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Zoe Saldaña Reveals How Motherhood Shaped Her Character in ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’

"Fear entered my realm: the fear of losing something that you love so much."

Zoe Saldana as Neytiri. Image: Disney

At the global press conference for Avatar: the Way of Water, Zoe Saldaña and her fellow cast members opened up about how they prepared to reprise their roles in the sequel to 2009’s Avatar. In particular, Saldaña spoke about how important parenthood was in her approach to her character, Neytiri.

In the first Avatar, Neytiri and Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) fall in love when the human Jake uses a lab-grown Na’vi body, or avatar, to infiltrate Neytiri’s clan. He defects to the Na’vi and has his consciousness permanently transferred into his avatar.

In the sequel, Neytiri and Jake are raising a family together, and must make contact with other Na’vi nations in order to fight off the humans.

At the press conference, Saldaña described the sequel, and the children that Neytiri and Jake are raising, as a natural extension of the love story that began in the first film.

“Neytiri and I, in a way, we’ve lived parallel lives,” Saldaña explained. “The leap of falling in love with something outside of you, that challenges you to see something that you’ve never seen before, that has always been her dilemma. To surrender to that, and then to bring forward fruits of that love. That presents a challenge for her, because it’s forcing her to grow. It’s forcing her to love something that she’s been taught to hate.”

Saldana explained that she was able to infuse Neytiri with her own experiences as a mother. “When I became a parent,” she said, “fear entered my realm. The fear of losing something that you love so much. You just spend a great deal of your time creating these hypothetical scenarios that are just unimaginable … You may be fearless when you don’t have kids, but you learn fear when you do have kids, when you have something greater than yourself that you could lose.”

Avatar: The Way of Water opens in theaters on December 16.

(featured image: Disney)

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Julia Glassman (she/her) lives in Los Angeles, where she reads tarot and watches Marvel movies. You can check out more of her writing at, or find her on Twitter at @juliaglassman.