After spending most of her youth training as a dancer, Zoe Saldana made the transition to acting on screen after an attention-getting performance in the stage musical "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." Saldana began landing television and feature roles almost immediately, including "Center Stage" (2000), in which she was able to showcase her years of ballet training. Despite the fast start, her career had trouble lifting off after a series of disappointing film like "Get Over It" (2001) and "Crossroads" (2002), though she did make fleeting appearances in large studio fare like "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" (2003) and "The Terminal" (2004). Eventually, Saldana managed to break free from the confines of broad comedy and forgettable independents when she was cast to play both Lieutenant Uhura in the highly anticipated reboot of "Star Trek" (2009) and its sequels, Gamora in Marvel's action comedy smash "Guardians of the Galaxy" (2014), and the Na'vi heroine, Neytiri, in James Cameron's box office behemoth, "Avatar" (2009). These blockbusters bounced the actress from relative obscurity to undeniable movie star, but she also took the time to appear in smaller-scale prestige projects such as Luc Besson's action thriller "Colombiana" (2011), family drama "Infinitely Polar Bear" (2014), and Ben Affleck's Prohibition-set drama "Live By Night" (2016).
Born on June 19, 1978 in New Jersey, Saldana and her two sisters were raised by their parents in nearby Queens, NY. When she was nine, Saldana's father died in a car accident, forcing her mother to relocate the family to the Dominican Republic, where both her parents had been born and where extended family still lived. A year later, she began taking ballet lessons and attended a preeminent Dominican arts school while a teenager. Eventually, Saldana moved back to New York with her family when she was 17. A natural and charismatic performer, she joined several dance troops in New York City, including the FACES Theater Co., a group that specialized in improvisational and educational skits for teens. She was also part of the New York Youth Theater, where her role in the chorus of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" caught the attention of an agent and helped propel her into acting.
As a New York-based actress, Saldana began her onscreen career with a requisite guest spot on the unremitting cop procedural, "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990-2010). The following spring, she had a breakthrough with a featured role in the ensemble of the dance-themed drama, "Center Stage" (2000), chronicling the struggles of a group of students at the American Ballet Academy. Saldana's notable dance skills were showcased in her standout turn as Eve, a talented but foul-mouthed nonconformist with a chip on her shoulder. She next surfaced in "Get Over It" (2001), playing the pragmatic and somewhat duplicitous best friend of a popular and beautiful high school girl (Melissa Sagemiller) pined after by an average-looking classmate (Ben Foster). After the festival-bound hip-hop thriller "Snipes" (2001), Saldana was one of a trio of best friends embarking on a life-altering road trip in "Crossroads" (2002), a mediocre coming-of-age drama that was remarkable only as being Britney Spears' feature debut. She was next featured in the independent music-themed drama "Drumline" (2002), aptly playing a dance team captain who falls for a brash marching band drummer from Harlem (Nick Cannon).
After a brief but amusing role as the pirate wench Anamaria in "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" (2003), Saldana was showcased nicely in director Steven Spielberg's "The Terminal" (2004), playing an airport security worker wo d by a co-worker (Diego Luna) through a stranded immigrant (Tom Hanks) forced to reside in the terminal. In "Guess Who?" (2005), a comedic remake of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" (1967), she was the young woman who brings her boyfriend (Ashton Kutcher), an up-and-comer on Wall Street, to her parent's 25th wedding anniversary party. Her father (Bernie Mac) takes an instant disliking to the yuppie white boy and challenges the relationship at every turn. She breezed through her next film, "Dirty Deeds" (2005), a raunchy teen comedy about 10 raucous dirty deeds performed by upcoming high school graduates before homecoming weekend. In the romantic comedy "Premium" (2006), she was a woman about to be married to another man when her one-and-only true love tries to stop her before it is too late.
