Zoe Saldana, co-star of the "Guess Who" Movie!
Rarely do beauty and talent combine in a form so complimentary to each other than in the case of actress Zoe Saldana. Whether gracefully gliding across the stage in dance, pounding the boards in a play, or lighting up the screen in such popular films as Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, the multi-faceted Saldana seems capable of achieving anything she puts her mind to. The New Jersey native was raised in Queens until the age of ten, when her family relocated to the Dominican Republic. The move proved a fateful blessing when young Saldana discovered her love of dance and enrolled in the Ritmos Espacio de Danza Academy shortly thereafter, where she would study ballet, jazz, and modern Latin dance. Following her sophomore year in high school, Saldana and her family returned to the U.S. It was while completing her primary studies stateside that Saldana became involved with the Faces theater troupe, whose aim was to make a positive impact on teenage audiences by performing improvisational skits on such issues as substance abuse and sexuality. Involvement with another troupe, the New York Youth Theater, provided more traditional stage experience through such productions as Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, and it was while performing with that troupe that a talent agent recognized great potential in the burgeoning actress. In 1999, Saldana received what seemed to be the ideal first film role when she was cast as a talented but snippy dancer vying for a spot at the fictional American Ballet Company in the dance drama Center Stage. Other film roles followed, including Get Over It, Snipes, and a featured part in the Britney Spears teen drama Crossroads, which offered Saldana's first major theatrical release. Widely panned by critics but performing moderately at the box office thanks to legions of Spears fans, Crossroads proved just the fuel needed to get Saldana's struggling feature career running. The following year, she was back on the big screen in Drumline, which found her once again utilizing her dance skills as a college dance major and love interest of the talented but conflicted protagonist. Though her subsequent role as the sole female pirate in Pirates of the Caribbean offered little screen time, her performance as the only woman able to cast a spell over Johnny Depp's charismatic Jack Sparrow offered one of the film's most memorable comic scenes. Back on the indie circuit, Saldana headlined the 2003 rock musical Temptation as a talented singer facing hard times. A brief turn as a by-the-books customs officer in Steven Spielberg's The Terminal found the charming Saldana slowly warming to an immigrant stuck in bureaucratic limbo (played by Tom Hanks), and with six major roles scheduled through 2005, audiences could rest assured that they would be seeing plenty more of the talented young actress in the very near future.
After years of living in Queens with her mother and two sisters, Zoe is finally moving on up to a deluxe apartment in the sky. "Actually," she says, "I'm moving to Greenwich Village."
There's Something About Zoe Saldana
She made her first movie in 2000, smacked Johnny Depp in the face in "Pirates of the Caribbean" and looked great in a uniform in "Terminal." Now, Zoë Saldaña, at the ripe old age of 26, has her first real star turn, with Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac, in Kevin Rodney Sullivan's "Guess Who" — a contemporary take on 1967's groundbreaking interracial-romance film, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner."
On top of all that, she has three other films on the way this year (two of which are based in the Dominican Republic, where her family is from), and is taking the reins for the first time as a producer. MTV News' Carolyn Davis talked with Saldaña about hard work, what's sexy, and the enduring appeal of playing dress-up.
MTV: Did you see "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" before filming "Guess Who"?
Zoë Saldaña: Yes, years ago. It's one of my favorite films. But none of us felt that we were doing a remake. If anything, we felt we were inspired by the film to tell the story again in a different way.
MTV: Do you prefer comedy to drama?
Saldaña: I prefer drama. It's my forté. I like comedy, but I just don't think I'm cut out for it. I can cry in a second. I don't think I can make people laugh as fast.
MTV: Are there particular actors or actresses who have influenced you?
Saldaña: I tend to love character actors: John C. Reilley, Cate Blanchett — and Charlize Theron, a woman I respect so much because her beauty is so overpowering, but it's never overshadowed her potential as an actor. But I don't want to have anybody's career but my own.
MTV: What's the most fun thing about being in movies?
Saldaña: Everything. I live in the world of make-believe for three months. Let's say I'm in my pirate costume, and I need to slap Jack Sparrow. That character Johnny Depp created [in "Pirates of the Caribbean"] was so fascinating, and helped me so much as Annamaria, so that slap was from Annamaria to Jack Sparrow, not from me to Johnny. It's amazing what a costume can do. You put on a tutu, and you're walking with such delicacy and fragility, and then you put on a pirate costume, and you're a pirate.
MTV: What new films do you have coming up?
Saldaña: There's a movie I shot in the Dominican Republic, "La Maldición del Padre Cardona." Then there's "Constellation," which I shot right before "Guess Who." That's with Billy Dee Williams. I did a film called "Haven" with Orlando Bloom that's still in negotiations for distribution. And this summer I'm co-producing my [currently untitled] first film. It's going to be shot in the Dominican Republic. All my family is there.
