Who Is Zoe Saldana?
Dancer-turned-actress Zoe Saldana started her acting career in films like Crossroads, Drumline, The Terminal and Pirates of the Caribbean. After years of diverse work, in 2009 she landed leading roles in the blockbusters Star Trek, Avatar and Guardians of the Galaxy. She's also been a model for Avon, the Gap and Calvin Klein.
Born in Passaic, New Jersey on June 19, 1978, Zoe Saldana grew up in Queens. She is of mixed ethnic heritage, with her mother being of Puerto Rican descent and her father hailing from the Dominican Republic. At the age of nine, her father died in a car accident, and her mother subsequently moved Saldana and her two sisters Cisely and Mariel to the Dominican Republic, where they lived with their grandparents.
The three siblings grew up very close while Saldana studied a variety of dance forms at ECOS Espacio de Danza Academy, developing a particular fondness for ballet. She moved back to New York at 17 and continued dancing while also joining Faces, a teen-oriented theater group, and the New York Youth Theater, through which she was discovered by a talent agent.
'Center Stage,' 'Drumline,' 'Pirates of the Caribbean'
Following a guest spot on Law & Order, Saldana made her movie acting debut appropriately enough with the dance drama Center Stage, which portrayed a group of ballet students training at an academy. She then snagged supporting roles over the following years in a diverse array of films. After being featured in the teen comedy Get Over It!, the Britney Spears vehicle Crossroads and the hip-hop thriller Snipes, Saldana portrayed the captain of a dance team in the 2002 film Drumline. She then appeared in 2003 in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl as Anamaria, a former lover of Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) who gives him a wallop for his roguish behavior. In 2004 she appeared in the drama The Terminal with Tom Hanks, as well as Haven.
During the mid-2000s, Saldana continued to act in a number of ensemble films, both commercial and indie, and appeared on TV with roles in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Six Degrees. In 2005 she starred in Guess Who, a comedic update of the Sidney Poitier and Spencer Tracy classic Guess Who's Coming to Dinner; the newer version switched the racial roles of the original, with Bernie Mac as Saldana's wary African American father and Ashton Kutcher as her beleaguered white fiancé. She was also later featured in the 2008 thriller Vantage Point.
'Star Trek' and 'Avatar'
The year 2009 was a blockbuster year for Saldana's career. After the thriller The Skeptic, Saldana starred in the remake of Star Trek by director J.J. Abrams, in which she played Communications Officer Uhura. In December 2009, she starred as Neytiri, an alien warrior, in the 3D sci-fi epic Avatar, which would go on to become the world's highest-grossing film. Director James Cameron used performance capture technology to create Saldana's computer-generated character, driven by her bodily movements and facial expressions in a studio setting. Saldana spent months training for the athletic role, taking up horseback riding, archery and wushu martial arts.