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Zoe Saldana Proves Once Again Just How Awesome She Is, Tells Us More About Gamora and Race in Hollywood

"My balls are pretty big."

As if we didn’t already know, Zoe Saldana is pretty badass. She’s got a bunch of big-budget movies under her belt, and plenty more lined up; Guardians of the Galaxy is coming out soon, and there’s Avatar 2 and Star Trek 3 to look forward to as well (both start shooting next year). All in all, in the next several years, she’s definitely going to dominate the science fiction movie scene.

The Hollywood Reporter interviewed her to see a little more of what she’s like in real life. When asked why she chose to star in so many sci-fi movies, her response only adds to her awesome.

You just gravitate naturally to what your heart yearns for,” she told THR. “And I grew up in a very science fiction-driven household. It was odd for me to grow up and go out in the world and not see other women going crazy for science fiction.”

She actually started out in the business as Anamaria in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and didn’t particularly enjoy it—not because of the actors or the role itself, but because of the way she was treated behind the scenes. “ It was very elitist. I almost quit the business,” she said.

Luckily she didn’t, and since Guardians is so close to release, she provided a little insight into Gamora’s background and how she got into the mindset for that character:

She was taken from her planet when she was a child and forced into a life of violence and crime. She reminds me of the lost kids of Sudan, the boys who are taken from their family and have to come back to their villages and shoot everybody. Even though it’s a Marvel movie, I take it all very seriously. My husband [Italian artist and ex-soccer player Marco Perego] was a great help with the research for the part. He was talking to another artist who showed us her latest work. It was this matador doing a beautiful march of death with a cape and the sword. I saw it and thought: “That’s Gamora. That’s what a female assassin would do.” She’d seduce her victim. And then I got to England and sat down with the fight coordinators — these guys were pure testosterone; women were like aliens to them — and had to convince them that this was what she would do. They’d been designing the fight scenes for weeks before I got there, but I was like, “No.”

I absolutely love the fact that she convinced the trainers to do Gamora her way. From what we’ve seen in trailers and clips so far, it seems like she’s done an excellent job with the character. But let’s back track a bit.

While the majority of the interview focuses on her roles in sci-fi and how it’s a hard business for women (especially women of color), the interviewer seems to make a rather interesting gaffe. Shortly into the interview, he seems amazed by her revelation of growing up loving sci-fi. She clarifies saying she watched things like TerminatorAliens, and Dune. The interviewer then says, “You’ve proved your geek cred.”

No. Stop right there.

Why does Zoe Saldana, star of not one, not two, but THREE sci-fi franchises, need to prove herself to you? Doesn’t what she’s acted in say enough? If he was interviewing Chris Pratt or any of her male co-stars in Guardians, I can almost guarantee that something like this would have never been asked. Even if Saldana didn’t read a single comic book or didn’t know the entire backstory of Gamora before she took the role, that wouldn’t make her any less of a geek. Stop making women have to prove their “geek cred.”

Disregarding that little bit of sexism, the rest of the interview goes into dealing with race in Hollywood, particularly the whitewashing controversy surrounding her role as Nina Simone—a much darker skinned woman than she is—in an upcoming biopic:

You have to try to understand where people are coming from. This has always been an issue in our society. A white person can play Cleopatra, even though Cleopatra was a North African woman who in reality had coffee skin. But that’s not sellable in Hollywood. So you get Elizabeth Taylor with purple eyes. So there’s always been a lot of tension in the African-American community about Hollywood being a whitewashing machine. But that wasn’t the case with Nina. There were so many other variables that people don’t know about. I wasn’t the first person to step up to the plate. They went out to everybody for the part. There were other people attached for years [like Mary J. Blige]. And they just decided not to do it. And at the end of the day, we had to tell this story. It’s our duty to go out and tell stories about women and about people of color because we don’t do that enough.

Science fiction, however, is where race seems to matter the least, “because the people we discriminate against in sci-fi movies are the aliens,” she said. “We make them the villains. We have to make somebody bad.”

(via The Hollywood Reporter)

Previously in Zoe Saldana news

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