A lot has changed in the life of Dominican beauty Zoe Saldana. From her break-out role as the best friend of pop princess Britney Spears in Crossroads, to playing a sexy siren who got to slap the taste out of co-star Johnny Depp’s mouth in Pirates of the Caribbean, there is something about Zoe that makes audiences want more.
Born in New Jersey, Zoe was raised first in Queens, New York then in the Dominican Republic, where she studied ballet and various forms of dance at the Espacio de Danza Academy before returning to the United States for high school. Her first major motion picture role was actually as a ballerina in the film Center Stage, followed by an appearance in Get Over It with Kirsten Dunst. She became a member of the New York theater group FACES, which performs skits directed at teenagers to open up conversation about drug abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault. All of her hard work began to pay off with more scripts being passed her way, and her role in the phenomenally successful film Drumline set Zoe firmly in the ranks of hot Hollywood ladies.
Now starring in the new film Guess Who alongside the King Of Comedy, Bernie Mac, and the prince of Punk’d, Ashton Kutcher, Saldana is continuing her path of box office success. AllHipHop.com Alternatives got a chance to talk with Ms. Saldana about sex, love and what makes her tick.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: I got a chance to see you on Punk’d with Ashton. How did you feel, and was it before or after you shot Guess Who?
Zoe: What was funny is, it was way after. We wrapped Guess Who last summer, and that was done a few months ago – so it took him that long to get me.
AHHA: Well, at least we know you are a ride or die friend.
Zoe: Yeah, [laughs] and what’s even more hilarious is that one of my guy friends called and said that I am his chick for life because of the way I reacted.
AHHA: Yeah, it was serious. Now let’s talk about Guess Who. You play Teresa Jones, who falls in love with a white stock broker [played by Ashton Kutcher]. Was that a stretch from your actual dating life?
Zoe: Not really, as far as dating someone who wasn’t Black or Spanish. Truthfully, I don’t look at someone for their color, because if they are a good person, they are a good person; that’s just how I was raised. So when I see a guy, I don’t think,’Wow, he’s a fine Black guy’ or whatever, I just think, ‘He’s a cool guy’.
AHHA: How was it working with Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac? Was it hard to keep your composure?
Zoe: It was great! They are so hilarious and such talented actors, I learned a lot from them. As far as keeping cool and not laughing my ass off, no I didn’t do a good job because they are just too funny. But I loved working with them, we had fun.
AHHA: I hear that you teamed up with Orlando Bloom again for a new film called Haven. How was it working with him and what is Haven about?
Zoe: Working with Orlando was great. I remember when we met on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean, we were just two kids happy to make it. Now we have grown a lot, both personally and industry-wise, so we met up and we’re like, ‘Let’s have lunch’. [laughs]. Haven to me is a great film, we are in the process now of looking for a studio to house the film. It’s about two people who are on this beach and they are there to just escape, you know, get away from everything in their everyday lives.
AHHA: With a lot of Hip-Hop stars getting into acting, is there anyone that you would like to work with?
Zoe: I would love to work with someone like Nas or Andre 3000, because Nas is so poetic with his rhymes and I feel he could really bring something to the art. But, I would really love to work with [Andre 3000], he is so fine.[laughs] I love the fact that he is so experimental [with his music] and it’s just something about him, I would work with him anytime. [laughs]
AHHA: I hear that you are stepping into the producers chair by producing your first independent film, Dias Duesperte. How is it taking on the role?
Zoe: It’s cool, but a lot of hard work. We are actually in the process of wrapping up the script, and I am flying to the Dominican Republic where the film will take place to do casting and all that stuff, so we can start filming hopefully this summer.
AHHA: What is the movie about?
Zoe: It’s about the children in the Dominican Republic who are starving and are very poverty stricken. It’s basically giving you an up close and personal look into what a day in their life is like. We ended up choosing to shoot the film in the Dominican Republic, because that is where both the director and I are from.
AHHA: That’s pretty deep…
Zoe: Yeah, it just shows that anyone can make a difference, but that celebrities need to use their money and star power to go towards something more than just shoes and things like that. I like shoes and things too, but instead of buying a $400 pair of shoes, buy a $150 pair and donate the rest, because there are kids out there who can really use a hot meal and warm clothes – and they need it way more than we do.
AHHA: Are you planning on debuting your film at the PanAfrican Film Festival when it’s completed?
Zoe: I would love to debut my film at an independent festival, but I really want it to debut on a major level. That way it can reach a lot of people and really show the effects of world hunger. I just don’t want this film to be written off as another indie film that’s deep, because they are a dime a dozen. I really want this film to touch people in such a way that they give help.
AHHA: A lot of roles that you have done so far have been pretty safe, do you plan on doing any action films?
Zoe: Well, I would love to play in a film where the character is really dark. I think a lot of actors start off doing certain roles that appear to be safe, because they are basically building a resume’ of their abilities. But the flip side to that is if you do it too much, you could end up being type cast as whatever they see you as being. But yeah, eventually I am going to step out and do some off the wall type of characters.
AHHA: Getting back to the theme of Guess Who and you being an equal opportunity dater, what type of guy grabs your attention?
Zoe: Let’s talk about guys who don’t. [laughs] I hate it when guys call out to me like I am an animal. I find that really annoying. I feel that if a man wants to talk to me, then he should approach me like a lady and not yell out the window like a fool. I also hate it when guys just come up and grab me. When I was in Atlanta filming Drumline, we had went out to a club and I had on a cute skirt and this guy just grabbed my ass. [laughs] I am laughing now, but at the time I cussed him out. He stood up and he was like 6’6”, but I didn’t care because I was so mad. My friends had to pull me out the club.
AHHA: Let me find out we are going to be watching the news and see you beating up some man for touching you. [laughs]
Zoe: [laughs]I promise my friends are like I am going to get shot by someone because I have a bad mouth, but to me it’s all about saying how I feel. I don’t care, and I don’t back down from anything I believe in.
AHHA: What’s the worst pick up line you have ever heard?
Zoe: Oh my gosh, I have heard some dumb ones. I mean, they were so dumb I don’t even remember them because I try not to hold on to ignorant comments. But regardless of what they were, pick up lines just don’t work on me. I love a guy who is just himself. He has to believe in doing things equally and by that I mean letting me pay sometimes and valuing my opinion. If he isn’t stepping to me like that, then he might as well not step at all.
AHHA: I read in an interview that you don’t like to define yourself as being a Black nor Latina actress, nor do you have a preference on what you play. Do you find that people tend to focus on race too much?
Zoe: I think that we have come a long way from when that’s all people thought about, but I do feel that there is still a lot of ignorance out there. What I meant by the comment I said was that I am not going to let any role define me. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see Black Zoe or Spanish Zoe, I just see Zoe – and that’s all I expect other people to see when they are looking at me for a part or whatever. I mean it’s obvious that there is a lot of ignorance out there, it’s evident by what some people say. But I don’t let that stuff bother me. When I go up for roles, if they don’t want me because I’m Black, then “oh well” I am on to the next audition, because you know what? It’s their loss. I am going to keep being me regardless, because that’s all I know how to do.