“[There were] a lot of people who were not so great”
She’s known as the queen of Sci-Fi thanks to roles in Avatar, Star Trek and Guardians of the Galaxy, but it hasn’t always been plain sailing for blockbuster actor Zoe Saldana. In an exclusive interview for the May issue of Cosmopolitan, she reveals that her first major film role, as pirate Anamaria in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was a serious learning curve. “I left that experience feeling a little bitter,” she confesses, referring to the whole affair as “super elitist”.
Zoe, now 39, describes “dealing with a lot of people who were great and a lot of people who were not so great”, and feeling that her time wasn’t valued: “If I’m like ‘I could have been with my family, in school learning, or travelling, but instead I’m here being treated like an extra but in a very despicable way by people who don’t even speak properly…’, my time is being wasted.”
Dangerously close to quitting the industry, Zoe’s passion for the job was only rekindled in her next job, a Steven Spielberg production alongside Tom Hanks. “I booked The Terminal right after so I got to work for an amazing director who is known for being humble and a mentor.” She reminisces about being invited to sit with him on set, in a chair next to his: “He remembered that I’d been made to feel so irrelevant before and he went out of his way to make me feel the exact opposite.”
It’s perhaps those formative experiences, along with a shifting climate for women in Hollywood that led her to form part of the MeToo and Time’s Up movements. “I don’t want to go back to that. I don’t want to hear another man tell me, ‘Oh you were my muse’. I don’t want to be your f*cking muse anymore. I don’t want you to just post me on your wall and look at me. I want you to listen to me!”.
Since becoming an activist, Zoe has urged women not to suffer quietly. “The highroad for a woman for centuries was silence…The new high road is speaking up.” But she’s also keen to include men in the narrative, citing her husband as an inspiration: “We have to broaden the narrative of #MeToo. The same way it applies to victims, it should apply to men who were blind who have now seen. If there is one thing I have to advise, it’s to be kind to the men who are making an effort and don’t put them all in one box. Let’s not do to others what has been done to us.”