Zoe Saldana often plays indomitable action heroines on the big screen, but the star recently revealed to Allure that she often has to battle studios to have her voice heard, and to cope with unfair off-screen criticism from those she sees as her sisters.
While working on one of her films, Saldana’s request for the studio to cover extra child care she required in order to put in 15-hour days on set was initially turned down.
“The tone changed in the negotiations. I was starting to feel that I was…difficult,” she recalled the babysitting request being “considered a perk, or ‘Give this to me; I’m having a diva fit’? No. This is a necessity that you must cover for me in order for me to go and perform my job.”
Perks that male stars typically get—private-jet service and tricked-out trailers—were one thing; babysitting, apparently, was another. The request was ultimately granted, but the fact that her antagonists were women added a peculiar sting.
“The fact that there are women working in these studios—and they’re the ones [enforcing] these man-made rules. When are we going to learn to stick together?” recalled Saldana.
The quest for solidarity among women is very important to the 38-year-old mother of two.
“I come from a family of women. Of tough women…not in a bad way, just resilient, and strong, and determined, and super-opinionated,” she said proudly, “That love and support from the network of women around you… if we continue to do that, we will be unstoppable. As opposed to nitpicking at each other for arbitrary things such as weight and hair color and purses…when there are bigger issues that we have to be talking about, like equal pay and equal rights.”
Even having successfully established herself as a bankable action star, Saldana finds herself struggling to command the respect of her colleagues.
“I was told walking into this project that they really wanted me for the part, and that any input or ideas I had to please share them. That’s what I was doing, and this producer was so bothered by the fact that he had to disrupt his vacation to call me and tell me…‘I hired you to look good in your underwear holding a gun’…to stop being a difficult b—h. I thought, Wow, it’s real. It really happens,” Saldana revealed.
Saldana felt a similar punch in the gut when many Black women criticized her being cast for the part of Nina Simone, and for her having the audacity to finally accept the role playing the dark-skinned, highly political singer after repeatedly turning it down for a year. Even the singer’s estate went in on her after Saldana posted a quote from Simone, tweeting “Cool story but please take Nina’s name out of your mouth. For the rest of your life.”
Saldana faces these haters, like everything else in her life, head-on.
“There’s no one way to be Black,” Saldana clearly chose her words carefully. “I’m Black the way I know how to be. You have no idea who I am. I am Black. I’m raising Black men. Don’t you ever think you can look at me and address me with such disdain,” warned Saldana, “I made a choice. Do I continue passing on the script and hope that the ‘right’ Black person will do it, or do I say, ‘You know what? Whatever consequences this may bring about, my casting is nothing in comparison to the fact that this story must be told.'”