Playing Gamora was empowering for Zoe Saldana

Playing Gamora was empowering for Zoe Saldana
SUPER KILLER: US actress Zoe Saldana stars as green alien assassin Gamora in Marvel’s latest superhero flick Guardians of the Galaxy, a character she feels reflects the “lost kids” of Sudan.

"I don't know why I'm always in space, maybe being a space babe moves me," she added, before bursting into uncontrollable - and very girly - giggles.

She took a couple of deep breaths and composed herself.

It was a matter of coincidence, Saldana explained about her latest expedition into outer space.

From being Neytiri, the blue-skinned humanoid Na'vi in Avatar to communications officer Uhuru on board the USS Enterprise in the Star Trek movies, Saldana is again heading to the final frontier.

Opening here on July 31, you can see her as the sexy alien killing machine Gamora in Guardians Of The Galaxy.

The US actress of Dominican and Puerto Rican ancestry was in Singapore recently to promote her new film, where she joins Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel as Peter Quill, Drax The Destroyer, Rocket and Groot respectively in the James Gunn-directed sci-fi action flick about a team of misfits who become unlikely heroes.

"As a woman, particularly a woman of colour, the roles (set on Earth) are a little too typical for me.

"You're either playing someone's girlfriend or wife or mother," Saldana explained to M when we met up at Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre.

"There's something fascinating about working in sci-fi movies, they make me feel limitless."

Playing Gamora - billed as the deadliest woman in the galaxy - was "empowering", said the 36-year-old.

BEING KICK-ASS

"I don't want her to be another kick-ass babe. On the surface she's fabulous; she can kill and fight, but what are her weaknesses? I want to show you why she is the way she is.

"I want to show all the confusion inside her and her many issues."

Saldana elaborated on how she felt Gamora's background - of being orphaned, taken away and brought up in a world of violence and crime - was akin to that of "lost kids" of Sudan.

(The United Nations recently said over 9,000 children had been recruited to fight - by both sides - in the brutal South Sudanese civil war.)

"If there's anything to compare Gamora to, it'll have to be that. That's how I approached Gamora.

"I decided to focus on the heart and drama, because when you come to all the fight sequences, I know Gamora will be great - I have an amazing stunt woman to make her look super cool!"

As Saldana talked glowingly about her role, it became clear that this was a gig she was very excited to take on despite a very challenging shoot.

With Gamora in the bag - she even hinted at a possible sequel - Saldana revealed she was enjoying some time off from work and plans to maintain a better work-life balance before returning to work on Avatar sequels 2, 3 and 4.

BEING A MUM?

The actress is rumoured to be pregnant for the first time. While she never admitted to being a mother-to-be in our interview, she often alluded to wanting to change her life's perspective, re-organising her life and changing work schedules.

Married to Marco Perego, an Italian ex-football player-turned-artist, Saldana shared how she "loves a big family" due to her Latin American heritage.

All but giving the game away about her rumoured impending motherhood, Saldana said: "Organisation and restructuring (of my life) are a must. You have to be around for your kids and your husband.

"I'm going to find a way to take my kids with me (on set) even if I have to bring my mother, my husband, my grandmother, anybody's mother just to look after the children!" she said, laughing.

Saldana is also extremely vocal about championing for more strong female roles in Hollywood.

"With The Hunger Games, the landscape in Hollywood is certainly evolving. We, women, are becoming more vocal, we're embracing our strength and speaking up.

"We need to speak up louder to be heard, and if they're still not hearing us then you move to Plan B, which is create materials that you'd like to see."

BEING NINA

That "Plan B" would be Saldana's pet project Nina, where she stars as the late jazz musician and classical pianist Nina Simone.

"I feel very passionate about being able to tell Nina's story. But nobody was stepping up to the plate, so I said I'll do it.

"I'm not sure if it's going to be a hit, but it's okay. At the end of the day, I remind myself every morning about doing things with an open heart and love."

Saldana admitted that her clout stemmed from the tremendous success of Avatar, which is still the world's biggest movie of all time with US$2.8 billion (S$3.5 billion) earnings at the box-office since its release in 2009.

"Avatar gave me the possibility to work in a film like Guardians.

"It's the biggest movie on Earth, which means a lot of people saw it, not just movie-goers but film-makers, producers, writers... and it gave them an impression of my work and a feel that they may want to work with me."

She added: "I can still benefit from (Avatar) after all these years. I will always be indebted to that movie and James Cameron."


This article was first published on July 23, 2014.
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