Zoe Saldana has had one hell of a career thus far. Between franchises like Star Trek, Avatar, and Guardians of the Galaxy, she has made a business out of playing badass characters. In an industry where it’s easy to get typecast as “the girlfriend,” “the mom,” or “the girl,” Saldana has managed to make a name for herself as one of today’s big female action stars.
Of course, this wasn’t done by accident. Actors spend a lot of time and energy deciding the best path for their careers, and Saldana is no exception. Speaking with our very own Nancy Tapia while at the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 press junket, Saldana expressed how important playing roles like Gamora is to her.
“It’s unnatural to me, as an artist, to make a career out of just playing girlfriends. I’m not talking down at it. I don’t find it demeaning. It’s just not for me. And I feel like there’s an abundance of that. And I respect so many actresses when they do it, when they’re happy to do it, when they know they have to do it…and I’ve done it. I’ve done it before, but I’ve done it for projects I truly truly believe in, or filmmakers that I truly believe in, but I want to be known by young women.
“After I’m gone, if there’s just one or five little girls out going, ‘I love movies. Is there one action female girl whose movies I can just follow?’ Because I remember growing up when I didn’t have that in the ‘80s. I just had Sigourney Weaver and Ellen Ripley (Alien), and I had Linda Hamilton and Sarah Connor (The Terminator). Other than that…who else? And it f**king sucked, because I just didn’t want to be the lady and the princess. I wanted to do other things, and I was a rarity amongst a whole bunch of girls. And I want to leave references and options for women behind. So I do take great pride in my path as an artist. I would love to also explore other things as an actor, and get to play other roles, but in the meantime, I needed to burn this phase. I’m burning it. It’s burning up.”
Indeed between just those three franchises listed above, Saldana has made her mark in some of the biggest modern franchises to date (perhaps even of all time), so that’s no small feat. Luckily, there does seem to be a shift in the landscape in recent years. More than ever, we’re seeing women at the forefront of their own action franchises (obviously the YA genre helped spearhead this with films like The Hunger Games), but there are still strides to be made on the superhero front.
As of this writing, there has yet to be a female-led standalone superhero film in the modern era — though Wonder Woman is a mere months away. Next up would be Ant-Man and the Wasp in 2018, and finally Captain Marvel in 2019. Change in this business never happens quickly, but soon enough, we can happy that many young girls will have an abundance of superhero role models to look up to.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hits theaters on May 5, 2017.