It took two hours for Zoe Saldana to wrap on the set of J.J. Abrams‘ upcoming “Star Trek” sequel, and arrive in Park City, where her film “The Words” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The film is another interesting direction for the actress, one who has seen her career vary from little indie pictures, to slick action films, big tentpoles and of course, the most successful film of all time, “Avatar.“
In-between our own sleeplessness, The Playlist caught up with the actress and asked her how she could go from a brutal assassin in “Colombiana” to the affectionate Dora in “The Words” (which you can read our review of here), as well as talked about her developing film “Infinitely Polar Bear” and then her super exclusive lies about the next “Star Trek.”
How is it playing opposite Bradley Cooper?
It was wonderful. We’ve been friends for a while and had always wanted to find a project. It’s one of those things in passing, “oh, we should work together!” Yeah, absolutely. And then when I read the script I thought it was such an interesting character because it was exactly the opposite of what I was looking to do next. And still the story was so compelling.
Especially coming off of “Colombiana.”
I was wired. I want guns, I didn’t want to put [them] down, I want to shoot ’em all. I want to do this and I was still fit. Then my team was like, “Calm down. Read the script.” It was beautiful.
But is that something you want to keep doing—the action heroine?
I want to always challenge myself. My thing is I want to follow my heart. And the thing is, I love families. Whether it’s a love story like “The Words” or an action or science-fiction [role] which is what I watch and read all the time. It makes me happy because I’m so consumed by it. I’m being an athlete, that God gave me a gift to climb a wall while I’m still young and I can get paid for it and play strong, female characters that I feel like we’re starving for those. They’re coming along much better now than they were years ago. We are improved and we’re evolving—though not at the pace that I would like. I want to be part of that evolution of amazing roles for women, whether they were kick-ass or—and I hate using that word—essential to the story.
It’s weird that we’re still getting so little emphasis on female leading roles whether it’s action or–
You have, “Bridesmaids,” “Salt,” you also have women directing their own films as well. It’s not enough, but at the same time too, I’ve always been the kind of person to be like, “It’s half-full, man.” It’s much better than it was five, ten years ago. So I just have to be a part of the process of following that movement of the continuation of getting better.
So you’re changing up the roles you want to do, switching from action to “The Words,” with that amazing scene where Rory confronts Dora about a secret—which happens through all three stories. Did you catch onto a common thread?
Oh my god, the one thing that resonated the most to me was that how the thing these characters had in common—Clay, Rory, the Old Man—was how lucky they were. To have the gift of being writers and storytellers, but having the biggest gift of finding love or a personal partner. Someone that believes in them whether they’re big or small. But for them to miss it and so miserably! That was most inspiring to me, it was such a beautiful ode to love. I really feel that Brian [Klugman] and Lee [Sternthal] –part of what makes them so amazing as writers was how sensible they were to write about women that love and how they love. And for men to miss that. To me, however, so many other things could resonate but that’s what drew me to the project.
Speaking of being drawn to projects, you’re working on “Infinitely Polar Bear” next, right? That seems like a nice progression.
First of all, working with Maya Forbes, who I’m a fan of her work as a writer and I’m a die-hard fan of Mark Ruffalo. This story and to know it was based on her life growing up with her dad and mom, being a product of a bi-racial relationship in the sixties; and how advanced her parents were, and how they loved each other. I’m so intrigued by it. That’s what drew me to it, so I’m looking forward to it. And to play a very mature female part, playing a mother.
You’re also involved with Bryce Dallas Howard’s upcoming film, too.
When she’s ready, my bags are packed. I read that script and I was so blown away that she wrote it. I’m a fan of her work and a fan of her father. It was a great script. It’s called “The Originals.” It reminded me a lot of “The Big Chill” in terms of people coming together, to say goodbye or to care for someone very important. And by having that excuse, they can make amends, set records straight, end things that never had a proper ending or start things that never had a proper beginning. So that’s what attracted me to that script. Hopefully we can shoot that soon.
Now for the fun part: what lies can you tell me about the “Star Trek” sequel?
It’s going to be boring. There’s no conflict between Kirk and Spock, they agree on everything! They’re beer buddies. And there are no bad guys. We’re just cruising in space.
I can’t see how that would fail.
You probably get that question all the time now–
Boxers or briefs? Hm. Briefs. [laughs]
Good. So, is it difficult to swing back and forth from these sci-fi tentpoles where you’re wearing make-up and ears versus just being able to act?
It’s a breath of fresh air to prove I can give myself that balance and be on an even keel when it comes to my career. I think I would go crazy if I was only in space all the time. And if anything, you do take the risk of being only cast for those roles. The reality is I’m attracted to great stories whether they’re in space or underground or just a love story.
I was standing in the corner and listened in on another interview with you. Did you really read “Dune” during “Colombiana” to relax?
Lady Jessica, a Bene Gesserit. If I could play a witch like that, it’d be so crazy. And it’s so romantic! I was looking for something to calm me down during the film because I was so high strung. I felt it was giving me a different kind of passion and I had to put it down so I could kill somebody. I picked it back up after.
Do you normally turn to books to bring yourself down on set?
Anything during “The Words?”
Was I? No, actually. I’m reading something now: “Geek Love.”
CBS Films have picked up “The Words,” while the “Star Trek” sequel hits theaters on May 17, 2013.