Zoe Saldaña was born June 19, 1978 in New Jersey of a Dominican Republic father and a Puerto Rican mother. When she was 10 years old, she and her family moved to the Dominican Republic where they would live for the next 7 years. While living in the Dominican Republic Zoe discovered a keen interest in performance dance and began her training at the prestigious Espacio de Danza Dance Academy where she learned ballet, jazz and Latin dance. Not only did her training provide an excellent outlet for the enthusiastic and energetic youngster, it would also prove to be a fortunate precursor for the start of her professional acting career.
At age 17 Zoe and her family moved back to New York where her love for dance followed and an interest in theatre performance became stronger. She began performing with the Faces theatre troupe, which put on plays geared to provide positive messages for teens with themes dealing with issues such as substance abuse and sex. These performances not only gave her valuable experience but also a source of great pride knowing that she was making a difference in the lives of young people like herself.
While performing with the Faces troupe and also the New York Youth Theatre, Zoe was recruited for a talent agency and her dance training years before coupled with her acting experience greatly helped her land her first big screen role as Eva, the talented and headstrong ballet dancer in the film Centre Stage (2000/I).
The following year she had a supporting role in the forgettable teen comedy, Get Over It, starring Kirsten Dunst and Mila Kunis. She tried her luck at the indie circuit, starring alongside rapper Nelly in the hip-hop action drama Snipes (2001), which was featured at the Toronto Film Festival. Having proven herself successful with young audiences, she was cast as Britney's best buddy, Kit, in the pop star's film debut, Crossroads (2002).
Returning to independent film, her next project was Drumline (2002), a movie about a marching band. Though her next role wasn't her biggest, it was definitely one of the most memorable. She appeared as Anamaria in 2003's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
After starring in 2003's Temptation, a rock musical version of Faust, Zoe Saldana worked on no less than seven movies. One of these is 2004's The Terminal, Steven Spielberg's story of an Eastern European immigrant (played by Tom Hanks) who is denied entry to the United States. Zoe stars as a tough INS agent. Zoe also reunites with Orlando Bloom (her Pirates of the Caribbean co-star) in 2004's Haven. She can also be seen in 2004's Constellation, Dirty Deeds and Blood on a Happy Face, as well as 2005's Lucy.
Since her professional career began just a few years ago Zoe's talent and determination has allowed her to be involved in blockbuster films and act with major actors, actresses and industry insiders at a pace that very few young professionals have experienced. Zoe has not only held her own in major motion picture productions but gained the respect and praise from industry insiders such as Jerry Bruckheimer and Steven Spielberg and actors/actresses such as Tom Hanks, Bernie Mac, Keira Knightley, Ashton Kutcher, Kirsten Dunst, and Orlando Bloom.
According to many of her co-stars, producers, and directors the sky is no limit for this young star who has incredible range, intense concentration, and a steely determination to be involved with projects that challenge her professionally with wide ranging subject matters and characters. Just to ask practically anyone who she has worked for or with about her, glowing comments abound and earned friendships and respect are readily revealed.
I was still living in New York at the time, and I heard that James Cameron was getting ready to shoot a movie said Zoe. At first, I thought it was going to be that Japanese franchise that he owns; I read for that and it disappeared. Then, like a month later, they want to put me back on tape ... the script excerpts used for auditions were about this girl from a tribe in the jungle and I was like, this is weird. But I put myself on tape again and, a month later, around July 2006, they called me and told me that in a week, I was going to L.A. to meet James Cameron. I remember being very nervous, but he was just such a polite and approachable person. It felt like a meeting where we were getting to know each other, as opposed to an audition, where I have to put my act on -- on auditioning for Avatar (2009).
They're out there - people just aren't investing in them. We can sit here forever discussing it, because it has a chicken vs. the egg quality. Bottom line, producers are business people. Hollywood is a money-making machine. At the end of the day, they have to produce numbers that will help them keep their jobs and companies alive. But we as consumers have a lot more power than we think. Women need to demand better roles and get audiences to see their films. Because if a film doesn't make $150 million, producers and studios aren't going to bankroll a similar film next time. If there were more filmmakers that were female, trust me, it would be all about women.
I don't know if it’s something that he's been consciously aware of, to be honest. What do know is that interesting women have impacted him all his life, because you can tell he's in tune with his feminine side. I've learned this about men who write good roles for women - there's a very beautiful sentimentality to them. Their exteriors are sugar coated with this manly presence, but deep on the inside, there's also this fragility. During the shortness of my career, I've managed to work with Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, and now Jim - all directors who are known for having strong female protagonists. They don't feel diminished by it as men; they can tap into the complexities of how woman really are.
I will say is that my Avatar (2009) character, Neytiri, has been the most challenging of my entire career - physically, mentally, and spiritually. It's the first time I played a non-human, I had to learn a different language, and it was hard to part with her at the end. No matter how intense other characters have been, I've only been in their skins for at most four months - never a year and a half.
Latina actress Zoe Saldaña and Lionsgate, the independent film and television Distribution Company, have inked a new deal to develop further content for the Hispanic market.
According to a report by The Hollywood Reporter, Lionsgate’s Pantelion Films studio will start rolling on both film and TV projects with Saldaña Production, a company run by Zoe and her sister Cisely.
“We look forward to a fruitful and productive relationship with Pantelion,” the Avatar star said in a statement.
Pantelion Films, the first major Latino-focused Hollywood studio, was launched in 2010 in partnership with Mexico’s Grupo Televisa. Two years later it teamed up with Televisa to create English-language TV content with Latina flair.
Before that partnership, Lionsgate released the features Ladron and La Mujer de Mi Hermano in accordance with CEO Jon Feltheimer's priority to reach the Hispanic demo, which has helped parlay big-screen entries such as The Expendables and The Last Exorcism into its biggest hits.
Says Zoe: "We look forward to a fruitful and productive relationship with Pantelion."