MTV: With roots there, do you identify as a black Latina?
Saldaña: Why the hell do we have to sub-categorize? I know who I am. I'm Zoë. I'm done.
MTV: Still, have you found that you have to go outside of the studio system to find good roles?
Saldaña: It's the same thing as if you want to excel in school: you have to study. You can't just go tell the teacher, "I want an A." You have to fight for roles that you want — and then sometimes they come easily. Steven Spielberg asked to meet me for "Terminal" because he had been watching me. It was amazing to know that I was right about him all along, that he does his homework. He really is a movie fanatic. He will never stop being an audience member, because he loves watching films.
MTV: What was Ashton like? Were you scared he would punk you?
Saldaña: Those doubts did cross my mind, and I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one, the first week of shooting. But he is so committed. He was doing his job.
MTV: The film deals with racially charged issues and situations. Was it awkward shooting certain scenes where that was front-and-center?
Saldaña: I thought it would be. But we made sure in our rehearsals that we got to know each other and that we knew where we were coming from. We all had the same objective, which was just to get this message across.
MTV: What was it like kissing Ashton?
Saldaña: I never kissed him: My character kissed his character. They were in love. Kevin [the director] was like, "Theresa, Simon, give me amazing kisses! We need to nominate the sh-- out of this kiss for the MTV Awards!"
MTV: What music do you listen to these days?
Saldaña: Right now I'm listening to a lot of Spanish music. Robi Draco Rosa, Jorge Drexler [Oscar-winner for "The Motorcycle Diaries"] and Sylvio Rodriguez, a Cuban singer. And I always have blues on my playlist. I love Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Billie Holiday.
MTV: Who do you look forward to working with?
Saldaña: I've been dying to work with Mira Nair [director of "Mississippi Masala," "Monsoon Wedding," etc.]. I love the way she tells stories. Also, Alfonso Cuarón, the director of "Y Tu Mama También," and Pedro Almodóvar, who is everyone's favorite to work with.
MTV: Finally: do you know what you're wearing to the "Guess Who" premiere?
Saldaña: Yes, I'm wearing a Narciso Rodriguez dress, jewelry by Erica Courtney and shoes by Chanel. I don't like taking off my jeans. But I always listen to my mom, because she always tells me to dress more womanish. She says, "Damn, child! You know how hard I worked to create you. That body? You didn't just come up with it. I did, so flaunt it." If you feel sexy, it's going to come out of your pores. Sexuality comes from within, not from your [breasts] and your booty.
Zoe Saldana Talks About "Guess Who"
Interview with Zoe Saldana from the Hollywood Premiere of "Guess Who"
Zoe Saldana ("The Terminal") stars in the Columbia Pictures comedy, "Guess Who," opposite Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher. Loosely based on "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," this version finds Saldana's character bringing home a guy her dad definitely doesn't approve of.
Joining her "Guess Who" co-stars for the movie's Hollywood Premiere, Saldana confessed starring opposite the two very funny actors was quite a challenge. Playing Bernie Mac's daughter and Ashton Kutcher's girlfriend required a lot of self-control to keep it together during takes.
INTERVIEW WITH ZOE SALDANA (‘Theresa’):
How would you describe your character?
I play Theresa who is Bernie’s daughter. I was raised by an amazing father who taught me to just love the world for what it is. I come home and I bring him the fruits of his labor - and he falls off his chair.
How was life on the set with Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher?
It was amazing. I’ve admired them and respected them for a very long time for who they are and where they’ve come from, and where they are right now. It was great to meet them and to know that I was right there with them. They’re so talented and they’re so nice. They have the ability, the God-given gift, to be great comedians. I learned a lot. I have two new friends that I’m crazy about and I have a new film I’m eager to promote.
Who was it tougher to work with as far as not being able to stop laughing during takes?
Who was the hardest to work with? I can’t say. They were both the same – they were both horrible to work with! Sometimes just looking at their faces, I couldn’t keep my own [straight]. I’d have to walk away and sort of breathe a little. [Director Kevin Rodney Sullivan] would tell me to take my time, but I was hysterical. I would just get the giggles because they would just look at me all [serious] like this, “What? I’m not doing anything.” And that was hysterical to me. It was just so much fun. They’re so talented and so amazing at what they do, and very professional at the same time, so it was a great experience. I learned a lot and I have two great friends.
Did they ever stick to the script?
Of course they did. We all did, but we brought in our essence, you know? Because it is a topic that is so real that everyone needs to personalize it in some way or another, in order for you to bring the characters to life. And Kevin gave us that freedom, which was so amazing.
What’s the message of “Guess Who?”
