Actress Zoe Suldana,
If not for the tough love of ballet life and that of her sisters, Zoe Saldana might never have endured the rigours of Hollywood to be the envy of every sci-fi wannabe
Zoe Saldana found the troubled relationship between Guardians of the Galaxy’s Gamora and her estranged sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) deeply disturbing.
“I felt emotionally compromised,” says the 38-year-old sci-fi star. “I have a great relationship with my sisters. I can’t imagine having a falling out to such a degree that it’s a breakable relationship.”
Saldana has such a strong bond with her own siblings, Cisely and Mariel, the two women actually followed her to Los Angeles to support her acting career.
“When I made the painful move from New York to LA, it was the first time we were physically separated,” she recalls.
After six months on her own in California, a desperate Saldana picked up the phone.
“I called them and said: I really need to be here for work, but I can’t do it without you guys.”
Cisely and Mariel immediately upped sticks to join her.
“They knew my sanity was relying on them being close to me so they started afresh in LA for the sake of our unit. We just acknowledge we can’t be separate.”
Saldana’s mother joined her daughters a year ago (her father died in a car crash when she was nine years old).
“It took her 10 years but she finally conceded.”
Saldana had to reach right back into her childhood to find inspiration for Gamora and Nebula’s hostile relationship in the hotlyanticipated sequel to Guardians of the
Galaxy (2014). “Did we fight as kids? Are you kidding? We were animals. We are just a year apart, so we fought at first for the attention of mama and papa then toys, clothes and just space. We were pretty mean to each other. But we kind of just grew out of it.”
While emotionally taxing, Saldana says her role in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 wasn’t as physically demanding as its predecessor, for which there was a lot of tactical fighting. This time, most of the stunts involved wire work.
“It was much lighter, less rigorous, thank God, because having babies at home and having then to learn routines and choreographies, it’s such a canker sore.”
Saldana has given birth to three boys (twins Bowie and Cy, who are now two and a half, and Zen, who is just four months old) since shooting the first film.
Avatar 2 will be more physically demanding, she says. Reprising her role as the Na’vi Neytiri, Saldana starts training in June for an August film shoot.
“I have to get back into that Na’vi way of conducting myself which I am looking forward to.”
Ballet was Saldana’s first passion. Without that dance background, she doubts she would have succeeded as an action star.
“If I wasn’t an athlete, if I didn’t have any physical ability, I don’t think I would have been able to play these roles,” she says.
The classical dance world also prepared Saldana for the mental challenges of her chosen profession.
“I always feel that if you survived a ballet teacher growing up, you can survive anybody.
“They are the most strict, relentless, disciplined educators you will ever have, but if you have the strength to take it, it shapes you for the rest of your life.”
Alongside Saldana’s former ballet teacher, even the notoriously exacting James Cameron seems like a “complete pussycat.”
So far, motherhood hasn’t influenced the actress’s career choices too much.
“But I think it will start to change now that they are growing up. My time is running out in terms of being able to just pack up and leave to go and work.
“When they start school, there will be
times I can take them with me and times I can’t. And they are already starting to give me that sign, the message that they like to be home.”
Avatar 2, 3, 4 and 5 should keep her busy in LA for quite some time.
Saldana recently described sci-fi as being both colour and gender blind.
“I love working with directors that ... well, you get a sense they were rejects growing up because of the things they liked and they preferred.
“To imagine something that’s unimaginable, you need to be smarter than everybody else, you need to be freer than anybody else.
“There’s something directors like James Gunn and James Cameron and JJ Abrams have in common; it’s the fact that they are limitless ... not just in the way they will tell a very simple story, but also in the way they look at women and men.
“They seem more open to diversity. It’s not a conscious thing for them. It’s just natural, because it’s what they are like in their own lives.”
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 opens on Tuesday
Zoe Saldana as Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2; and, below, with husband Marco Perego