ZoŽ Saldana | She's sexy - acting is a bonus

"W-h-i-n-d-i-n-g" down might be a problem but not much else is for ZoŽ

Celebrity Feature


Andre Jacob


ZoŽ On Everything



Sexy killer, Cataleya is hard to remove from your blood. ZoŽ finds that out almost the hard way.

ZoŽ Saldana sexed up the Starship Enterprise, then a planet called Pandora. Call that her blue period. In her next role, she's red-hot as a stone-cold, ass-kicking, lollipop-sucking assassin. Works for me. Then when hasnít it?

ZoŽ Saldana was out dancing the other night when a fight broke out one table over. Her companions scattered, including me; she stayed put. "I knew exactly what I was going to do," she says. "Kick this door, grab this, move that guy out of the way. Then I started laughing: Oh, my God, I still have Cataleya in my system."

Cataleya Restrepo is the lethally sexy hit woman in Saldana's latest gig, Colombiana. For the filmóin which her character avenges her parents' murders with machine guns, explosives, and, memorably, a toothbrushóshe underwent combat training with the stuntman who turned Matt Damon into Jason Bourne. This was fresh off her turn as a mercenary in The Losers and before that as a Pandoran in Avatar, for which she mastered archery and Wushu. All of which has made her the ass-kickingest female star since Angelina Jolie. Like Jolie, Saldana's physicalityó all fluid angles and long linesóis part of what makes her so much fun to watch; before the bad guys are finished staring, they're already dead.

Saldana's action roots run deep. The actress, 33, grew up partly in the Dominican Republic, where she learned to climb mango trees and gut fresh-caught fish. She remembers herself as "a feminine tomboy. I had my plastic swords, my ninja starsóbut I still wore lipstick." Hmmm, a lipstick wearing ninja. I bet you were a sore site to see. ďYou know it. A hot mess.Ē

Saldana spent a decade wasted in sidekick parts until 2009's Star Trek and her xenolinguistics expert, Uhura. (Saldana herself speaks four languagesófive if you count Na'vi.) Next year she'll trade the martial arts for a couple of marital dramas, though don't expect any doting wives: "It gets pretty boring when all you are is the support system for a male character," she says. "I want to be in the small percentage of women who don't settle for conventional roles." Shouldn't be a problem with that roundhouse.

So whatís it like going from roles in a so called black movie (Drumline) to mainstream white movies? ďThe budget. You get paid and well. The quality is better and you work with some of the best. Not that you donít on a black film production itís just different.Ē

Iíve know you for a minute actually right after Drumline came out; Candace (Candace Carey, so-star of Drumline) actually introduced us one night in Miami. ďBoy, it has been a long time (2002). Has it been that long?Ē Yes it has. But Iíve see you grow in your career. You went from OK roles like Drumline to Guess Whoís Coming To Dinner, Avatar to Losers and now Colombiana. You really have grown as an actress. I remember I would be like, ďHey there you are again on TNT in Drumline.Ē That movie must be paying you well. Itís on like every other week it seems. ďIím doing alright.Ē I bet. "You have known me for a long time."

So knowing you been in the highest grossing film [Avatar] of all time how does that make you fell? I still canít believe that film did what it did in the box offices. When you look at films like Titanic and Spidermans. It really is an honor that so many people want to see your work. So what was it like after that movie came out? ďThe year after Avatar was just emotionally overwhelming. I was traveling all over the world, waking up in different time zones. Your body gets exhausted, and by the end of the year I just collapsed.Ē So the travel can really get to you? ďYes of course. I used to laugh at you when you would tell me how fatigue you were from all your traveling. I would be like these athletes complain about traveling and then having to play a game, Ďwhat big babies.í But then I was in Paris training for Colombiana, sitting in my hotel room, and I couldnít stop crying. I couldnít stay awake. I must have slept for an entire month. It took me the rest of the year, even as I was working and shooting Colombiana, to pick myself up. Thank God my family was there.Ē Saldana now knows how to slow down and relax. She says, ďI just stay at home and do absolutely nothing. When I was younger, that would have made me feel like such a failure. Now that Iím older, I know what it means to shut down. I donít shower if I donít want to. [Yuck, you are nasty.] Shut up boy. I donít answer e-mails, the phoneÖ nothing. Itís a healthy way of being selfish.Ē


Part II

I knew who ZoŽ Saldana was before she rose to A-List status, well before actually. Iíd been following her career since early on, years before she garnered worldwide fame playing Neytiri in Avatar. Can anyone say The Terminal? Observing the trajectory of her work, I believed ZoŽ Ė Z as sheís called by some Ė was headed for big things. She is an actress who gives everything to her roles, be they in studio or independent films.


