Zoe Saldana-Perego (born Zoe Yadira Saldaña Nazario; June 19, 1978), known professionally as Zoe Saldana, is an American actress and dancer. Following her performances with the FACES theater group, Saldana made her screen debut in an episode of Law & Order (1999). Her film career began a year later with Center Stage (2000), where she played a struggling ballet dancer, followed by a role in Crossroads (2002). Saldana’s breakthrough came in 2009 with the roles of Nyota Uhura in Star Trek and Neytiri in James Cameron’s Avatar (2009). The latter film received widespread acclaim, and is the highest-grossing film of all time. Saldana continued her career with films such as Colombiana (2011), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and both Star Trek sequels, Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), and Star Trek Beyond (2016).
Saldana was born in Passaic, New Jersey. Her father, Aridio Saldaña, was Afro-Dominican, while her mother, Asalia Nazario, is Puerto Rican. Saldana also has Lebanese and Haitian roots. She spent the majority of her early childhood growing up in Jackson Heights, New York. She was raised bilingual, speaking English and Spanish. She has two sisters, named Cisely and Mariel, and a half-brother named Nipo, known as “Nipo 809”, who is a Dominican artist and producer. Her father died in a car crash when she was nine years old, and Saldana and her mother subsequently moved to the Dominican Republic.
Saldana discovered her love of dance in the Dominican Republic and enrolled in the ECOS Espacio de Danza Academy; she studied various forms of dance but describes ballet as her first passion. She told Vanity Fair that she quit ballet because she did not have the feet and had too much pride and ambition to just be in the corps de ballet. The family returned to New York after her sophomore year in high school. In 1995, she began performing with the FACES theater group in Brooklyn, which put on plays geared toward providing positive messages for teens via themes dealing with issues such as substance abuse and adolescent sexuality. Concurrently, she performed with the New York Youth Theater; her appearance in their production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat led a talent agency to recruit her. Her previous dance training, and her acting experience, helped her land her first film role, playing talented and headstrong ballet student Eva Rodriguez in Center Stage (2000).
Saldana was still a member of FACES when she gained exposure in an episode of Law & Order (titled “Merger”) which first aired in 1999. Saldana’s first film role was in Center Stage (2000), directed by Nicholas Hytner, about a group of young dancers from various backgrounds who enroll at the fictitious American Ballet Academy in New York City. She left school after Center Stage, subsequently appearing in the Britney Spears vehicle Crossroads (2002). The film was met with negative reviews from critics, but became somewhat of a box office success. The same year Saldana started in the comedy-drama Drumline (2002), alongside Nick Cannon, which was met with generally favorable reviews.
In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), she played Anamaria, a female pirate who signs up to join Will Turner and Mr. Gibbs for a chance to confront Jack Sparrow for stealing her ship. As to why she never appeared in any further films in the franchise, Saldana revealed that she almost quit acting following “disrespectful treatment” on set of the film. She then appeared in The Terminal as Dolores Torres, an immigration officer and Star Trek fan, a role that would later help Saldana when she came to appear in J. J. Abrams’ 2009 film Star Trek. In 2004 she also made appearances in Haven and Temptation, both of which had little to no box office success.
In 2005, Saldana appeared in Constellation, Guess Who with Ashton Kutcher, and Dirty Deeds. She then starred in the romantic comedy-dramas Premium in 2006 and After Sex in 2007. The same year Saldana starred in Blackout, a television film set in New York City during the Northeast Blackout of 2003. The film premiered at the 2007 Zurich Film Festival and debuted on BET in 2008. Saldana also had a small role as Angie Jones in the 2008 box office smash Vantage Point.
Saldana appeared in two high-profile roles in 2009, which both went on to raise her profile considerably. She played Nyota Uhura in the film reboot Star Trek. The films director J. J. Abrams asked Saldana to play the role because he had seen her previous work and liked it. Saldana had never seen the original series, though she had played a Trekkie in The Terminal (2004), but agreed to play the role after Abrams complimented her. She met with Nichelle Nichols, who explained to her how she had created Uhura’s background and named the character. Saldana’s mother was a Star Trek fan and sent her voice mails during filming, giving advice on the role. Coincidentally, it was Steven Spielberg who taught her the Vulcan salute five years earlier when he directed her in The Terminal. The film was a huge box office success grossing $385.7 million.
Saldana’s second high-profile film on 2009 was James Cameron’s Avatar, in which she starred as the alien hunter Neytiri. The film was premiered by 20th Century Fox in London on December 10, and was released in the United States and Canada on December 18, grossing $27 million on its opening day and $77 million during its opening weekend in 3,461 theaters, ranking number one at the box office. Avatar grossed $2.7 billion worldwide, to become the highest-grossing film of all time, as well as in the United States and Canada. It also became the first film to gross more than $2 billion worldwide. Avatar was well-received and accumulated an approval rating of 83% on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. The film was nominated for ten Saturn Awards and won all ten at the 36th Saturn Awards ceremony. Saldana’s Saturn Award for Best Actress win marked a rare occurrence for an all-CG character.
