Zoe Saldana Perego (born Zoe Yadira Saldaña-Nazario; June 19, 1978),[2] known professionally as Zoe Saldana, is an American actress and dancer. Following her performances with the FACES theater group, Saldana made her screen debut in an episode of Law & Order (1999). Her film career began a year later with Center Stage (2000), followed by a role in Crossroads (2002). She first gained some prominence for her role as Anamaria in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003).

Saldana's breakthrough came in 2009 with the roles of Nyota Uhura in Star Trek and Neytiri in James Cameron's Avatar (2009). The latter film received widespread acclaim, and is the highest-grossing film of all time (not adjusted for inflation). Saldana continued her successful career with films such as Colombiana (2011), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and both Star Trek sequels, Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), and Star Trek Beyond (2016).

Early life

Saldana was born Zoe Yadira Saldaña-Nazario[2] in Passaic, New Jersey.[4][5] Her father, Aridio Saldaña, was from the Dominican Republic, while her mother, Asalia Nazario, is from Puerto Rico.[6] Saldana also has Haitian and Lebanese roots.[7][8] She has often spoken of her pride in her African ancestry, and has said: "It doesn't matter how much backlash I will get for it; I will honor and respect my black community because that's who I am."[9] She spent the majority of her early childhood growing up in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York, and her native languages are both English and Spanish. She has two sisters, named Cisely and Mariel, and a half-brother named Nipo, known as "Nipo 809", who is a Dominican artist and producer.[10]

Her father died in a car crash when she was nine years old,[11] and Saldana and her mother subsequently moved to the Dominican Republic. There, Saldana discovered her love of dance and soon enrolled in the ECOS Espacio de Danza Academy; she studied various forms of dance [4][10][12][13] but describes ballet as her first passion.[10][14] She told Vanity Fair that she quit ballet because she did not have the feet and had too much pride and ambition to just be in the corps de ballet.[14] The family returned to New York after her sophomore year in high school.[14] In 1995, she began performing with the FACES theater group in Brooklyn,[15] which put on plays geared toward providing positive messages for teens via themes dealing with issues such as substance abuse and adolescent sexuality. Concurrently, she performed with the New York Youth Theater; her appearance in their production of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat led a talent agency to recruit her. Her previous dance training, and her acting experience, helped her land her first film role, playing Eva Rodriguez, the talented and headstrong ballet student in the film Center Stage (2000).[4][12]

Career

Beginnings

Saldana was still a member of FACES when she gained exposure in an episode of Law & Order (titled "Merger") which first aired in 1999. Saldana's first film role was in Center Stage (2000), directed by Nicholas Hytner, about a group of young dancers from various backgrounds who enroll at the fictitious American Ballet Academy in New York City. She left school after Center Stage, subsequently appearing in the Britney Spears vehicle Crossroads (2002). The film was met with negative reviews from critics, but became somewhat of a box office success.[16][17] The same year Saldana started in the comedy-drama Drumline (2002), alongside Nick Cannon, which was met with generally favorable reviews.

In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), she played Anamaria, a female pirate who signs up to join Will Turner and Mr. Gibbs for a chance to confront Jack Sparrow for stealing her ship. As to why she never appeared in any further films in the franchise, Saldana revealed that she almost quit acting following "disrespectful treatment" on set of the film.[18] She then appeared in The Terminal as Dolores Torres, an immigration officer and Star Trek fan, a role that would later help Saldana when she came to appear in J.J. Abrams' 2009 film Star Trek.[19] In 2004 she also made appearances in Haven and Temptation, both of which had little to no box office success.

In 2005, Saldana appeared in Constellation, Guess Who with Ashton Kutcher, and Dirty Deeds. She then starred in the romantic comedy-dramas Premium in 2006 and After Sex in 2007.[20] The same year Saldana starred in Blackout, a television film set in New York City during the Northeast Blackout of 2003. The film premiered at the 2007 Zurich Film Festival[21] and debuted on BET in 2008.[22] Saldana also had a small role as Angie Jones in the 2008 box office smash Vantage Point.

Breakthrough and success

Saldana appeared in two high-profile roles in 2009, which both went on to raise her profile considerably.[12] She played Nyota Uhura in the film reboot Star Trek.[23] The films director J.J. Abrams asked Saldana to play the role because he had seen her previous work and liked it. Saldana had never seen the original series, though she had played a Trekkie in The Terminal (2004), but agreed to play the role after Abrams complimented her. She met with Nichelle Nichols, who explained to her how she had created Uhura's background and named the character.[24] Saldana's mother was a Star Trek fan and sent her voice mails during filming, giving advice on the role.[25] Coincidentally, it was Steven Spielberg who taught her the Vulcan salute five years earlier when he directed her in The Terminal.[19] The film was a huge box office success grossing $385.7 million.[26]

