Given Zoë Saldaña's meteoric rise, it only makes sense that the flick that finally rockets her to the heights of superstardom would be an intergalactic adventure like "Star Trek." Previously, you might have seen this striking ballet dancer-turned-actress as the late Bernie Mac's daughter who was dating Ashton Kutcher in "Guess Who," playing second-banana to Britney Spears in "Crossroads," as the love interest of Nick Cannon in "Drumline," opposite Johnny Depp in "Pirates of the Caribbean," with Forest Whitaker and Dennis Quaid in "Vantage Point," or directed by Steven Spielberg in "The Terminal" alongside Ton Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Last year, the photogenic fashion plate made People Magazine's 100 Most Beautiful People in the World list she was also name #42 on Maxim Magazine's Hot 100 list for 2008.
Here, she reflects on portraying Lt. Nyota Uhura in "Star Trek," a role originated on TV by Nichelle Nichols in 1966.
KW: The last time we spoke was a year ago, and we only touched on "Star Trek" slightly back then. Let me ask you this. Was it at all intimidating becoming a part of a film franchise that fans take so seriously and even attend conventions for?
ZS: I would be lying to you if I said I didn't have any concerns about it. I did ask myself, "Do I really want to take on that kind of pressure?" and take the risk of not being well received by the fans or of becoming typecast so early in my career. But in talking with J.J. [director J.J. Abrams], I became curious about the fact that he had been more of a "Star Wars" than a "Star Trek" fan. And what convinced me was that he had just such a beautiful vision for the film. I figured if he was taken with these characters, I definitely didn't want to be left out.
KW: How familiar were you with "Star Trek" prior to taking on the role?
ZS: I never really watched the TV series. And after J.J. offered me the part, I wanted to see it even less, because I was so afraid of falling victim to what we sometimes do as actors, which is to imitate. I felt that Nichelle Nichols did not deserve that, and neither did my character. Plus, because I would be playing a much younger Uhura who's not quite on the [Spaceship] Enterprise yet, it gave me an opportunity to innovate. So, she's not comfortable in her own skin… she's finding it really hard… she's very studious… These were the sort of things I focused on, and I only hope that the fans receive it well.
KW: How has Nichelle Nichols received it?
ZS: She was very happy, when I met her on the set. She was pleased that J.J. was the one revamping the "Star Trek" franchise, and that I was playing Uhura.
KW: Did she offer any pointers about playing Uhura?
ZS: Her advice was just to run with it, to follow my gut, and that whatever I was going to do for Uhura, to do it well.
KW: Lt. Uhura is a linguist. Are you good with languages?
ZS: I speak two languages, and I would like to learn more.
KW: The buzz on this film has certainly been very positive. Everybody who's seen it is saying the franchise has been totally revitalized.
ZS: Gosh, that makes me feel so good. If it could make a believer out of me, trust me, it can make a believer out of anyone. I hadn't been familiar with the series, although I did know about that one dude with the pointy ears.