For Star Trek Beyond‘s Zoë Saldana, racism and sexism are enemies to be conquered.
Being a woman of color and Hispanic is not a problem when taking on roles set in the future, but when it comes to the past, it can be problematic. “I look at the films I love so much, like the beautiful Jane Austen adaptations, but someone like me doesn’t exist in those narratives – at least not in a way that I would want to be a part of,” said Saldana. “Honestly, it makes me sad. I think about how someone like me would have been treated.”
Even when taking a role which focuses on a black person, such as in Nina, there are problems. Saldana is sometimes considered “too dark” or “too light” for a role as was the case when she took on the starring role in Nina. The actress took criticism for donning dark makeup to look more like singer Nina Simone in that film.
As if racism wasn’t enough, there is ever-present sexism. Saldana is often a solitary woman in a man’s world. “I feel lonely on set,” she said. “And it’s not just that you’re the only woman in the cast. There are very few women on the crew. You hardly ever get to work with a female director. Some female producers try to blend in with their male colleagues and won’t stand up to them. You’re completely outnumbered. And you take a hit in your paycheck as a woman too. I’m so fucking tired of it.”
So what’s a woman of color to do? For Saldana, the answer was to start her own company, Cinestar Pictures. “In 2060, Hispanics will be thirty percent of the population,” she said. “We have to show the next generation that they can be the face of America as much as anyone else.”
Having one’s own company avoids the problem of not being heard as is often the case when an actor in someone else’s production company. “Behind the scenes, the actors are the ones with the least power,” she said. “You’re told what to do, what to wear, where to stand. Your creative inputs are ignored.”
Saldana can now create stories for women and people of color who don’t get to be heard. “We keep our heads down because we’re afraid of losing our jobs,” she said. “But we can’t just complain anymore. We have to band together with love and respect and do something about it.?”
Cinestar Pictures has already made a remake of Rosemary’s Baby. Next up is a documentary, Gone Missing, which focuses on the epidemic of missing or murdered indigenous women in Canada.