Saldana's second high profile film on 2009 was James Cameron's Avatar, in which she starred as the alien hunter Neytiri. The film was premiered by 20th Century Fox in London on December 10, and was released in the United States and Canada on December 18, grossing $27 million on its opening day and $77 million during its opening weekend in 3,461 theaters, ranking number one at the box office.[27] Avatar grossed $2.7 billion worldwide, to become the highest-grossing film of all time,[28] as well as in the United States and Canada. It also became the first film to gross more than $2 billion worldwide.[29] Avatar was well-received and accumulated an approval rating of 83% on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.[30] The film was nominated for ten Saturn Awards and won all ten at the 36th Saturn Awards ceremony. Saldana's Saturn Award for Best Actress win marked a rare occurrence for an all-CG character.[31]

In 2010, Saldana starred in The Losers as Aisha al-Fadhil, a native Bolivian woman. For the role, she was required to gain weight, as she was expected to carry weapons around for eight hours a day.[32] In 2010, she also appeared in Takers, Death at a Funeral and Burning Palms. Her television ad for Calvin Klein's "Envy" line also debuted in 2010.[33] In 2011, Saldana starred in the romantic comedy The Heart Specialist and played Cataleya Restrepo, a professional assassin, in the crime drama Colombiana. While the latter film was met with negative reviews from critics, Saldana's performance was praised.[34] In 2012, she starred in the romantic drama film The Words, which also received negative reviews from critics and saw little success at the box office.[35][36]

In 2013, Saldana reprised her role as Uhura in Star Trek Into Darkness, the sequel to the 2009 Star Trek. Like the previous film, it was a box office success ending its North American theatrical run with a box office total of $228,778,661, placing it as the 11th highest-grossing film for 2013.[37] It also earned $467,365,246 worldwide, ranking it in 14th place for 2013 and making it the highest-grossing film of the franchise.[38] Saldana also voiced her character in the 2013 release of the Star Trek video game.

In 2014, Saldana played Gamora in the hit film Guardians of the Galaxy.[40][41] Saldana said that she became Gamora through make-up rather than computer generated imagery (CGI) or performance capture.[42] The film became the third highest-grossing film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, behind The Avengers and Iron Man 3.[43] It was the third highest-grossing 2014 film (behind Transformers: Age of Extinction and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies) and the highest-grossing superhero film of 2014.[43][44] In May 2014, she starred in Rosemary's Baby, a television miniseries adaptation of Ira Levin's best-selling horror novel. Saldana also co-produced the four-hour, two-part show.[45]

In 2014, Saldana was recognized by Elle Magazine during The Women in Hollywood Awards, honoring women for their outstanding achievements in film, spanning all aspects of the motion picture industry, including acting, directing, and producing.[46]

Recent and upcoming projects

Saldana starred in Nina, a biopic about the jazz musician Nina Simone released in 2015. The film depicts the late singer's rise to fame and relationship with her manager Clifton Henderson. Nina Simone's family has been critical of the decision to cast her in the role. [47] Saldana will also reprise her role of Neytiri in Avatar 2 in 2017. A sequel to her 2011 film Colombiana is in development but her reprisal of the role has not been confirmed. She will also reprise her role as Gamora in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, to be released in May 2017.[48] She will co-star in Ben Affleck's Live by Night, scheduled for release in January 2017.[49][50][7][7]

Personal life

In June 2010, Saldana became engaged to her longtime boyfriend Keith Britton, an actor and CEO of My Fashion Database.[7] Saldana and Britton announced in November 2011 that they had ended their relationship after 11 years together.[7] Saldana subsequently dated actor Bradley Cooper from December 2011 to January 2013.[7][7]

In March 2013, Saldana began dating Italian artist Marco Perego. They secretly married in June 2013 in London.[7][7] In her July 2015 cover interview with InStyle, Saldana revealed that, in a reversal of tradition, Perego adopted her surname upon marriage.[59][60] Thereafter, Zoe became Zoe Saldana-Perego or Zoe Perego and Marco became Marco Perego-Saldana or Marco Saldana. Their children will be Perego-Saldana.[8] Saldana and Perego have twin sons, Bowie Ezio Perego-Saldana and Cy Aridio Perego-Saldana, born in November 2014.[8] During her pregnancy, Saldana stated that her children will be bilingual as she and her husband plan to speak both Spanish and English around them.[8]

In July 2016, during an interview with Net-a-Porter's The EDIT, Saldana revealed that she has Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease, along with her mother and sisters. To combat the effects of this disease, Saldana said she and her husband adhere to a gluten- and dairy-free diet. [8]

In 2009, Saldana said she would avoid plastic surgery, telling Women's Health magazine "God as my witness, I am going to try to do everything I can to keep this ass together for as long as I possibly can—without going against nature."[19] She watches what she eats but does not diet and does Pilates regularly saying "It's the closest thing to dance."[19]

