Gamora, a role reprised by Zoe Saldana in her highly anticipated sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 identifies as a Guardian. Never mind the fact that Gamora came from an alien planet. Or that she’s green, and her contentious sister Nebula is Blue, Purple … and part medal.
Let’s also ignore that the other Guardians consist of a mixed human/alien, a raccoon, a talking baby tree and a warrior with skin covered in red tribal marks, Gamora says she is a Guardian. In that same vein, Zoe Saldana, the Afro-Latina actress, famous now for playing science fiction roles where she transforms herself into someone—or something—else, wants to be identified as American. Just American.
Saldana, who caused a bit of controversy recently over comments she made about how starring in science fiction films has allowed her to be color and gender blind, felt she was misunderstood and misquoted by the Daily Telegraph, where the comments originated and was judged unfairly.
As she tells it, her true meaning was lost in a soundbite, so to speak. So as Saldana’s film is set to open Friday, EBONY.com wanted to give her space and a chance to clear up those comments, in her own words. We also asked about Guardians and why she likens the role of Gamora to the Lost Boys of Sudan.
EBONY: Explain what you meant to say in your comments about being colorblind in science fiction roles for us.
Zoe Saldana: A friend and a colleague once told me that we’re living in an era of soundbites and it’s being spearheaded by very mean-spirited people that find themselves in positions of power who are misusing that. I find that as journalists, you guys have the power. You guys have the ability to change something, and to add something more than what I as a public figure can do. And it comes in the way that you want to see someone be portrayed. I just feel like my God, it doesn’t matter what I say or what I do for young Americans that find themselves being singled out because of their color, because of their culture or because of the fact that they’re recent immigrants.
I was calling out for them, that these were the choices that I made – that I had a choice, that I didn’t just allow myself to be boxed into something. Or allow myself to become bitter because I’m fighting against a system that is bigger than me. I found a way to be creative, still grow as an artist and science fiction gives me that ability to work with filmmakers that are able to imagine the unimaginable. They see more than that because I see more than that. And that was the message that I wanted to say. Now it’s just getting hurtful. It’s like trolling that’s happening with journalists.
EBONY: I’ve always perceived you as a person of color, and as someone who is proud of your heritage and your race.
Zoe Saldana: Yes. First and foremost, I feel proud to be an American. And being an American, I don’t want to break it down more than that. I want to know what that feels like to just be an American, be a blank slate. Not a White slate, not a Black slate, not a Latino slate– just an American. Because I feel like that’s very, very important. And now that I’m a mother, we don’t have conversations at our table about White this and Black this. I don’t want to limit my children. The world is already going to limit them because of what they perceive them to be. You carry a certain type of confidence when you feel naturally equal to everybody else and everything else around you. That, I feel like is my duty as a public figure, to just be honest about the way that I carry myself and what I truly believe of myself because that’s the way I want others to think of themselves too. I don’t want to sit and complain all the time. I want to figure out solutions. I want to be a part of the solving of the situation.
EBONY: You’re very public about your relationship with your sisters and I’m wondering how that played into guiding your way through this relationship with your movie sister, Nebula in Guardians Vol. 2.
Zoe Saldana: It was very difficult to be emotionally removed from the situation and to be objective, because I can’t imagine ever screwing up my relationship with my sisters to the point where it’s beyond repair. Nebula and Gamora went through a whole lot growing up. They were forced into a life of violence and corruption. I wanted to understand that [and] I never wanted to take that any other way but to be serious about it. So the references that I was able to find were the Lost Boys of Sudan and how these children are taken from their villages and forced into a life of violence. They become these antagonizers. But the ones that have made a change by shedding light on what happened to them and the crimes that they have committed, they find a road to redemption. I feel like Gamora is that.
EBONY: To sum it up in one word, describe this film.
Zoe Saldana: It’s more, more of everything! More action, more drama, more comedy, more jokes; it’s just more entertainment. And literally I feel like James Gunn did this movie for the audience. He’s giving them exactly what they asked for.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is available in theaters.
Crystal Shaw King is a seasoned TV, radio and online entertainment writer. She’s also a contributing editor for a social justice foundation in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @crystalamberbam.