In 2010, Saldana starred in The Losers as Aisha al-Fadhil, a native Bolivian woman. For the role, she was required to gain weight, as she was expected to carry weapons around for eight hours a day. In 2010, she also appeared in Takers, Death at a Funeral and Burning Palms. Her television ad for Calvin Klein’s “Envy” line also debuted in 2010. In 2011, Saldana starred in the romantic comedy The Heart Specialist and played Cataleya Restrepo, a professional assassin, in the crime drama Colombiana. While the latter film was met with negative reviews from critics, Saldana’s performance was praised. In 2012, she starred in the romantic drama film The Words, which also received negative reviews from critics and saw little success at the box office.
In 2013, Saldana reprised her role as Uhura in Star Trek Into Darkness, the sequel to the 2009 Star Trek. Like the previous film, it was a box office success ending its North American theatrical run with a box office total of $228,778,661, placing it as the 11th highest-grossing film for 2013. It also earned $467,365,246 worldwide, ranking it in 14th place for 2013 and making it the highest-grossing film of the franchise. Saldana also voiced her character in the 2013 release of the Star Trek video game.
In 2014, Saldana played Gamora in the hit film Guardians of the Galaxy. Saldana said that she became Gamora through make-up rather than computer generated imagery (CGI) or performance capture. The film became the third highest-grossing film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, behind The Avengers and Iron Man 3. It was the third highest-grossing 2014 film (behind Transformers: Age of Extinction and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies) and the highest-grossing superhero film of 2014. In May 2014, she starred in Rosemary’s Baby, a television miniseries adaptation of Ira Levin’s best-selling horror novel. Saldana also co-produced the four-hour, two-part show.
In 2014, Saldana was recognized by Elle Magazine during The Women in Hollywood Awards, honoring women for their outstanding achievements in film, spanning all aspects of the motion picture industry, including acting, directing, and producing.
Saldana starred in Nina, an unauthorized biopic about the jazz musician Nina Simone, which was released in 2016. The film depicts the late singer’s rise to fame and relationship with her manager Clifton Henderson. Nina Simone’s family has been critical of the decision to cast her in the role. Also in 2016, she co-starred in the science-fiction sequel Star Trek Beyond, which was released in July, and Ben Affleck’s crime drama Live by Night, which was released in December.
She will play the role of Mrs. Mollé in Anders Walter’s adaptation of Joe Kelly’s graphic novel I Kill Giants, with shooting to commence in Ireland in September 2016. Saldana will also reprise her role of Neytiri in Avatar 2 in 2017. A sequel to her 2011 film Colombiana is in development, but her reprisal of the role has not been confirmed. She will also reprise her role as Gamora in the Guardians of the Galaxysequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, to be released in May 2017.
In June 2010, Saldana became engaged to her longtime boyfriend Keith Britton, an actor and CEO of My Fashion Database. Saldana and Britton announced in November 2011 that they had ended their relationship after 11 years together. Saldana subsequently dated actor Bradley Cooper from December 2011 to January 2013.
In March 2013, Saldana began dating Italian artist Marco Perego. They secretly married in June 2013 in London. In her July 2015 cover interview with InStyle, Saldana revealed that, in a reversal of tradition, Perego adopted her surname upon marriage. Thereafter, Zoe became Zoe Saldana-Perego or Zoe Perego and Marco became Marco Perego-Saldana or Marco Saldana. Their children will be Perego-Saldana. Saldana and Perego have twin sons, Bowie and Cy, born in 2014. During her pregnancy, Saldana stated that her children will be bilingual as she and her husband plan to speak both Spanish and English around them.
In July 2016, during an interview with Net-a-Porter’s The Edit, Saldana revealed that she has Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease, along with her mother and sisters. To combat the effects of this disease, Saldana said she and her husband adhere to a gluten- and dairy-free diet.
In 2009, Saldana said she would avoid plastic surgery, telling Women’s Health magazine “God as my witness, I am going to try to do everything I can to keep this ass together for as long as I possibly can—without going against nature.” She watches what she eats but does not diet and does Pilates regularly saying “It’s the closest thing to dance.”
Saldana is a celebrity supporter of FINCA International, a microfinance organization.
