Zoe Saldana is a gem. But don’t let the pretty face fool ya because when she’s green, she’s a mean machine, kicking butt during battle scenes in the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie as Gamora. I got the chance to sit down face-to-face with Zoe during a 4-day press junket in Los Angeles and talk about Gamora, being green and being a role model to little girls everywhere.
She says it means a lot to play a role that you women like her niece can be proud of. Yes Gamora is an assassin at first, but she shifts her cause to help do good for the Galaxy. “I wish there were more women like Angelina Jolie, Jessica Biel, myself, Zoe Bell that are, kind and just you know stepping up,” she said.
Zoe said playing the role has a purpose: “I just feel like it’s important because you’re giving women the information that this is something that they can entertain doing. Is not like, “Oh it’s out of the books, like I can’t even think about doing that?” It’s almost like when you tell little girls, “Oh you’re she– I’m a Princess. I’m a Princess. Did you know that you can also be the King?” And she’s like they would never think of being the King. It’s like you can be the King. You don’t have to be someone’s Princess.“
“Doing these roles it’s part of– it’s a very selfless thing. I’m an Artist and I I can only do things for me. But to know that it’s gonna’ have such a beautiful impact on young women it’s the selfless part of me.”
But wearing green contact lenses and green makeup and prosthetics wasn’t an easy thing to do for Zoe. First, the contacts made her look like a lizard so she ditched that idea, especially since her own eyes were more piercing and penetrable on screen.
The days were long filming. 5 months, 6 days a week and she says she would get hot and sweaty and the green makeup would melt and the makeup artists would constantly have to tweak it. At times she couldn’t even put her arms down because the 41/2-5 hour makeup job would melt and drip.
“It was green everywhere. Like on the pillow and the tub. My dog was green. [LAUGHS] It was crazy,” she said.
Zoe credit James Gunn for her decision to take on the role as Gamora.
“Mainly my decision came because of James Gunn. Um there’s just something about him that, I just– I don’t know. You talk to him and you just go, “He’s, he’s special. Like he knows what he’s doing.”
“There’s a confidence in his word that you know he’s gonna’ keep his word as well. He’s going to deliver and it felt really, really good. And that said I was like, “Okay how am I gonna’ make this character different from all the other action characters that I’ve done before?”
Zoe said when her husband friend presented her with a piece of artwork– a Spanish Bull Fighter fighting in front of a Picasso-like painting — she took that cue as the motion she would use to bring Gamora’s fight scenes to life.
“I thought that’s Gamora and she’s a Bull Fighter. She’s not gonna’ be like a– like a Marshal Artist. You know she’s not gonna’ land like all the characters and all the action figures. Like all the Marvel comics. It’s not gonna’ be that. She’s gonna’ do– she’s gonna’ fend. She’s gonna’ be a very graceful sword fighter!”
“So I just kinda’ added those little twists and then I thought well she’s an orphan. She was taken from her planet. So it kind of reminding me of The Lost Boys of Sudan. It’s children that’s taken and forced into a life of crime and violence and deep, deep they’re good people.”
To Zoe, Gamora had to come from a REAL place. She was a REAL person.
“Whatever happens to her, whatever she’s been through is real. Therefore, that’s something that I have to think about. Once I tossed all these ideas to James he’s like, “Yup, yup, yup.” [LAUGHS] Yeah, yeah, yeah. I like that, I like that. So we were in.”
Q :Were you a fan of Marvel or comics in general? And did you have any favorites growing up?
ZS : I mean I would just watch them whenever they were on TV and they were great. I used to watch He-Man and She-Ra and The Thunder Cats. I loved the Thunder Cats . And my sisters and I– I mean I’m talking about we would fist fight over who’s gonna’ be She-Ra. “I’m She-Ra, no I’m She-Ra!” [Laughs]
” I never had an interest for reading it, but I loved watching it.”
Zoe explained that her nephew is a big comic book fan and he gave her pointers about each character.
“My nephew was my teacher with Gamora. He was very like, “Do you even know who you’re playing?’” [LAUGHS]
“And he told me she was taken from planet so and so. She was forced into a life of crime. And I’m like, “Yeah she’s bad ass.” He goes, “She’s not a bad ass, she’s an assassin!” [LAUGHS] But she has a great sense of justice.”
“And I just thought, “Oh wow! Like she’s so interesting because she’s so conflicted. She’s actually a good person, but she was raised to be a bully.” So that itself is my, struggle.”
Zoe is very particular about the roles she plays. ” the script, the filmmaker, and my character needs to feel relevant. If I just feel like, she’s just there like I can be and she doesn’t participate in the problem solving of plots and things like that, then you really don’t want me on your team because I’m not gonna’ be happy.
“I’ve been in those situations where as an individual, as an Artist, as a woman you don’t feel relevant and it doesn’t feel good. It feels really shitty. So I spoke to James and I read the script and liked the idea of the concept of doing a Marvel movie of working with him. But I was not that excited about the script from Gamora’s standpoint.
“I’m like you want me in every scene, but I don’t speak in any of them. So what am I gonna’ do? So I’m just gonna’ go there for 6 months, go through 5 hours of make up every day, 6 days a week, to just be like a, a fly on the wall in every scene? And just look at all the guys while they’re cracking jokes… And before any lunch break you’re gonna’ do my close up? I’m like, “No baby that’s not gonna’ happen.” And I’m like, “You need to– we need to work that– we need to work on this.” And this woman you want her in every scene, if she knows what this orb is and she’s the one that knows who the collector is and she’s the one that ties all these people together then you need to give her a couple of lines every now and then.
And he was like, “Zoe we’re on the same page, like that’s what we’re doing.” And, and um so I was, I was– you know I didn’t even wanna’ get on the plane ‘cause I’m like it’s been done before. I’ve been in that situation where you get on the plane going– it’s gonna’ be due– it’s gonna’ be done by the time you land, it’s gonna’ be all perfect.
“And you get there and you’re completely on the other side of the world and the script hasn’t changed um a single bit. And now you’re stuck, you signed the contract and you have to work and I promised myself I was never gonna’ do that to myself. But James is different. He kept his word, he was very outspoken and Marvel really had such a respect for him.”
” I wanted to have that experience of having a big studio and have faith in studios again. They can actually support their Artist and not just be a machine– a money making machine you know. And Marvel and Disney they were great with this movie.”
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY opens in theaters everywhere on August 1st!
Disclosure: I was invited to a Disney/Marvel #GuardiansoftheGalaxy Press junket in Los Angeles and received hotel accommodates, some gifts and meals. But all opinions are my own!