Zoe Saldaña Hopes To Never Take The Opportunities ‘Avatar’ Has Created For Her For Granted

On December 16, audiences will see Zoe Saldaña reprise her role as Neytiri in the highly anticipated sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water. When the original science fiction epic, Avatar, was released in 2009, it became the highest grossing film of the time, bringing in more than $2 billion worldwide. It also completely changed Saldaña’s career trajectory, serving as the tipping point for her to go on to star in two more of the top five highest-grossing films of all time, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.

“Knowing that at 27 years old I was seen by James Cameron and he thought that I had what it took to become Neytiri, I just ran for the hills I tell you,” Saldaña says. “I just ran with it and I gave 120 percent every single day. I haven’t stopped doing that.”

Zoe Saldaña Hopes To Never Take The Opportunities ‘Avatar’ Has Created For Her For Granted

While the Dominican-Puerto Rican actress had mostly played leads in rom-coms and a few action roles prior to playing Nyertiri and Nyota Uhura in the Star Trek film franchise, which she went on to star in from 2009-2016, Avatar was Saldaña’s entry point into the Marvel Universe. It also led to her becoming the second-highest-grossing film actress of all time in 2019.

When Saldaña was cast as Nina Simone in the singer’s 2016 biopic, the actress was criticized not only for accepting the role, but for darkening her skin and using prosthetics to more closely resemble the activist who proudly sung about her Black skin, broad nose, and full lips. In 2020, Saldaña apologized for her missteps with the project and promised never to make them again. And as she reflects on the 13 years between her first Avatar role and the latest, the actress is clear on the doors that were opened for her along the way, even if some were best left closed. “The opportunities that Avatar created for me were unimaginable. I did take advantage of all of them and I hope to never take them for granted.

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