As Nyota Uhura in J.J. Abrams Star Trek, and Neytiri in James Cameron’s Avatar, Zoe Saldana had a good 2009. But now that we’re in 2010, it’s time for Saldana to show what else she can do and that’s be an action star in director Sylvain White’s The Losers. While her character Aisha is somewhat mysterious, the synopsis calls her, “a beautiful operative with her own agenda.” I’d say that’s pretty accurate.
Anyway, last June I was on the set of The Losers when the film was in Puerto Rico and I got to speak with Saldana with a few other online journalists. We talked about the physicality of the shoot, who her character really is, she talked about what we saw filming that day, and since it was back in June of 2009…we talked about Avatar day. Read or listen to the interview after the jump:
Like we always do…you can either read the transcript below or listen to the audio by clicking here. And if you haven’t seen the trailer for The Losers, you might want to watch it first:
Question: You’ve done some physical shoots in the past. How does this compare and how physical is this to what you expected going in?
ZS: I mean, it’s still very new for me to shoot action movies. I honestly feel that after Avatar I became like a beast for action. I’m so hungry for it and I want to do all my stunts. I’m all bruised up and everything. I’m still at that phase where I want to do everything myself and get beaten up.
You were wielding guns in what we saw. Was there a lot of gun training?
ZS: Yes, gun training, a lot of physical training too. I had to gain a couple of pounds so that I was going to be able to hold those weapons for more than eight hours a day. They’re pretty heavy. I don’t know what it is, but I love that kind of shit. I really love it when I’m pushed physically and it’s not just a mental research of what a character’s supposed to do.
Can you tell us about your character?
ZS: She’s a snake. You don’t really know what she’s hiding up her sleeve. She definitely had her own prerogative and it’s very meaningful for her. She’s trying her best to play her cards right, but Jeffrey’s character just gets to her. There’s just something about him that she’s unable to kind of to fill her task, her mission.
In the comics the Losers are a group of these guys and she comes in from the outside. It’s really mysterious for them. It seems like you’ve got a lot of personal choices to make about the character that aren’t in the script per se. What’s that been like?
ZS: It’s hard because you also have to love that the characters in the scene determine the tonality of how it’s gonna unfold. So it’s definitely been hard because usually female roles are what you see is what you get. But to be granted the opportunity to play something that is very complex and very layered and everything, it’s just hard I guess. I’m not used to it.
We hear you do a lot of your own stunts.
ZS: Thank God because of my athletic background I’ve been able to be thrown across the room and do all my kicks and everything. But let me tell you, it’s only like my third action movie, so I’m pretty sure that five years from now I might not be saying or doing the same thing. I’ll be like, ‘I’ll just let the stunt person do it,’ you know? But so far it’s very exciting.
It’s like sky diving, they say do it once while you’re young.
ZS: I like to think that I’m still young. Hips aren’t hurting, knees are fine, they’re not swelling so let’s just do it. But it was a lot of fun, to be able to jump into my role and not just drop her and have somebody else pick up. Even though the stunt people are doing a marvelous job, but if I could do it why should I let somebody else finish it when I can do it myself.
What’s the scene you’re filming today?
ZS: This is after the revelation of who she really is and what she’s been trying to do the entire movie. She has that confrontation with Clay. They have a lot to deal with right now because there is a very strong attraction between these characters. Because of the circumstances that are going to bind them for the rest of their lives, I don’t know where the possibilities of them making it as a personal relationship… It’s pretty fucked up.
You’re in Star Trek which is a franchise and this could be a franchise. How is it for you to sign on to both which could be multi-picture things.
ZS: I don’t get that far. I wish I was one of those actors that is very business-oriented, but I live day-to-day, project to project, character to character. I just want to play characters that are different from the ones I played on recent films and continue growing. And if they happen to be a three picture deal that ends up helping me pay my mortgage for three more years, then ding ding ding ding, but I don’t get as far as thinking about that.
How excited are you to go back to Star Trek?
ZS: Well, they’re perks. Besides the financial perks of signing onto films that turn into franchises is that you get to work with the actors and the directors all over again. Sometimes I almost feel like a three month experience for something that will last forever is not fair for the actor. Because what you guys get to watch, that’s for you. The part of shooting the movie, that’s for me. I take all those memories and that experience with me. And to get to go back to Star Trek and see Chris’ baby blue eyes and get to kiss Spock, Zachory and to work with J.J. I couldn’t have been in a better environment from the writers to the producers. To get to relive that experience in another adventure in space… I’m not looking forward to the dress though. It just means I have to hit the gym two months before we start shooting, so I’m not looking forward to that.
How much do the tattoos and the metal help throw you into the character?
ZS: Against my will. I read the comic, I knew the kind of person Aisha was but, you can say, an actor can say, ‘I don’t put myself in my roles.’ You fucking do and you have to steer yourself apart from the role. And Sylvan fought me tooth and nail for all this metal. I was like, ‘I don’t know, it’s slutty. It’s kind of dirty’ and Sylvan was like, ‘Trust me Zoe. She has it in the comic. She is a feisty person, she lives on the edge. Separate youself.’ I’m like, ‘I’m totally separate from Aisha, but I wasn’t until everything came on and the camera test and I had the gun and all the tattoos. I was so stoked. It all made sense.
Is there a story behind any of the tattoos?
ZS: No. My research drove me to believe that if she’s a spy, if she’s like a lethal weapon, the worst thing you can do is tattoo yourself because you’re just branding yourself and they can find you. But in a manner I don’t think she really cares, gives a shit about that. This can all easily be covered and this can be taken off. So that was where my analytical research part came in. Sylvan was like, ‘There are certain things I can part with us not being completely similar to the comic and certain things I need to have. Trust me it’s all going to make sense.’ And it really did.
Was there anything you took from the graphic novel that connected with you that you made your own?
ZS: There’s one image of her when she stabs this man and she licks the knife. I mean, it just lets me know the kind of person that she is. That even though she has a principal of always trying to make justice for women and children and whatever seems wrong or whatever. She’s also ruthless, a ruthless fucking assassin. And I like that about her. There’s a masculinity that she has that she doesn’t compromise herself. She’s a savage animal, I like that.
Do you get to play out the scene you just mentioned on film?
ZS: No, it’s PG-13.
Did you read the reaction to Avatar day?
ZS: I was here at one of the theaters when they showed 60 minutes and had some press go by and it was just amazing. I had scene 25 minutes of the film earlier in the summer when we all went to the Expo for Fox. They were inviting everybody from the studio and we all went there and we showed those 25 minutes and it was just absolutely amazing. To see the shock that people are having now. I’m not getting cocky with it, not at all. Quite the opposite. It’s expected. I have a same face. I’m like, ‘Of course you’re going to be like that, I’m like that and I was in it.’
How is playing in the boys club?
ZS: I don’t know what it is. I really like, I seem very, very feminine on the outside. But on the inside I’m having a hard time understanding. I never take off my jeans in my mind, I never stop burping. I have no class whatsoever. I look like I do and that’s fine, that’s all I need. For some reason I keep gravitating towards films where I’m the only woman and it’s kind of hot.
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