It’s a great message. It asks the children to love unconditionally and be passionate about everything they do. To parents that have children to question themselves about how open they are and how much unconditional love they do give their kids. It’s a lesson about life. If we can get those topics to be brought into family conversations, then we can use that.
You’ve been really busy working this past year, haven’t you?
Yes, I have a couple of films like “Haven,” which was directed by Frank E. Flowers, with Orlando Bloom that’s coming out. I play Andrea and it’s sort of like a very ensemble film. It’s very beautiful. We’re waiting on distribution for that. It premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last year. I have “Constellation” that was directed by Jordan Walker-Pearlman that premiered a month ago at the Pan African Film Festival. And this summer I’m producing my very first film. A foreign film - the Dominican Republic – directed by Felix German. It’s a very amazing film. I’m very excited about it.
Will you be in “Pirates of the Caribbean 2?”
I don’t know. If they call, that will be fantastic. If they don’t, I was in the first one and I got to slap Johnny Depp. I can take that to my grave (laughing).
'Guess Who' has issues
Ashton Kutcher, who famously is dating an older woman, now takes on interracial relationships in his new big-screen comedy, Guess Who. This remake of the 1967 Spencer Tracy/Sidney PoitierGuess Who's Coming to Dinner casts Kutcher as a white guy who falls for Bernie Mac's black daughter. It opens March 25.
"Souls don't have a color," Kutcher noted at the premiere Sunday night. Upon arriving, Kutcher, 27, quickly hurried his 42-year-old lady love, Demi Moore, into Grauman's Chinese Theatre before returning to the red carpet for interviews.
Ten minutes earlier, Moore's ex-husband, Bruce Willis, had entered the theater, seemingly solo.
Kutcher wore a small, black leather pouch around his neck, which he described as "my secret."
"Kutch," who also is a producer on the film, will cross-promote Guess Who on his popular MTV prank show, Punk'd, by playing a practical joke on his Guess Who girlfriend, Zoe Saldana.
"We got Zoe good," he said of the episode, which is set to air Sunday night. Although he didn't want to give away the whole prank, Kutcher said it's in keeping with Guess Who's interracial dating theme. "Zoe gets a little offended and uses a lot of swear words."
Saldana apparently has been well trained to keep her lips locked. On the red carpet, she denied that she had been punk'd, and when asked whether it was at all awkward kissing Kutcher with girlfriend Moore on the set, said: "I'm not going to talk about someone's private life. When you're shooting a movie, you're getting paid to be completely professional."
Her movie dad, Mac, meanwhile, has been battling health problems, including a toothache that forced an early exit from Saturday's Guess Who media junket. But Sunday, Mac was back to his hearty, healthy self. Dressed in a dapper camel-colored Woody Wilson suit, Mac said prejudice against interracial couples has become a thing of the past.
"My brother dated white girls, but my family didn't have any problem with it because my grandmother didn't teach (racism)," Mac said. "Now, ain't nobody tripping over that issue."
Mac's wife in the film is played by Judith Scott. Though Scott has no daughters, she said she'd be thrilled if her pet beagle, Homer, brought Kutcher home for dinner.
"I don't think I'd kick Ashton out," Scott said. "Ashton would probably walk Homer, keep the house clean and bring home the bacon. It would be a wonderfully modern interspecies relationship."
Multi-talented Zoe Saldana
Zoe Saldana got to kiss Orlando Bloom. Sure, there are far more important facets of the young actress' blossoming career, but we had to start with the one that would resonate most.
In the upcoming indie flick Haven, Saldana plays a young woman from a wealthy family in the Cayman Islands who falls for Bloom (also her costar in last summer's smash Pirates of the Caribbean) against her parents' wishes. Needless to say, sparks fly.
"If I had it a certain way, I'd never shoot love scenes," confesses the 25-year-old. "They might seem steamy and beautiful, but there are so many people in the room, so many things going on."
Okay, but what about the kissing? "It wasn't bad," she says with a smirk. "I didn't mind."
She also didn't mind taking on the role of a United States Customs officer in Steven Spielberg's new flick The Terminal, in which Tom Hanks plays an immigrant from an Eastern European country who is refused entry into the United States. "I play the kind of character who tries to make it very difficult for Tom's character at first," she explains.
Saldana first came to attention after she parlayed seven years of ballet training into the role of a dancer in the 2001 film Center Stage. From there, she took on roles in Drumline and the Britney Spears vehicle Crossroads. But Pirates costar Geoffrey Rush was the actor who made the biggest impression: "Maybe because I was drawn more to the type of actor he is and how he goes about things," she says. "I love his work."
Still, it's her mother's sage words she keeps in mind for most situations. "Anything she tells me is good," she explains. "Even when she calls me an idiot."