Trying hard to get away from the teen flicks that defined the early part of her career, Saldana turned to edgier independent films in order to branch out, including "After Sex" (2007), a frank and occasional crude romantic comedy that explored vulnerability in the wake of sexual intimacy. Following the real-life inspired drama, "Blackout" (2007), based on the largest blackout in U.S. history in 2003, Saldana played a young psychic who partners with an avowed skeptic (Tim Daly) suddenly confronting a haunted house in the appropriately titled thriller "The Skeptic" (2008). As a guaranteed fast track out of her rut of teen comedies and go-nowhere independents, Saldana was cast as the iconic Lieutenant Uhura, the female communications officer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, in J.J. Abrams' reboot of the highly anticipated "Star Trek" (2009). She was also given a starring role - via motion capture technology - as the sexy blue-skinned Na'vi warrior, Neytiri, in "Avatar" (2009), director James Cameron's long-awaited return to sci-fi glory which became the highest grossing film in history.
Saldana next appeared in the American remake of the dark comedy "Death at a Funeral" (2010), followed by the action thriller "The Losers" (2010) and the cult comedy "Burning Palms" (2010). Her next starring role came in the Luc Besson-penned crime drama "Colombiana" (2011), which which she played a fearsomely skilled assassin. After playing the female lead opposite Bradley Cooper in the indie drama "The Words" (2012), the re-donned her uniform for "Star Trek Into Darkness" (2013). Her return to television came with the starring role in a two-part adaptation of the horror classic "Rosemary's Baby" (2014). The same year, she co-starred in the biggest movie of the summer as the green-skinned revolutionary Gamora in the Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster "Guardians of the Galaxy" (2014), while also appearing in critically-acclaimed family drama "Infinitely Polar Bear" (2014). When Saldana was cast as Nina Simone in the biopic "Nina" (2016), many of the jazz singer and pianist's fans, led by her daughter Simone Kelly, decried the casting of the light-skinned Saldana as Simone, whose dark skin was a central facet of her personal and political self-image; the film debuted to largely negative reviews and poor box office. Saldana rebounded with return engagements in "Star Trek Beyond" (2016) and "Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2" (2017), plus a supporting role in Ben Affleck's Prohibition-set crime drama "Live By Night" (2016), based on the novel by Dennis Lehane.
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
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Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Appeared on an episode of "Law & Order" (NBC)
Co-starred in the dance-themed drama "Center Stage"
Landed supporting role in the hip-hop drama "Snipes"; screened at Toronto International Film Festival
Featured in the teen comedy "Get Over It"
Co-starred as Nick Cannon's love interest in "Drumline"
Co-starred with Britney Spears and Taryn Manning as roadtripping best friends in "Crossroads"
Cast in the adventure feature "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl"
Played an INS Inspector in Steven Spielberg's "The Terminal"
Starred in the teen comedy "Dirty Deeds" with Lacey Chabert
Starred opposite Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac in "Guess Who," loosely inspired by the 1967 film "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"
Cast opposite Orlando Bloom in the indie thriller "Haven"
Cast in the John Singleton produced "Illegal Tender"
Cast as Neytiri, a member of a sentient alien race named Na'vi, in James Cameron's 3-D science fiction epic film "Avatar"
Portrayed Lt. Uhura, communications officer of the Starship Enterprise, in J. J. Abrams' "Star Trek"
Co-starred in the Chris Rock produced black comedy "Death at a Funeral," a remake of the 2007 British film of the same name
Cast as Aisha al-Fadhil in the adaptation of the comic book series "The Losers"
Appeared in the ensemble crime thriller "Takers"
Portrayed an assassin avenging her parents' murders in "Colombiana"
Co-starred with Bradley Cooper in romantic drama "The Words"
Appeared in the indie drama "Infinitely Polar Bear"
Played the legendary singer Nina Simone in the biographical drama "Nina"
Reprised her role as Lieutenant Uhura in "Star Trek Beyond"
Appeared in the Ben Affleck-directed crime drama "Live by Night"
Co-starred in fantasy drama "I Kill Giants"
Reprised her role as Gamora in "Guardians of the Galaxy 2"
Gave an emotional performance as Gamora in "Avengers: Infinity War"
Voiced Adelina Fortnight in Laika's stop-motion adventure "Missing Link"