Not every actor in Hollywood can say that they are involved with multiple highly successful movie franchises, but Zoe Saldaña — one of the highest grossing movie stars of all time – certainly can. The celebrated Afro-Latina actor and dancer was born in Passaic New Jersey to a Dominican father and a Puerto Rican mother, and even lived in the Dominican Republic from the ages of 10 to 17, making her a great representative of our diverse society. She is exactly the kind of successful leader in the film industry and community that AMC Theatres Council on the AMC Latinx Experience seeks to showcase.
Zoe Saldaña is an advocate for DEI, both in the film industry and society as a whole. The actor founded BESE, a media platform aimed at promoting positive stories about the Latino Community, and in an open letter, Saldaña shared that “BESE is about brazenly celebrating identity and generating conversation about what American means to all the communities of a country I’m proud to be a part of.”
Her dedication to her culture makes us proud to be able to be call her a “Geek Goddess,” thanks to an astonishing career of some truly “out of this world” roles, — including Uhura in STAR TREK, Neytiri in AVATAR, and Gamora in Marvel’s cosmic — and comical — series that is said to be coming to a close with one of the most highly anticipated movies coming to AMC Theatres in 2023, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3. In honor of this monumental occasion, we pay tribute to the three popular franchise characters who have taken Zoe Saldaña into outer space — starting with her iconic, green-skinned warrior.
Guardians Of The Galaxy, Gamora
Years of action movie roles – such as the title character of 2011’s COLOMBIANA – and a comic book flick – the DC-inspired THE LOSERS from 2010 – already made Zoe Saldaña a prime candidate to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe by the time she was cast in 2014’s GUARDIANS OF GALAXY. Yet, little did unsuspecting moviegoers realize that she would end up playing, not just a badass hero, but one of the most complex characters in the MCU thus far.
Raised since childhood by one of the most sinister villains from the GOTG trilogy, Thanos (Josh Brolin), Gamora was trained to be a deadly warrior and carried out many despicable acts in service to her adoptive father, until the day she decided to defy him and use her skills for good, setting her on the path of forming the Guardians of the Galaxy with Peter “Star-Lord” Quill (Chris Pratt) – who would become her lover – Drax (Dave Baustista), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel). As the most earnest member in the titular group’s original lineup, Saldaña brings a refreshingly realistic quality to the role – especially in a heartbreaking moment from AVENGERS: ENDGAME – that is key to helping the audience relate to and admire the otherwise bizarre characters.
Years before she donned green skin to play Gamora, Saldaña donned blue skin – courtesy of cutting-edge performance capture technology and not makeup – to play yet another audacious, skilled extra-terrestrial warrior in James Cameron’s visually stunning box office juggernaut from 2009, AVATAR. However, despite their similarities, the 10-foot-tall Neytiri could not be more different from the actor’s GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY role.
Based on her emotionally grounded performance, it is clear Saldaña is extremely dedicated to the role of Neytiri, who is extremely dedicated to her Na’vi tribe, the Omatikaya, as seen in her proficient mentoring of soon-to-be-former “sky person” Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) in their ways, which led to them falling in love in the process. As we learn in the 2022 follow-up, AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER, she and Jake now have a whole family of their own, whose story is far from over, as Cameron has three more chapters of this epic saga in the works.
Star Trek, Uhura
For Saldaña’s first major role in a science fiction franchise, she assumed the reins of one of the genre’s most groundbreaking characters – Lt. Nyota Uhura, who was initially played on the original “Star Trek” TV show by the late Nichelle Nichols. While Saldaña’s portrayal would retain many of the same signature traits of the character’s premiere iteration, she added her own layers of complexity to ensure her version would stand out on its own as one of the long-running, iconic franchise’s most beloved roles.
Uhura may be a mere human, but is undeniably just as much of a tough, intelligent, and bold presence as the aliens Saldaña has played in sci-fi movies. Her resilience and various skills – including the ability to speak Klingon – make her an invaluable addition to the U.S.S. Enterprise crew and a key element to the success of J.J. Abrams’ series of STAR TREK movies.
We must say that it is a little surprising, considering her reputation so far, that Saldaña has never been in a STAR WARS movie, or even a TV spinoff series, especially with her connections to both J.J. Abrams and Disney. However, as the galaxy far, far away only continues to expand, it is still very much a possibility. Until then, we can look forward to watching the actress as Neytiri in Cameron’s upcoming follow-ups to AVATAR, hope to see more of her as Uhura in another STAR TREK sequel and be thankful to have seen her explore the outer reaches of space as Gamora in the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY franchise.