Zoe Saldana: beware, silly superheroes: this tough-talking damsel in demand can take care of herself
Ah, nerve--is there a better quality in a young actress? Just look at Zoe Saldana, who debuted to acclaim as an unlikeable diva in 2000's Center Stage and most recently busted cannonballs as the prettiest swashbuckler in Johnny Depp's Pirates of the Caribbean crew. Now she's breaking free of teen and family fare as a red tape-wielding INS agent opposite Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones in Steven Spielberg's latest film, The Terminal.
A native New Yorker, Saldana moved with her "hippie" mother to the Dominican Republic at age 10, following her father's death. Her upbringing was anything but conventional, with the family celebrating Christmas every March once Morn studied the calendar and reconsidered the potential for historical discrepancies. As for acting, her mother's influence once again loomed large: "I didn't want to go to college, and my mother said, 'Well, you'd better think of something to do,'" recalls the 26-year-old. "So I said, 'Okay, Morn, I'll try acting.'"
Six films later and now sparring with Hollywood heavyweights, Saldana is hitting her stride despite the movie industry's penchant for typecasting. "I don't understand labels. I don't need anybody to tell me I'm Latina or black or anything else. I've played characters that were written for Caucasian females," Saldana notes, adding, "I just want to be given the same consideration as everybody else, and so far that has been happening."
Next up is the indie thriller Haven, in which Saldana plays a teenage drug addict opposite Orlando Bloom, and she's preparing to play the title character, a West Indian nanny to New York WASPs, in Lucy. After that, she'd like to try her hand at some action movies--but only on one condition: "I'd rather quit this business than constantly play the girlfriend of the action hero," she says. "In real life, if Spider-Man always came to the rescue, after a point I'd be like, 'Come on, man, I can do it myself!'"
Zoe Saldana: "Crossroads"
Zoe Saldana (Kit)
What was the casting process like for this film?
Taryn, being that she lives here in Los Angeles, met with Britney. Britney did her reading with her. I just had to fly from New York and put myself on tape. By the time I got the film - I met Britney after the contract was already done and I had signed. There was no turning back.
Have you been hanging out with Britney?
To be honest with you, if her album wasn't going to be released right after we wrapped the film, we would have had more time. We have been playing phone tag. Taryn and I and Anson have had the opportunity to hang out more. But by the time we wrapped, Britney was just getting off of one project and jumping into another. It was impossible for us to just hang out.
Did you all stick together during the filming?
Sometimes we would just wrap for the day, and keep driving with our make-up on. Sometimes even in the outfits we were wearing. We'd go into New Orleans and hang out.
The three girls all have key scenes and key lines in the film. Were you happy with your character's involvement in scenes?
Tamra Davis and the editor, Melissa (Kent), guaranteed us from the beginning that they were going to be as truthful to the script as possible, and give every story its justice. I think Britney also wanted it to be that way; she didn't want a film about Britney Spears. She just wanted to do a film about friendship. I think that the staff - like Tamra the director, and Melissa, and (producer) Ann Carli - are highly responsible for that and for that, I'm eternally grateful.
Did you point out things in the script that teenagers might not say or do?
Every time an adult is going to write something for a teenager and you don't have, physically, a person who is that, you are always going to be a little off. They were very open and that caught me by surprise.
Taryn said that there was a scene at the hotel where the three girls flash, but that it was cut from the finished film. Why do you think it was cut?
They just didn't understand what the purpose of it was. It was not to just go over with the exposure. It was about when you are together and you seal something, and you re-bond something that has been lost. You sometimes do something to restart it. It was a together thing. Us flashing would have meant something like us cutting our fingers and uniting them. I think people do that.
Was there much singing on the set?
They (Taryn and Britney) were always singing on the set. The great thing was that Taryn had her CD - her demo tape - and we would always listen to it and I would always ask her to sing my favorite song, which is “Wasting My Time.” You guys will have the privilege of listening to that this summer. Her album is awesome.
Do you think the movie skirts the rape issue by never calling it a rape?
I think that it was very much out there and sometimes you don't need a label in order for you to know what it's about. Sometimes I think we are too caught up with a title, and not caught up with the whole message. I think it was purposely intended to be that way. Had we set about that it's about rape, I think we would have lost half of its audience. Because certain people just consider not talking about an issue, actually solving the issue. It was just a way of like promoting the film in order for people just to see it and not be completely shut off just to know, from the beginning, that we are going to be dealing with the rape issue here.
What is “Drumline?”
That's the film I just finished for Fox. It's directed by Charles Stone III and it's basically about the drum bands in the South - you know, the football teams from the colleges? It's really awesome and it's co-produced by Dallas Austin, the big music producer. It's partially about his life and it's going to be a really big film. We are really excited. Jive Records is doing the soundtrack as of yesterday, and I'm really excited about that.