I meet Zoë Saldaña at the swanky Mandarin Oriental hotel nestled on the upscale island of Brickell Key in Miami. My first “run-in” with Zoë was back in New York City circa 2006 at the Tribeca Film Festival where she spoke on a panel alongside Rosie Perez and Mia Maestro titled “Adelante Mujeres: Latina Women at the Helm,” which focused on the trials, tribulations as well as triumphs of Latina women in Hollywood. Saldaña, unsurprisingly, is as approachable now as she was back then. I remind her of our initial face-to-face convo and although she probably doesn’t fully remember said encounter, her enthusiasm of seeing a “familiar” face makes this brown-skinned Dominicano blush. Zoë may be climbing the Hollywood ladder quickly, but her Latina charm and humility are still beautifully grounded.
The first time the world met Saldaña, who was born to a Puerto Rican mother and Dominican father in New Jersey, she was portraying a tough ballerina in the film Center Stage in 2000. The classically trained dancer wore the role like a second skin. Since then she’s played every role imaginable, from airport Trekkie and otherworldly princess to college co-ed and CIA assassin. Along the way she has managed to work with heavyweight directors like Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and J.J. Abrams. The result is a respected body of work, reputation and a star that is continuing to rise in Hollywood allowing her to carry her own film.
We sit down in an intimate hotel room and discuss everything from her rumored emotional breakdown after Avatar, fellow Dominican and BFF Junot Diaz, and of course her new film Colombiana where she plays the lead role of no-holds-barred, vengeful heroin Cataleya Restrepo.