Zoe Saldana’s career is currently on absolute fire. As if snagging the female role in Star Trek wasn’t enough, she’s also absorbed inextricably into the highest-grossing movie of all time, that whole Avatar thing you may have heard a thing or two about. This weekend, she’s stepping up into another boys’ club, but there’s no prime directive happening here. In director Sylvain White’s The Losers, she’s playing a mysterious operative who involves herself in a vendetta between a team of ex-soldiers (including Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chris Evans and Idris Elba) and the high-level CIA spook who betrayed them (Jason Patric), although she has a secret agenda of her own. It’s a rough-and-tumble action movie, and Saldana proves she doesn’t need to special effects to be a badass.
“When you’re the only girl in a cast, I almost feel like you have twice as much work to do,” Saldana says. “You don’t want to be singled out. You’re already the only girl, so if you’re the one who says ‘I can’t do this,’ it’s going to be ‘oh my god, she’s wimping out because she’s a girl’ or whatever. I toughed it out. I really wanted to impress the guys. I like being around men. I feel like I can hold my own.”
There’s a crucial scene early in the film when her character, Aisha, makes herself known to Morgan’s character Clay. She’s been stalking him, and when they finally meet, she plays up to him to get close to him, only to reveal she’s there to kick his ass – but he wasn’t buying her act for a minute, and the throwdown is on. “We really wanted to get that fight scene to be amazing,” Saldana notes, “because Sylvain wanted it to be violent, but he always said ‘while they’re beating the crap out of each other, they’re also getting to know each other.’ It’s sort of like a very violent conversation, and Jeffrey and I really wanted to capture that.” Check out a clip of that battle right here, and see first hand what she’s talking about.
“Jeffrey was absolutely amazing in the fight scene,” Saldana gushed. “There were a couple of moments there where I’d have to immediately look at him and go ‘oh my god, did I really hit you hard in your head?’ or he would look at me because he slammed me really hard and I’d just be like ‘ughhhh.’ But it was fun. I like it.”
Those weren’t the only kind words she had for Morgan – Saldana couldn’t say enough about the man. “He’s been killing it! From Grey’s Anatomy to everything that he mounts up, he steps up the ante and he conquers it. Watchmen? I don’t know about you all, but he was the S-*-*-T in it!”
She was especially grateful for Morgan when it came time to film their sex scene. “Jeffrey was such a gentleman and so respectful. Trust me, as a woman, try doing that with a frickin’ prick. Been there. It’s not a good day at work. You’re the only one who’s naked and you have to act like you’re not aware that you’re naked, and not only that, but you have to flip your hair and have an orgasm [laughs]. It’s really not happening! When you work with a good director and a good actor who makes it seem like a regular Tuesday, then love scenes are like any other fight scene. They’re just awesome.”
For his part, Morgan jokingly complained about the scene. “Yeah, that was hard. I had a rough day that day. ‘I need another take! Just one more! I don’t feel like she flipped her hair right on that one!’ The fight was much harder. The love scene, man? Bring that on. Zoe Saldana sitting on my lap naked. Rough!”
Not that Saldana didn’t appreciate a bit of nudity herself. The heat in Puerto Rico, where they were filming on location, definitely worked to her advantage, being surrounded by an all-male cast that also included Columbus Short and Oscar Jaenada. “For us girls it was great that it was really hot, because it meant the boys would walk around with no shirts on,” she says with a grin, “and these boys are really cute with no shirts on.”
Speaking of skin, the inevitable question for her is what’s going to happen when next she turns it blue for James Cameron and his sequel to Avatar. “Whatever the boss says,” is Saldana’s response. “He already knows how I like to approach it. I need at least six to seven months to get into Neytiri again, the training and stuff. Whatever’s going to happen is going to happen. The good thing we all know about Jim – it’s not so good sometimes, because sometimes you have to wait ten years for it – but by the time he does come around, he gives you something that changes your life, or at least touches it. I do know that Avatar 2 is going to be just as great as the first one, because Jim is the S-*-*-T.”
Obviously, she thinks a lot of people are the s**t, but many think the same of her. Director Sylvain White said this about casting Saldana in The Losers. “I had seen her in a movie years ago that a friend of mine directed called Haven, and basically, since that, I’ve been waiting for a project and an opportunity to work with her.”
Watch this preview of Haven and you’ll see what he means.
As far as her career goes, Saldana is taking the amazing success in stride. “I know that I don’t only speak for myself when I say that, as artists, you can only ask for one thing, and that’s just to be able to pay the bills – living off of your art enough to pay the bills.” Of course, that doesn’t mean she’s taking any old role that comes along now. She’s definitely in a power phase.
“You want to play great characters,” she explains, “but right now I feel that Hollywood has made a living out of portraying women to be such canker sores. We just have to be rescued all the time because we’re so incompetent. Sometimes art needs to reflect what’s going on in real life, and in today’s society – especially in American society – women are doing so much. I’m from Queens. I’m not from that era where I was baking cookies – I do it, I think it’s great, whatever. I grew up in Queens in the 80s, where women were the caretakers and they were the soldiers, and I’m in that phase right now. After I’ve burned that, then I’ll be the damsel in distress, but right now, I like holding the gun. I like participating in the saving of the day. I think it’s really sexy.”