“For me, the perfect role is a one that was different from the last,” actress Zoe Saldaña, 31, told me during a phone conference to promote her latest action film “The Losers.” “I really wanted to explore what it would be like to play a badass chica.”
In the film, which is adapted from a Vertigo comic book of the same name, Saldaña plays Aisha, a sexy operative who joins a team of mercenaries on the hunt for a rogue CIA agent.
During our interview, Saldaña, who is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, talked about the physical nature of the role and why she never dressed like princess characters for Halloween when she was a little girl.
It is easier to give off a sexual vibe when you have a gun in your hand?
(Laughs) Well, it definitely makes you feel powerful in a way. (Laughs) Yeah, it does make it easier to be sexy.
Is the action drama something you are comfortable doing now?
It’s definitely difficult because you’re there doing something that you don’t do naturally. What helped me was my dance background. It’s a combination of different things like working with a really good stunt coordinator that you can trust with your life. It’s fun when you’re able to incorporate your body into your character.
What drew you to the character of Aisha?
I had never done a character like her before. I read the script three years ago when another director was attached. The character just blew my mind. The kind of physical behavior that was going to be required of whoever was going to play Aisha was going to be a challenge. I love pushing myself.
How did you go from being on such a high with a record-breaking movie like “Avatar” to another movie?
“Avatar” was an amazing journey and an amazing film. I feel very blessed that I am getting characters that are different and challenging myself. I’m an artist primarily and I like to try different things. Aisha was just another character I was going to play. It’s always good for an actor to be employed so it feels really good.
What was it like on the set being the only female character?
I loved it! It’s happened more than once where I am the only female in a sea of men. In “Star Trek” it was the same way. It can’t really tell the difference because we are all artists and we’re kind of genderless in a certain way. I’m really a tomboy. Maybe I unintentionally gravitate towards those characters. I was never Snow White or Cinderella for Halloween. I was always Sarah Connor or Ellen Ripley or a ninja. I’m like a little Terminator.
So, what would you say is the most girly thing about you?
I think it’s the way that I dress (laughs). As I keep working in this business, the one thing I have learned in my career is to dress feminine. I would normally be in a jacket, but that doesn’t sell. I am a girl, but it’s hard for me to go get a pedicure. I can’t sit down and allow my nails to dry. It drives me insane.
Do you feel you have more of a responsibility in the industry because you come from a multicultural background?
Yes. By knowing that there are people looking up to me – especially young women – it keeps me on track. I feel really blessed to have been raised the way that I was by my family. I was taught by my mom to love everything that I’m composed of. We were always allowed to be American because we were born here and we were always exposed to the culture that we come from.
You’re half Puerto Rican and a lot of this movie was shot in Puerto Rico. What was your experience shooting there?
It was great. I lived in the Dominican Republic for seven years, so going back to the Caribbean was like home. My mom was there for the first month and a half. We got to visit the whole family. There is a vibe in Puerto Rico. We immediately go into our Latino ways. We have a beer at four in the afternoon and then take a walk. Then you have your little cafécito with the neighbors and end up at la plazita.
What other types of roles do you hope to seek out?
I want to do everything. I would love to navigate in the world of comedy and thrillers. I would love to do more sci-fi because I’m such a geek. There is nothing cool about me. I can’t limit myself. It’s the only way I can expand as an artist.