During the 2016 election, Saldana supported Hillary Clinton. In January 2017, Saldana stated that Donald Trump’s win was as a result of Hollywood “bullying” him.
|2000||Center Stage||Eva Rodriguez|
|2001||Get Over It||Maggie|
|2003||Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl||Anamaria|
|2004||The Terminal||Dolores Torres|
|2005||Guess Who||Theresa Jones|
|2005||Dirty Deeds||Rachel Buff|
|2005||The Curse of Father Cardona||Flor|
|2006||The Heart Specialist||Donna|
|2008||Vantage Point||Angie Jones|
|2009||Star Trek||Nyota Uhura|
|2010||Death at a Funeral||Elaine|
|2010||Burning Palms||Sara Cotton|
|2011||Kaylien||Short film; director|
|2012||The Words||Dora Jansen|
|2013||Star Trek Into Darkness||Nyota Uhura|
|2013||Out of the Furnace||Lena Warren|
|2014||Infinitely Polar Bear||Maggie Stuart|
|2014||Guardians of the Galaxy||Gamora|
|2014||The Book of Life||Maria Posada||Voice role|
|2016||Star Trek Beyond||Nyota Uhura|
|2016||Live by Night||Graciella Suarez|
|2017||Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2||Gamora||In post-production|
|2017||My Little Pony: The Movie||TBA||Voice role; in post-production|
|2018||I Kill Giants||Mrs. Mollé||In post-production|
|2018||Avengers: Infinity War||Gamora||Filming|
|1999||Law & Order||Belinca||2 episodes|
|2004||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Gabrielle Vega||Episode: “Criminal”|
|2006–07||Six Degrees||Regina||5 episodes|
|2013||Comedy Bang! Bang!||Herself||Episode: “Zoe Saldana Wears A Tan Blouse & Glasses”|
|2014||Rosemary’s Baby||Rosemary Woodhouse||2 episodes; also producer|
|2013||Star Trek||Nyota Uhura|
Awards and nominations
|2003||MTV Movie Awards||Best Kiss (with Nick Cannon)||Drumline||Nominated|
|2005||Teen Choice Awards||Choice Movie: Female Breakout Star||Guess Who||Nominated|
|2006||Black Reel Awards||Best Actress||Nominated|
|2009||ALMA Awards||Actress in Film||Star Trek||Nominated|
|Boston Society of Film Critics Awards||Best Ensemble Cast||Won|
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice Movie Actress: Action||Nominated|
|Washington DC Area Film Critics Association Awards||Best Ensemble||Nominated|
|People’s Choice Awards||Favorite Breakout Movie Actress||Nominated|
|Scream Awards||Best Science Fiction Actress||Nominated|
|Breakout Performance – Female||Nominated|
|2010||Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films||Best Actress||Avatar||Won|
|BET Awards||Best Actress||Nominated|
|Black Reel Awards||Best Actress||Nominated|
|Broadcast Film Critics Association||Best Acting Ensemble||Star Trek||Nominated|
|Empire Awards||Best Actress||Avatar||Won|
|Kids’ Choice Awards||Cutest Couple (with Sam Worthington)||Nominated|
|Favorite Movie Actress||Nominated|
|MTV Movie Awards||Best Female Performance||Nominated|
|Best Kiss (with Sam Worthington)||Nominated|
|Scream Award||Best Science Fiction Actress||Nominated|
|Saturn Award||Best Actress||Won|
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice Movie Actress: Sci-Fi||Won|
|Choice Movie Actress: Action||The Losers||Nominated|
|Choice Movie Actress: Comedy||Death at a Funeral||Nominated|
|2011||ALMA Awards||Favorite Movie Actress – Drama/Adventure||Takers||Nominated|
|BET Awards||Best Actress||The Losers||Nominated|
|Death at a Funeral||Nominated|
|Image Awards||Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture||The Losers||Nominated|
|2012||BET Awards||Best Actress||Colombiana||Nominated|
|Black Reel Awards||Best Actress||Nominated|
|Image Awards||Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture||Nominated|
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice Movie Actress: Action||Won|
|ALMA Awards||Favorite Movie Actress Drama/Adventure||Won|
|2013||Teen Choice Awards||Choice Summer Movie Star: Female||Star Trek Into Darkness||Nominated|
|2015||Black Reel Awards||Outstanding Actress, TV Movie or Mini-Series||Rosemary’s Baby||Nominated|
|Outstanding Supporting Actress||Guardians of the Galaxy||Nominated|
|Outstanding Voice Performance||The Book of Life||Nominated|
|People’s Choice Awards||Favorite Action Movie Actress||Guardians of the Galaxy||Nominated|
|2016||Teen Choice Awards||Choice Movie Actress: AnTEENcipated||Star Trek Beyond||Nominated|
|2017||People’s Choice Awards||Favorite Action Movie Actress||Star Trek Beyond||Nominated|