Zoe Saldana is either one of the biggest closeted nerds working in Hollywood today or she has really been doing her homework on how to appeal to that community. Let us explain. You see, near the end of a film's press cycle -- like we now are with Saldana's 'Colombiana'; when that film has been discussed ad nauseam by the star -- somewhat offbeat topics can be latched onto as a way for the star to discuss anything different than what she has been asked hundreds of times over. This happened when we spoke to Saldana just this afternoon. The topics: Thundercats, Jem and the Holograms, Transformers and G.I. Joe.
Oh, yes, we also discussed 'Colombiana.' As well as 'Star Trek' and 'Avatar.' In 'Colombiana,' Saldana plays Cataleya, a woman born into the drug trade who becomes an assassin to avenge the brutal murder of her parents. Moviefone spoke to Saldana just today about her new film, whether 'Trek' or 'Avatar' changed her life more, and co-starring opposite Britney Spears in 'Crossroads' (bet you forgot about that one). But, it was obvious that Saldana felt most at ease when discussing her childhood Thundercat love.
Moviefone: How do you train for a role like this? I feel like if you follow the Chris Evans "get as big as possible" regiman, that may be a problem.
Zoe Saldana: There were a lot of scenes where I needed to be fighting one-on-one with a lot of people, so it was the stunt coordinator, along with the director, who wanted to have a sort of 'Bourne Identity' kind of form of fighting for my character. So it was a combination of martial arts and Krav Maga.
Did you have any experience in that before, or was that all new?
This form of fighting was new and interesting and a little difficult, but once we saw it transpire on-screen, we felt that it paid off.
What was the most difficult thing about it?
The fact that I'm more of a dancer, so I can kick and jump up and do all of these things. But when you put an opponent three inches away from my face and we have to punch each other out, that's a little hard.
Obviously there were no scenes shared, but did you get to meet your young self from this film, Amandla Stenberg?
I did! I did before we started shooting and while we were shooting and she is absolutely wonderful.
She's going to be in 'The Hunger Games.' You've obviously been is some big franchise movies. Did you offer her any advice on how her life is going to change?
I don't really think I need to. And if I did, I don't remember. Amandla blew me away because she's just such a mature little girl. And really, you can tell that she really wants this. Wants to be an actress and, because of the art, and having to play different characters – she's an artist. When you're around her, you feel that's a little girl with a good head on her shoulders.
There are a lot of challenging looking scenes in this film. What stands out as the most difficult to film?
The bathroom fight scene was very challenging. Besides learning all the fight techniques, you also have to make sure that you don't have to hurt yourself and that you don't hurt your actor. It's just a lot of precautions that take place when you shoot a scene like that.
You've now worked with Luc Besson and, of course, James Cameron. And both are known for creating very strong roles for women. Was this a premeditated move to work with them?
Well, to hear that Luc Besson say that he wants to meet because he likes what I did in 'Avatar,' you're excited. I've been a fan of his since I was very, very young. So, yes, because a film like 'Avatar' gives you the exposure of a director like Luc Besson – and for them to go, "Yeah, I want to work with you." -- you just go, "Wow." You're blown away.
Do you feel that Hollywood pressures women into action roles that aren't considered strong, but more sensational?
I mean, you know, there are going to be good scripts and there are going to be bad scripts. And you have to make a choice and say, "Well, I like this and I don't like this." You know? I think it's all about... It's definitely about trying to be a part of good stories – that's the main thing. That's very important.
'Xena: Warrior Princess' is mentioned in the film. Were you a Xena fan?
Growing up, I was more of a Wonder Woman fan and Thundercats. [Laughs]
The Linda Carter Wonder Woman?
Who was your favorite Thundercat?
Oh my god! Cheetara!
I had a feeling you would say that. So it wasn't Lion-O?
No, no... I don't want to be a lion at all.
So 'Thundercats' was your favorite cartoon?
