Zoe Saldana refuses to play ‘generic’ or ‘sexy bombshell’ female movie roles

Zoe Saldana

Zoe Saldana covers the January issue of Modern Luxury’s Manhattan magazine to promote her new film, Out of the Furnace, which costars Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, and Casey Affleck. Zoe plays Bale’s lover, and the movie is a gritty crime drama that (if the trailer is any indication) looks pretty damn compelling. The cast is just incredible, and the trailer is full of action, emotion, and intrigue. Woody plays a bad guy, which should be fun to watch. Zoe’s character looks like more than ths usual stock “girlfriend” too.

The magazine spread is rather beautiful in a bland way, but the interview is slightly more interesting. Zoe talks about how she refuses to play the part of a clichéd Hollywood starlet. Do we buy what she’s selling here?

On gender injustice: “It’s very hard being a woman in a man’s world, and I recognised it was a man’s world even when I was a kid. It’s an inequality and injustice that drove me crazy, and which I always spoke out against – and I’ve always been outspoken. I love learning new skills, especially those you’re told girls aren’t good at – like parallel parking. Hey, I’m going to learn to ride a Ducati!”

She doesn’t “generic” or “sexy bombshell” characters:
“I’m known for being selective in parts I either pick or pursue, and what matters most is that they be good female roles where the character isn’t cardboard or objectified, and where there’s real substance. No generic girlfriend or wife, and no sexy bombshell. Enough of that already!”

The power of ballet: “Before ballet, I had trouble concentrating, and I wouldn’t even try to concentrate on things I wasn’t interested in. The barre, the piano, the breathing – they calmed and centred me, and allowed me to learn lessons physically, which is how I learn best.”

Her family’s work ethic: “My sisters and I weren’t raised to be princesses; we were taught to want love and to recognise love, but not to be tempted to sacrifice things you can provide for yourself for love. We were taught to work.”

[From Modern Luxury - Manhattan]

Zoe’s attitude towards her career may seem odd because her breakthrough role was in the super-major blockbuster (Avatar) to end all blockbusters. Yet she didn’t predictably head down the romantic comedy route. I can appreciate such an offbeat and unexpected career path.

Here’s the rest of the Manhattan photo shoot. I’ve also included some photos of Zoe attending a taping Extra! yesterday. Her little black dress looks fun and kicky from a distance, but it’s kind of a mess in close-up view.

Zoe Saldana

Zoe Saldana

Photos courtesy of Manhattan magazine & WENN

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37 Responses to “Zoe Saldana refuses to play ‘generic’ or ‘sexy bombshell’ female movie roles”

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  1. T.fanty says:

    Errr, did she not watch the final cut of STiD, then? Because I’m pretty sure she failed the Bechdel test in that one.

    • Tapioca says:

      Quite. Her character’s entire purpose in STID was to have a hissy fit with her boyfriend in front of Kirk, and then get all worried about him getting hurt fighting Khaaann, whilst clad in the shortest minidress the MPAA would allow.

      And weren’t her roles in The Losers, Takers and Colombiana absolutely typical semi-dressed eye candy, or was there a deeper meaning I missed to her brawling with Jeffrey Dean Morgan in her skimpies?

      • ShiOllie says:

        I think Zoe is a really interesting example of someone who means well, but whose values are limited by opportunity. (I don’t want to get into a talent debate, because that’s pretty subjective, but suffice it to say she’s not the best actress but she is pretty good, which is good enough for Hollywood).

        But I think the characters she played in the Losers and in Columbiana are examples of what Hollywood thinks ‘empowered’ means – a character written as a dude and then had boobs drawn on it at the last second. It’s not that they’re feminist icon characters, but it’s the best most actresses can hope for. It’s not her fault there’s little opportunity, and I appreciate that she’s at least striving for better.

        And re: Star Trek – the first one, Uhura was pretty faithful to how asskicking and feminist she was in the original series, and the sequel she was contractually obligated to do, and had very little control over how grossly sexist it turned out to be. And I’d much rather an actor suck it up and not complain. (And if she was complaining about how offensive STID, we’d all be bitching about how she should be grateful to have the work at all.)

        Edited to fix atrocious spelling and grammatical mistakes! My bad!

      • Megan says:


        Uhura is really just there to be Spocks girlfriend, but it got worse in the new Star Trek because she became Spocks NAGGING girlfriend who ran after him while he ran after Kirk. A waste of an iconic character.

        However while I find Zoe to usually be boring or trying to seem like an intellectual in her interviews, I actually enjoyed this one. And boy is she gorgeous. If she were to get a few curves my husband would go cars over her.

      • Chronus says:

        I must be mistaken but I thought when I saw the Losers, that Zoe was a CIA agent and she got to fire big guns.
        I also must be mistaken but when I saw Columbiana, I though Zoe was an assassin in that one.
        Also in the Takers, I though she had fight scenes.

        Thanks for clearing up my lying eyes.

    • LadySlippers says:

      She was pretty damn blah in that movie. But to her credit — so were a lot of the characters. So it didn’t stand out….

    • Andrea says:

      Here’s the thing: the Bechdel test, while useful as one form of guide, does not actually indicate if a narrative is feminist. There are some distinctly feminist female roles in movies that fail the test just as there are movies that PASS the test that are problematic. (For ex: both Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey ::pass:: the test but don’t exactly present empowered figures. )

      Star Trek: Into Darkness has many flaws but that doesn’t change the fact that Uhura is not a “generic” character. On the contrary, Uhura was, historically, one of the first black women on TV and a pioneer for women both in the Space program and for the image of black women in media. Playing Uhura is an honor, I imagine, despite the flaws of the film itself.

