empathetic towards men [already, but] the empathy that grew in me and the curiosity to get to know men more is infinite.
``i come from a family of matriarchs and we´ve survived many things´´