In 2009, Ms. Saldana gained accolades for her work in Avatar, which went on to become the highest domestic and worldwide grossing movie of all time. 


Today, ZoŽ is being honored by a studio in the biggest way an actor can be. She is opening a film. She is the star. She is the draw. It is her name up there on the marquee above the movieís name.


You would be hard pressed to come up with many movies in which an actress from a minority background was given the opportunity to carry a major studio film on the strength of her name. Now, ZoŽ Saldana, a Latina, joins a small number of groundbreakers. The sultry Dominican actress stars in the action film Colombiana, that just recently open last month.


In addition to speaking about the film and her career, Ms. Saldana sets the record straight telling me she never had a near emotional breakdown as reported by various media outlets. ZoŽ recaps the full story, telling me what really happened.


The sky is the limit for ZoŽ Saldana, one of the hardest working people in Hollywood today. She is talented, beautiful and down to earth.


Andre Jacob: So how is Motion picture star of Colombiana doing these days? Three and a half years in the making, how is everything going before we begin?

ZoŽ Saldana: Very, very good. Good to be here with you. Are you recording this?


AJ: Yes

ZS: Well at least let a girl know. You ainít right Dre. I got to watch you.


After ordering a round a Pineapple Mojitos & salsa and chips we begin.


AJ: Letís being now that the subtleties are out of the way.

ZS: You know I used to spell that word wrong all the time.


AJ: Which word?

ZS: Subtleties. I would spell subtle as s-u-d-d-l-e.


AJ: Iím not going to say anything [Laughing]. I know who you be spelling, if it is anything like you text me Ė all jacked up then I can only image your spelling.

ZS: If this thing wasnít recording I would jack something else up.

AJ: Don't let that stop you.

ZS: I won't I was trying to be nice for once since you are always telling me I am so mean.


AJ: So what is this a new leaf... a new you. You have that look like you want to splash me with that drink like old girl on Basketball Wives.

ZS: No I rather kick or punch your ass.

[We both bust out laughing then order another round of mojitos.]


AJ: Anyway letís begin. Your career just over the last decade, I believe in film, has been a climb of independent movies and studio films and box office hits, but getting the opportunity to open your own movie is still a really big deal, especially for a woman. With this movie [Colombiana], what does this big moment mean to you?

ZS: It means so much. Besides the fact itís a Luc Besson movie and Iím incarnating one his femme fatale characters heís been known for delivering and delivering really, really well. That to me was an honor to get to work with a director like that because heís been amongst other directors in my bucket list of people to work with. I love the fact that it was also a physically challenging movie where you know usually itís male actors that get to be the protagonist in these action movies and for it to have been a female and also a Latina female, it made me feel so happy and humbled.


AJ: Yeah. Itís a one of a kind thing definitely for sure and a rarity in the world of Hollywood, still, Iím all for equality of course. I always believed that you give everything to every role youíve had in your career and you leave nothing off the screen. Is that true and do you feel like this movie was a chance to use all your acting abilities as this leading lady?

ZS: Yes. I am a very hard working person. I like to, I feel like itís the least that I can do if I get a director that basically gives me the responsibility to go, ĎHey. I trust that you can do this.í The least that I can do is prepare myself very, very well so by the time the cameras are up, it comes up second nature and I can do justice for a character and when fans walk away and audience walk away thinking, ĎOk. She did a great part and that character was so essential for the story.í It makes me feel so good that that reward and it makes me know that everything that I do, once you dedicate and you give 100 percent of yourself as much as you humanly can, itís impossible for it to go unnoticed.


AJ: Youíve had some action and thriller roles in your career, but did you ever think youíd play the bad girl action star, Itís almost like Tomb Raider like with the big guns. Did you ever want to play the girl packing heat?

ZS: Yes! Absolutely! I grew up watching from Sigourney Weaver playing Ellen Ripley to Linda Hamilton being Sarah Connor. I just thought, oh my God! Theyíre just so badass and thatís my character gravitates towards. Iím a fan of movies and Iím a fan of all kinds of stories, but Iím really excited about action movies and science fiction.