      • T.fanty says:

        I see what you’re saying, but that’s a token and hollow nod to tradition, which doesn’t make it any more empowering today. You could, in theory, apply the same rationale to Bond girls.

      • Spooks says:

        Uhura was a pioneer, no doubt, but she pretty much played a sexy assistant to the important characters.
        New Generation was the Star Trek series that brought more equality to female characters, although they were still in stereotypical female roles, mainly as nurturers ( Well, Dr Crusher was important, Troi was just useless).
        Voyager was the series that had real kick-ass female characters ( B’Ellana was my favourite TV show character when I was a kid).

      • Musey says:

        Gene Roddenberry’s Uhura was an iconic pioneer character that would be an honor to play. J.J. Abrams’ Uhura is a poorly-written cardboard cutout. They are not at all the same character.

  2. allons-y alonso says:

    Saldana didn’t need to do a rom com off the back of Avatar. She had already done the world’s worst re-make of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” with Ashton Kutcher. Ugh!!!!! I will never forgive her for that.

    • LadySlippers says:

      She prob did that to pay bills. Focus on that! Lol

    • Spooks says:

      Crossroads anybody?

    • Megan says:

      She seems to love making Sh!tty remakes I guess, since she was in the god awful remake of Death at a Funeral. She isn’t that good an actress, but I can see her sticking around for quite a while as a B-list star.

      However, I think the Nina movie is gonna bomb, and depending on how bad she is in it, it may cause her career to take a turn for the worst.

  3. Gossy says:

    Hmm I think most actresses with some self respect don’t like playing those characters/roles, but Zoe’s not a good enough actress (she’s not bad, but nobody thinks she’s an Oscar worthy actress) and she doesn’t have any box office draw either….so getting decent roles is going to be super tough for her.

    She echoes what Jessica Alba once said about 6 (?) years back where she complained she didn’t want to play the sexy girl always and wondered why Natalie Portman got better roles. Um, Natalie can act lol….

  4. V4Real says:

    No sexy bombshell roles yet she has no problem trying to be sexy on the cover of this magazine. As my grandma would say close your mouth dear befofe something you don’t want flies in it.

    Zoe wants to be the kind of actress that can carry a film but she doesn’t have that kind of audience draw. She’s only good as part of an ensemble cast.

    • msw says:

      I kenw someone would comment about this. Personally, I see a difference. Fashion modeling is supposed to be “sexy.” Acting is about acting, and she is right, many of the roles for women are typecast from the get go. It is stupid that there are so many dumbed down, sexed up, shallow roles for women in movies.

  5. Nanou says:

    Didn’t Zoe play the generic girlfriend in Takers ? TI and Michael Ealy were fighting over her… And Takers came after Avatar.

  6. ZL1 says:

    Loving her cover. Agree she’s so cute in her lbd.

  7. shannon says:

    not a fan of her movies and can see her fading away in about five years or so. sorry, but that skinny look does nothing for her.

  8. Dommy Dearest says:

    Saldana is generic though. She’s so set in staring in the ‘action/Si-fy’ films that now she’s pretty much only in those films. And she’s not even believable with her small frame.

    How she was cast as Gamora (a pretty BAMF) in the Guardians of the Galaxy I’ll never know (other than what the first part of my comment stated). For sure not pleased AT ALL with that casting.

  9. kim says:

    Loved her in Center Stage! She should go the Indie route not the mainstream bc mainstream will always cast her in a way she doesn’t want to be. If you love to act go indie of yiu just want ro be famous keep doing those whiny gf roles.

  10. Happy21 says:

    Well I guess it’s good then that I don’t find her sexy or a bombshell but damn I do find her generic!

  11. taxi says:

    Good she doesn’t want to play a sexy bombshell, because she isn’t either one, even when she wears necklines slit down her scrawny ribcage to her waist. She’s boring & unrecognizable most of the time. “Colombiana” was unrevealing of any talent & anyone with a mask & blue paint could have done her “Avatar” role. The most interesting thing about her was the willingness to be Bradley Cooper’s booty-call, for months if not years.

  12. Naddie says:

    She`s one of the most beautiful women i ever seen, but very plain-looking at the same time. I`d look at her all day long.

  13. Chronus says:

    Zoe’s break-out role was “Pirates of the Caribbean, curse of the black pearl” in 2003.
    She has steadily grown in actress status and unlike those such as Jennifer Aniston actress types who constantly plays hood ornaments, Zoe has been mostly in action/thrillers, just take a look at her IMDB page.

  14. lisa2 says:

    Every woman talks about being sexy in a film. The thing that these actresses need to be building for is POWER. I don’t care how many Oscars you win or nominations you have. It all comes down to how much power you have as an actress. And despite BO numbers or being on some list there are only a very few women in Hollywood that have real Power. Power to control their careers. Power to do whatever they want when they want.

    That is what these women need to be talking about. I was reminded of Evan Rachel Wood going off on her sex scene in a film being cut. But why no outrage at the lack of power women have in film. It seems that the only Power women want or talk about is sexual power. Taking your cloths off in a magazine to feel empowered. How about keeping them on as a sign of power.