Zoe Saldana plays the role of Gamora in Marvel’s upcoming ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. No stranger to action in space, the actress turns green and mean in this latest epic adventure that sees her teaming up with a group of unlikely heroes to save the galaxy.
After the success of ‘Avatar’ and ‘Star Trek’ in 2009, Saldana has become a household name in the sci-fi genre. From playing Neytiri to taking on the role of Uhura at the communications helm of the Enterprise, she has built up an international fan base, and is at the forefront of her career.
Following on from ‘Star Trek : Into Darkness’, Saldana has been working hard behind-the-scenes to train for her role in Marvel’s latest action adventure, which completed post-production at the beginning of July.
In this interview, Saldana highlights the challenges she faced in playing Gamora, the arduous makeup process, working with chris Pratt and her admiration for director James Gunn. She also talks about how she wanted to raise the bar for actresses who wish to pursue a career in the film industry, the importance of her character and how she hopes her work on-screen will set a standard.
‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ comes out in cinemas August 1.
Interview with Zoe Saldana
Were you a fan of the Marvel franchise prior to signing on to Marvel’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’? Were you familiar with the comics?
Zoe: No, I was not familiar with them. I didn’t grow up with an affinity for reading comic books. I grew up in an all girls environment. That said though, I’ve always had an affinity for unimaginable stories; simple stories that are told in unimaginable places. That obviously enters the category of science fiction and that’s where Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” comes in.
What was it that attracted you to Marvel’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’?
Zoe: James Gunn, the director. I read the script and I was very fascinated with the world. I did feel that the female character needed a little work, but then when I got on the phone with James, we spoke for two hours and it was a great conversation and he had the same feeling. So I felt like I was going to be in good hands and everything else about the story was fascinating to me—even the fact that I would have to go through four to five hours of makeup every morning. I was very inquisitive about that because I had never had that experience. I always like to do new things.
How did you connect with Gamora?
Zoe: I don’t have anything similar to Gamora, obviously, but I was very moved by her being an orphan and being taken violently from her home and being subjected to a life of violence. Therefore, she grows up to be this stealth assassin. But she has a heart of gold and really just wants to break away and become free.
How did she fall into this storyline and become part of the team?
Zoe: In the first act of the movie, you have reservations about what she will mean to you for the rest of the story because she’s relentless, she’s lethal and she’s working for the dark side, and she’s not really allowing her cards to be read that freely with the people that she’s working with. It’s not until the end of act two that you realize that this girl really just wants to be good and she has a conscience and she can’t really run away from it. I felt that was really fascinating and she’s a very important tool when it comes to the Guardians. They’re all dudes, so therefore, they’re just into whatever it is that they’re doing and they just want to get what they need. For Rocket and for Groot that is to just collect their money because they’re bounty hunters. They are there to collect their bounty for Quill, so it’s all about money.
For Quill it’s all about breaking away from this person that he was raised with, but he is all about money as well. He’s a thief; he doesn’t really care about people, because nobody’s really cared about him. Then Drax is mourning the loss of his family and all he seeks is revenge. They’re all stuck in their own world and Gamora is the one that wants them to snap out of it. She definitely plays an important role in making the boys see what’s happening and getting a conscience.
They’re a group of unlikely heroes that need to work together. What is their goal once they do come together?
Zoe: Their goals are revenge and money and freedom and things like that, but deep, deep down they want to belong to a family. All of them want to belong to a unit and they come to terms. They face that reality by going through catastrophic events that threaten their own lives and others and that’s what I felt was very endearing. In the end they end up adopting each other and I really like that about the story.
What would you say is Gamora’s relationship with Ronan and Nebula and their tie to Thanos?
Zoe: It’s rocky. I feel like the role that Thanos plays in this particular story, when it comes to The Guardians, reveals a lot about who he is and his thirst for power. These were people that were meant for the dark side, regardless. So Thanos didn’t really rip them apart from their world. He brought them into the world that they were eventually going to end up in and Gamora just doesn’t see it because she just sees everything that they’ve gone through as children. They were violently abducted and forced into battle and Gamora is the only one who wants to break away from it. But if she shows an ounce of fear, even her own siblings will turn on her. You can’t really trust anybody because everybody is out for themselves. That’s the hierarchy and the energy that Thanos has established in the household.
