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

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - UPFRONT - WORDS VICKY ROACH

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

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