In recent years, Zoe Saldana has gone from minor league supporting actress to blockbuster movie star, escalating her career by taking the lead in films like Star Trek, Pirates of the Caribbean, and 2009’s biggest success story, Avatar, all the while holding it down as a model and media expert in the fashion world. Part Dominican blood, part Puerto Rican, Saldana has seemingly looked beyond race in the majority of her acting roles to date, but is said to be filling the heels of legendary chanteuse and Civil Rights activist Nina Simone in an upcoming big screen biopic.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the actress will star alongside David Oyelowo in the movie, based on Simone’s life, which begins production in October. It’s a casting selection that has many scratching their heads, given that Mary J. Blige was previously attached to the role, and Simone’s distinct look isn’t easily imitable. Nevertheless, for Saldana, it could be a chance to bridge her stunning attributes and mass audience appeal with a more sophisticated, tailored and noteworthy presence in the movie business.
The 34-year-old starlet from Queens talked briefly to theGrio on Friday about her latest project, The Words, a low-budget Sundance flick that pairs her with Bradley Cooper in a tale of the dark side of forgery in the writing business. The film opened in theaters nationwide over the weekend, and while reviews have been mixed, it’s a nouveau look for the actress, and an interesting transition piece between her upcoming mainstream projects, including sequels to both Avatar and Star Trek. While Saldana remains mum on any questions relating to Simone, she appears to be both content and excited with the new directions of her career.
Lately, we’ve seen you in more blockbuster, big budget films like Star Trek and Avatar — what made you decide to do The Words?
I love working on different genres of films, and if I am drawn to the material and character then I feel grateful to have the opportunities to work on so many different type of movies. I loved the script for The Words; I felt the story was beautiful and the multi-layers of the story and characters intrigued me.
The plot of The Words deals with stealing another person’s thoughts, artistic work and ingenuity — what statement would you say the film is making about our culture now?
Life lesson of what happens when you don’t speak the truth and what happens as a result; the guilt, the pain and the internal struggle of what is the right thing to do in your own life.
What’s the best thing about working with Bradley Cooper?
He is a very talented and gifted actor and brings so much to the material and character. Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde, Ben Barnes, Bradley, were all so amazing and brought such depth to the project.
Can we expect more indie flicks out of you soon?
I recently wrapped the films Blood Ties, directed by Guillaume Canet and Out of the Furnace, which I had the chance to work with Christian Bale who is truly such a phenomenal artist.
Star Trek has a very dedicated following of fans — Were you a Trekkie before you got on board or what’s your personal geeky infatuation?
I have been a sci-fi geek as far as I can remember! I always loved all the sci-fi movies growing up with Terminator, Star Trek, Dune etc. Growing up, I always loved the strong powerful female characters like Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley.
How is James Cameron as a director? He seems like he’d be very intimidating.
James Cameron is a true genius…I feel so very fortunate and grateful to be part of any project he is working on, as he is such a master of his craft. His gives so much to everyone who works with him. He helped me open my mind and to truly be free in the exploration of character, environment and so many elements when we worked on Avatar.
When do you see your Dominican and Puerto Rican sides come out the most?
Family and culture are so important to me, and I always love discussing all of the elements of my heritage. For me personally, anytime I am with my family whether we are cooking, or telling stories together is when I really embrace being Latina.
Follow Courtney Garcia on Twitter at @courtgarcia