Also Credited As:Zoe Yadira Zaldana Nazario
|Zoe Yadira Zaldana Nazario on June 19, 1978 in New Jersey, USA|
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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.