Growing up, for action, it was definitely 'Thundercats,' 'Transformers,' and the 'Woody Woodpecker.' [laughs]
You do understand that after 'Star Trek' and 'Avatar,' you already have the geek vote, right? You probably don't have to go further down that road with Transformers and Thundercats...
I am! I'm, telling you, man, I was just the... I don't know, I was not the conventional little girl. I was a little girl, but I was more in-between. I was androgynous! I used to love playing G.I. Joe. I used to marry my G.I. Joes to my Barbies. I didn't like the Jem dolls – they were too big. You know? And I couldn't fit any of the Barbie clothing on the Jem dolls. But! You could fit them on the G.I. Joes.
Before this interview started, I did not at all expect that Jem would be mentioned.
Jem and the Holograms! Remember?
I do. I would have never guessed the clothes weren't interchangeable.
Oh no, child. They did it on purpose! So you can spend extra money. The Jem dolls, they literally look like drag queens. They were huge! And the Barbie dolls were these little fragile, petite... to cross dress them was awful.
So this is why you drifted over to Thundercats – to not have to deal with this nonsense...
Yeah, but there weren't any Thundercats dolls.
Yes there were. I mean, they weren't dolls. You couldn't dress them. I mean, I had Lion-O...
Of course you had Lion-O.
What's that mean? Hey, I had five or six of them. I also had Mumm-Ra...
[Laughing] I love it. I love it. I remember one time my mom got me the Strawberry Shortcake dolls and I was like, "What am I going to do with this? This smells too funny. It makes me want to eat it; I want to play with it." And then she went and got me the whole G.I. Joe collection and I was thrilled.
I could talk about this way too long..
I know. Me, too.
If a Thundercats movie ever does happen, are you playing Cheetara?
Oh my God, in a heartbeat. I think I would have to also be careful. If I start doing too many action movies, I don't want to just get in that place where, "Oh, then she can't do other roles," or anything like that. But I just love doing action films so much.
And that would be another role, like 'Avatar,' where you would be disguised.
Awesome! That way it wouldn't be about my face, more my performance or whatever I incorporate into the character.
So you liked that people were concentrating on the emotion you brought to a character that was partially CGI?
I thought it was a blessing. I feel like any actor would think that was a dream role. Where you get to pour your entire heart out into a character. And know that who you are as a person will not be a distraction to that at all. I felt so blessed.
You've been rumored to be in Doug Liman's 'Luna.' Is that going to happen?
I met the director earlier this year, but I don't know where those rumors happen. I certainly... It would be nice if they are true, but from my team and I, I haven't heard anything that I've been up for the part or anything like that.
So basically you meeting with the director has turned into that you're ready to sign on for this?
What movie changed your life more: 'Star Trek' or 'Avatar'?
That's almost surprising...
Well, I mean, I know that 'Star Trek' came out first so it definitely gave me that exposure and to be a part of something that was so amazingly historical. It was such a privilege... I don't know. You're right, I have to say that it was both. It was a combination of both.
Knowing you're involved in two franchises, 'Star Trek' and 'Avatar,' does that give you more freedom as an actor?
I think it's a must. Even if it doesn't give you the freedom, I feel that you still have to go after those kinds of films just so you can stay grounded. If you only do big, big movies, you would be missing out on how precious these small independent films can be and how rewarding they are. Not only to your craft, but to your soul as well. Growing up in New York, I basically started doing more independent films, then the big blockbusters. You need a combination of both.
I always forget that you were in 'Crossroads' with Britney Spears. Was that a good experience?
I had a blast. Remember, I was also 22-years-old. So, who wouldn't want to be doing a film where three girls go on a road trip? I have no regrets of any film that I've done. Because at that time they felt like the right thing to do, it was also matching the age and the place that I was in. And to have worked with one of the most famous artists at that time, Britney Spears, she was at the top of her career. And I still remember her to be a very sweet woman. I'm very happy that I met her at her best.
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