If you read this Net-A-Porter cover story about Avengers: Infinity War star Zoe Saldana and don’t immediately think “Well, that’s my Pajiba 10 pick sorted, then” — we can’t be friends. But honestly, I don’t think it’ll be an issue. She’s eloquent and thoughtful about her career and about Hollywood. And better yet, she’s proud to be a fictional superhero:
“I’ve been in rooms with people in this industry who are great at what they do, but they’re absolutely elitist and they look down at movies like the Marvel films or actors like myself. They think we’re selling out in some way. Every time they speak I feel so disappointed in them, because whenever you see pictures of people in this industry who donate their time to children in need, it’s these actors that live in the world that you feel is selling out. It’s these actors that understand the role that they play inspires a five-year-old who has one dying wish to meet a superhero. That actor takes time out of their life and sits down with that five-year-old and says, ‘I see you, I hear you, and you matter.’ Those elitists should be a little more cognizant about what playing a superhero means to a young child. Because you’re not just dissing me, you’re dissing what that child considers important in their world. I feel so proud to be living in space, to be playing green and blue aliens, to inspire, primarily, the younger generations. I remember what it was like to be young and to feel completely excluded out of the mainstream conversation of life because I was just little and unimportant and ‘other’.”
On the importance of seeing people who share your interests, even if they don’t share your racial background:
When asked how it felt to grow up not seeing herself represented, she rejects the suggestion. “But I did! As a child, when I saw Sigourney Weaver play Ellen Ripley or Linda Hamilton play Sarah Connor, they were my true north, because I loved action, I loved science fiction and I loved the roles that they played. They were inspiring to me; I wanted that. It wasn’t until I started in my own career that I was reminded that I wasn’t ‘like’ them.”
But still, race matters — even when it comes to magazine covers:
“I do understand that it’s a business, that they have a lot of issues to sell. Magazines, even though they’re run by male corporations, they’re being carried by females. When females are raised in a female traditional box, they will only gravitate towards certain female traditional things and they will exclude things that feel masculine. I feel like the action genre, for many of these editors, feels rather masculine, and I’m just going to say it like that for their benefit, because I’ve also seen a lot of females that are in action-driven films be on the covers of their magazines.” Suddenly, Saldana looks tired and says, “I think it has a lot to do with race.”
I worry that I’ve pushed too hard, that this isn’t a fair line of questioning, but she rallies like the otherworldly beings she portrays. “‘Color doesn’t sell’ - they hide behind that excuse. But in reality, if you are in a position of leadership, that means that you have the responsibility to guide the narrative and re-shape it and put it on the right track. When you’re not setting that trend, then you are no different than the shackles that are binding you.”
The fact is that Saldana has been in numerous money-making franchises, from Marvel to Star Trek to Avatar, and maybe it’s on us to question why we don’t hear her name listed alongside the likes of Charlize Theron and Jennifer Lawrence when people talk about the top actresses in Hollywood. If nothing else, she deserves the opportunity to shine as brightly. And based on this interview, the woman definitely deserves more cover stories.