Zoë Saldana may look small and fragile, but don’t mistake that seeming fragility for weakness.
The actress, best-known as Uhura in Star Trek XI and Neytiri in Avatar, is perfectly able to take care of herself. “I can be tough,” she said. “I learned to ride a dirt bike when I was nine, and I can be deadly with a bow and arrow. Don’t mess with me.”
As an actress though, Saldana has been offered roles where she would be the damsel in distress, much to her dismay. “Hollywood has made a living out of portraying women as needing to be rescued all the time because we’re so incompetent,” she said. “I’d rather quit this business than constantly play the girlfriend of the action hero.
“Because in reality, if Spider-Man was always coming to my rescue, I’d get to the point of saying, ‘Come on, man, I can do it myself!'”
Saldana grew up tough due to her family. After the death of her father, her mother took Saldana and her sister to the Dominican Republic. “Women were the caretakers and the soldiers,” she says of her family. “Our way of thinking was very masculine.”
That toughness doesn’t include dealing with dead rats though. While in the Hawaiian rainforest training for Avatar, Saldana stepped on something. Looking down, she realized that it was the half-eaten corpse of a rat. “I screamed,” she said ruefully. “It had no head! And Jim [Cameron] just cried laughing.”