Saldana is a celebrity supporter of FINCA International, a microfinance organization.[65]

Filmography

Film

YearTitleRoleNotes
2000Center StageEva Rodriguez
2001Get Over ItMaggie
2001SnipesCheryl
2002CrossroadsKit
2002DrumlineLaila
2003Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black PearlAnamaria
2004Terminal, TheThe TerminalDolores Torres
2004HavenAndrea
2004AtlantisKida
2004TemptationAnnie
2005ConstellationRosa Boxer
2005Guess WhoTheresa Jones
2005Dirty DeedsRachel Buff
2005The Curse of Father CardonaFlor
2006PremiumCharli
2006Heart Specialist, TheThe Heart SpecialistDonna
2007After SexKat
2007BlackoutClaudine
2008Vantage PointAngie Jones
2009Star TrekNyota Uhura
2009Skeptic, TheThe SkepticCassie
2009AvatarNeytiri
2010Losers, TheThe LosersAisha
2010TakersLily Jansen
2010Death at a FuneralElaine
2010Burning PalmsSara Cotton
2011KaylienShort film; director
2011ColombianaCataleya Restrepo
2012Words, TheThe WordsDora Jansen
2013Blood TiesVanessa
2013Star Trek Into DarknessNyota Uhura
2013Out of the FurnaceLena Warren
2014UnityNarratorDocumentary
2014Infinitely Polar BearMaggie Stuart
2014Guardians of the GalaxyGamora
2014The Book of LifeMariaVoice role
2016NinaNina Simone
2016Star Trek BeyondNyota Uhura
2017Live by NightGraciella SuarezIn post-production
2017Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2GamoraIn post-production

Television

YearTitleRoleNotes
1999Law & OrderBelinca2 episodes
2004Law & Order: Special Victims UnitGabrielle VegaEpisode: "Criminal"
2006–07Six DegreesRegina5 episodes
2013Comedy Bang! Bang!HerselfEpisode: "Zoe Saldana Wears A Tan Blouse & Glasses"
2014Rosemary's BabyRosemary Woodhouse2 episodes; also producer

Video games

YearTitleRole
2013Star TrekNyota Uhura

Awards and nominations

YearAssociationCategoryWorkResult
2003MTV Movie AwardsBest Kiss (with Nick Cannon)DrumlineNominated
2005Teen Choice AwardsChoice Movie Breakout Performance – FemaleGuess WhoNominated
2006Black Reel AwardsBest ActressNominated
2009ALMA AwardsActress in FilmStar TrekNominated
Boston Society of Film Critics AwardsBest Ensemble CastWon
Teen Choice AwardsChoice Movie Actress – Action/AdventureNominated
Washington DC Area Film Critics Association AwardsBest EnsembleNominated
People's Choice AwardsFavorite Breakout Movie ActressNominated
Scream AwardsBest Science Fiction ActressNominated
Breakout Performance – FemaleNominated
Best EnsembleNominated
2010Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror FilmsBest ActressAvatarWon
BET AwardsBest ActressNominated
Black Reel AwardsBest ActressNominated
Broadcast Film Critics AssociationBest Acting EnsembleStar TrekNominated
Empire AwardsBest ActressAvatarWon
Kids' Choice AwardsCutest Couple (with Sam Worthington)Nominated
Favorite Movie ActressNominated
MTV Movie AwardsBest Female PerformanceNominated
Best Kiss (with Sam Worthington)Nominated
Scream AwardBest Science Fiction ActressNominated
Saturn AwardBest ActressWon
Teen Choice AwardsChoice Movie Actress – Sci-FiWon
Choice Movie Actress – Action/AdventureThe LosersNominated
Choice Movie Actress – ComedyDeath at a FuneralNominated
2011ALMA AwardsFavorite Movie Actress – Drama/AdventureTakersNominated
BET AwardsBest ActressThe LosersNominated
Death at a FuneralNominated
Image AwardsOutstanding Actress in a Motion PictureThe LosersNominated
2012BET AwardsBest ActressColombianaNominated
Black Reel AwardsBest Actress[8]Nominated
Image AwardsOutstanding Actress in a Motion PictureNominated
Teen Choice AwardsChoice Movie Actress – ActionWon
ALMA AwardsFavorite Movie Actress Drama/AdventureWon
2013Teen Choice AwardsChoice Summer Movie Star: FemaleStar Trek Into DarknessNominated
2015Black Reel AwardsOutstanding Actress, TV Movie or Mini-SeriesRosemary's BabyNominated
Outstanding Supporting ActressGuardians of the GalaxyNominated
Outstanding Voice PerformanceThe Book of LifeNominated
People's Choice AwardsFavorite Action Movie ActressNominated