What has it been like working with Chris Pratt?
Zoe: I have so much respect for what Chris has done because it’s like how I feel about the craft as well. If you want something really bad and you understand this character, then that means that you’re willing to assume any responsibility or duty that comes with it. And Chris has definitely embodied that role. I have a lot of respect for that. He’s a very considerate and serious actor who understands what he has to do for a part and he’s willing to put the work into it.
We see some great banter between the two characters, but your first encounter is an action scene. What would you say was the physicality of the role?
Zoe: Their first encounter is rough. Gamora really raises the bar for Quill to catch up. They’re sworn enemies and they’re after what they want, so they’re going to be fierce creatures about it. So you’re meeting them at their best and at their worst and that’s what I love most about that scene, when they meet at the shopping district in Xandar.
When it comes to training, I am getting older, so it’s becoming a little like homework. But I like it…as a woman who grew up loving action movies and films that were set in supernatural, unimaginable places. I take being a woman in the film industry who is able to do action movies very seriously because I’m making the kind of movies that I wanted to watch as I was a kid and that inspired me and are the reason as to why I am here. I really hope that this raises the bar and also sets a standard for the future generations of women who want to pursue a life in this profession. They don’t have to just be the damsels in distress. They can actually do a Marvel movie and play a badass character if they’re willing to put the work into it because it’s tons of fun. The reward is better than getting compliments like, “Oh you look so good in that movie.” But hearing, “You kicked ass in that movie,” that’s different. Women are meant to be pretty but we’re not really meant to be powerful. So when I am considered powerful with what I do, I regard that very seriously.
It also entailed a lot of weapons training. Did you enjoy that?
Zoe: I did. I don’t take no as an answer. So wherever I’m told that women can’t go past this point, you might as well just wave the green flag and tell me to go, because I’m off. They’re not expecting you to come and put in all this work and sweat and dedication and limitless rehearsals to achieve becoming stealth at weapons and things like that. I love it because I’m doing something that is unorthodox for women, but it’s so much fun. It’s so much fun to know how to shoot a gun and to deal with a sword and kick and fight. It’s liberating. It’s a lot of work but then again going to the gym and doing cardio is just as much work. I’m obsessed with it. I love it.
Were there any challenges in the makeup process?
Zoe: It’s a 5 a.m. pick-up, then five hours of make-up and prosthetics. It was challenging because we were trying to find the right green for Gamora. We wanted something that wouldn’t put people off but was also vibrant and youthful and would engage people without losing the element that she is an alien. And once we find the right color, how do we make it stay without hurting my skin? When I tried on the wardrobe, it rubbed the makeup off because you’re using leathers and fabrics that make the body sweat. Fortunately, we were working with the most amazing people, who have done Marvel movies before and also have done special effects makeup and have worked with different types of skin. So any kind of inquiry that we had was easily solved just with the desire to reach that solution and that to me was amazing. I didn’t really have to worry at all when it came to this movie.
The general movie-going audience isn’t familiar with the characters in Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Do you feel like you are bringing something special to the big screen?
Zoe: I really do. These characters are renegades; they’re radicals; they’re rolling stones; they’re the forgotten. Nobody pays attention to them. They are the thieves, the bounty hunters and the neglected children that just want to get away. All of a sudden they find each other and by messing things up they end up rescuing the galaxy from total catastrophe. That’s what I love most about the script; it isn’t a typical Super Hero movie. These characters are super immature and they have a lot of growing up to do, but they’re all heart and James Gunn is very honest about that and I honestly feel that he’s the best director to be steering this ship. He understands all the super big things about the movie, but he knows the heart of it so well and he’s being very loyal to that.
Special thanks: Marvel / Italia Film International