AJ: In other films, like the one that you have here, you have different love interests and interracial relationships. Why do you think people still make a big deal about this that you having a white male love interest in this movie for example? Why are we still having this conversation about interracial relationships whether it be on film or in real life?

ZS: I donít know and I really donít, try to the best of my abilities to understand with questions like that mean and what they have behind them, you know. And it just doesnít really exist in my realm. I wasnít raised to look at people and box them. I was raised to just judge someone by their character and Iíve guided myself and my life accordingly. And when I go for a part or I go for a movie, thatís the last thing on my mind. All that I want is for the directorís to cast the most amazing actors whether they be female, male or whatever. So you know, working opposite Michael Vartan, like working opposite Zachary Quinto or Sam Worthington for that matter, Ashton Kutcher, but that was a different sort of kind of subject, but Iíve never seen as like, ĎOh my God, Iím going to be working opposite like a white male.í Iíve never seen. To me, heís an actor and heís so talented and weíre going to play these lovers and God, I hope the storyís believable. I hope we really do the best job that we can. Iíve never thought about that.


AJ: Simple point. My opinion, life, it is what it is, whatever makes you happy.

ZS: Exactly.


AJ: Whatever makes you happy. Through your career and life, has it been important for you to have your Latina roots come through in your roles like this one? 

ZS: I mean, itís very important for me in my life to have my Latina roots come out through my life, you know. And that to me is the only thing that matters. When Iím looking at a character, whatever this character is, whether sheís an alien or sheís the operator on the enterprise or I donít know, a woman thatís looking for revenge after the death of her parents, those are the things that I see and then unless it was something very specific like about their racial background, then I will obviously incorporate that into a character like Cataleya. She was from Columbia and sheís sort of like, she moves to the United States and so obviously she was Latina in her roots.


AJ: Ok. Well, I read you suffered exhaustion and I believe a reported near emotional breakdown while training for this movie. Though there is notoriety and there are a lot of perks that come with this business it can be quite stressful and you can burn yourself out. It doesnít matter if youíre famous; youíre still just a person. Reflect back upon that for me, what you learned and do you think itís hard for people to understand what dedication it takes to be truly successful in this media and the entertainment business if youíre not in it and the stress that comes with the daily life. Iíve always thought that.

ZS: You know, I made a statement on one of the magazines that I was getting interviewed for and I feel like everybody sort of ran with it. When it comes to like a nervous breakdown, there was no such thing.


AJ: Ok. I know how that goes. People donít always report what is being said or hear what one is saying.

ZS: It was just after coming out of such a beautiful and emotional rollercoaster that was Avatar. From the moment that we shot it to the moment that we delivered it to the world, through award season, everything, I was on such a beautiful emotional high that by the time that was over, once your body releases so many endorphins youíre left a little dry so that was when I sort of sunk down to my body and my being and my body just told me to, ĎOk, can I please have a break now? Iím really tired.í And I jumped immediately into prepping for Cataleya and I remember waking up every morning eager to go train because Iím such a workaholic and so excited to be doing something new. But I just was realizing that my body was just felt a little heavy like it just didnít want to move as fast as I did. I wasnít getting things as fast and I remember I would cry just watching a commercial or being really overwhelmed. I remember calling my mom and telling her I donít know whatís going on. Sheís like, ĎBaby, youíre just a little tired. So whenever you have a weekend off, youíre not training or anything while youíre shooting Colombiana, just sleep, stay in bed.í And she knows, Iím her daughter that thatís impossible for me because Iím so extroverted. Iím so like always moving. So that was what was going on. But it wasnít like I was having a nervous breakdown, I needed like taken care of or anything. I just needed like a little week off. Thatís it.


AJ: So no emotional breakdown? No nervous breakdown?

ZS: No. Dre you know me. Even if that was the case I would never let it be seen and never let anyone know that was the case with me. I am all Teflon when it comes to stuff like that. I am never going to be rattled in the public or at work. 


AJ: Just stress? Would you call it stress? Just stress? I have to ask... you want to set the story straight so I'm just asking all the questions people are asking or wondering.

