• THE RIGHT STUFF
Star Trek actress Zoe Saldana continues her space odyssey in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, reprising the role of alien assassin-turned-goodie Gamora. The 38-year-old says she particularly enjoyed shooting scenes with Karen Gillan (Nebula) and newcomer Pom Klementieff (Mantis): "I like the fact that there's more than one female in an action movie." Saldana also prefers Gamora's practical outfits to the uniform she sports as Uhura on the Enterprise. "I feel the weirdest when I do Star Trek," she says. "It's like, 'Argh, this skirt is too short!'"
• FINDING HER WAY
Saldana was raised in New York City, the daughter of a Dominican father and a Puerto Rican mother. When she was 9, her dad died in a car crash and the family moved to the Dominican Republic, where Saldana took dance classes. "My mother was trying to find ways to keep us busy," says the star, who has two sisters, Cisely and Mariel. "I was like, 'What the f---? I'm going to wear, like, a pink leotard?' But that saved my sanity. It really put me on this path of being an artist."
The actress' early films included 2000's Center Stage and 2003's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. "I left that production with a really bitter taste of Hollywood," she says of the Disney blockbuster. "It was big, it was excessive, it was egocentric." Saldana had a much happier time on her next film, Steven Spielberg's immigrant tale The Terminal. "It was a really great part," she says. "It gave me hope and confidence." In 2009 she starred in the Star Trek reboot and Avatar, and Guardians blasted off in 2014. With a trio of space franchises under her belt, Saldana returned to Earth to play legendary singer Nina Simone in last year's Nina. The casting was criticized by some—including the musician's estate—who protested that Saldana wasn't "black enough." However, the actress has no regrets. "I'm still healing from it, but everything is a learning curve for me," she says. "I genuinely love Nina Simone. I would do it again if I could."
• LOOKING TO LAND
Saldana recently shot scenes as Gamora for Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 (out May 4, 2018) and will soon reunite with James Cameron for his quartet of Avatar sequels, in which she'll play blue-skinned alien princess Neytiri. "I've read all four scripts, and the direction he's taking with this story is marvelous," she says. Even so, Saldana teases that her galactic travels may be drawing to a close. "I'm f---ing done with space, okay?" she laughs. "Five Avatars. Say, one more Guardians. I'm done!" Godspeed, Zoe Saldana.