ZS: [Crazy face look, with a slight evil eye.] You want to playÖ Not even stress because I wasnít stressed about anything. I think I was just a little tired. Once I got off all the planes and I stopped wearing all the gowns and I was able to wash all the makeup out of my face and you know, you talk so much. Youíre doing interviews all over the world 24/7 so youíre expelling so much energy and youíre forgetting that you need to take some back or you need to hold some back for you so you can have fuel for when you wake up the next day and youíre off and I didnít do that. It was a new experience for me so I did realize that I was a little tired, but I think it happened to all of us because everybody from the cast to the director and the producer of Avatar, everybody took a chunk, like at least two months off and they all traveled the world, you know with their families or they slept or they just went away and or they hid and thatís what I shouldíve done, but you know, some of us immediately went back to work and it didnít hit us until to you know, it was time for us. I remember I was in Paris and I was with my niece and my mom and Grandma and they were visiting me in Paris and I was just so happy that they were there while I was training and shooting and we had a loss in our family, a very, very close loss in our family and that I feel was the tool that kind of unleashed and for a weekend I just stayed in bed and I cried because obviously Iím missing the family member that we just lost, but then my body also just needed to kind of expel some emotion. So I was just tired. So I really, it just, it concerns me a lot when things are blown out of proportion.


AJ: Well, the point I can say to you is you very well know, this interview will be run in its entirety with a full transcript and you know I am not for those kind of things. So glad to help you clear it. Three more quick things. How do you describe being part of now the number one domestic and worldwide grossing movie of all time [Avatar]?

ZS: Blessed. I still look back. It was just such a magical moment because from the moment we became part of it and we started training, we just knew that it was going to be special because the script was so beautiful and the message was just so strong about the environment, about us treating each other with respect and not being so ambitious and greedy. So then by the time the movie was released and it touched so many hearts all over the world of all different ages. Even Jim [James Cameron] took the movie to the Amazon and showed it to a tribe there and they were very moved by it as well. So for you to be in consciousness that you were part of something that not only was it monumental for filmmaking, but also it was extraordinarily heartfelt for humanity, it makes you feel so proud to be a part of it, you know.


AJ: Absolutely 100 percent, what do you hope people take away from everything youíve done with your life?

ZS: That I hope that theyíre to inspired to work really hard for what they believe in and to fight for their dreams, to make them possible. I love to work and Iím never afraid of the hardship that work entails because for me work is part of life. The moment youíre born, you have to work every single day of your life whether itís to work to stay connected to your family, work to educate yourself, work to better yourself, work to feed your dog. You know, everything in life is work and we for some reason feel, weíre more obsessed with the rewards that work would have and we donít really think about all the lessons that we learned while weíre in the journey and that to me is the most important part. So I really hope people take, learn that from what I do and the policy of life that I have that to me whatís most important is the journey and itís not getting there.


AJ: ZoŽ Saldana, thank you so much for joining me today. Last thing, bonus round time, a lot of people donít know, but three and a half years ago there was a little spot in the world on the front of her MySpace page where me and a few of her biggest fans and the people that work with her chatted for a few months and it was like the best kept secret on earth, you know.

ZS: ďI loved that.Ē


AJ: So you still run your MySpace page.

ZS: I really haven't been on there in a minute. It's still up, I think but I am on Facebook now. I have people posting stuff for me and I post here and there but it's a fan page not a regular personal page.


AJ: Why not a profile page?

ZS: Well first how is someone already going to have a profile claiming they are me. Second, not just one person but 8, 9, 10 pages. I so I just let them have at it. It's funny they get photos of me I don't even remember taking or they are getting them off my fan page. Then to boot they will have statements, 'if you don't believe it's me then don't request me,' Bitch it ain't you, I am you or me. You know what I am saying Dre. But you know so much of this life is public and social media and networks are a beast.


AJ: I remember us watching a few HBO Entourage episodes with you via the phone and me asking you if you were ever going to get to be on one [Entourage episodes]. It never happened. Why?

ZS: I donít know and I really wanted to be on that show just once. I guess since I wasnít going to sleep with Vincent Chase it was a no go. That was just a joke. Actually I never asked and I was always busy with different projects so it just never happened. Boy I wished it had.


AJ: Me too I would have loved to see what or how you would have played yourself. 

ZS: Why you already know me.


AJ: Yeah, I do but that doesnít mean you would have played it straight.

ZS: No you got jokes. I would have been meÖ


ZoŽ Saldanaís official website is at www.zoesaldana.com

ZoŽís official Twitter is at http://twitter.com/#!/zoesaldana

ZoŽís official Facebook page is at http://www.facebook.com/ZoeSaldana