You could say that Zoe Saldana is the queen of futuristic action films with movies like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Star Trek” And “Avatar. But now the Dominican-Puerto Rican actress is taking a break from traveling galaxies and going back in time for the drama “Live By Night,” a movie about organized crime that takes place in the American Prohibition era.
In Ben Affleck’s new drama, Saldana portrays a Cuban immigrant named Graciella Corrales, who grapples with the hatred of the Ku Klux Klan and the harsh realties of being married to a gangster named Joe Coughlin (played by Affleck).
With the film’s release this Friday, Saldana caught up with Chica to talk about working with Ben Affleck, the meaning of the American Dream and much more.
How was it working with Ben Affleck?
It was amazing! Being an actor first, there’s a lot of empathy that he provides for actors because he has a great understanding of how important actors are, how much we contribute, how much we go through to put a character together so it just felt like I was in good hands and I felt like I could try anything. He was also able to multitask; he was writing, directing, producing and acting in this movie and you never felt that other things were interrupting what he had on the table at that time.
Tell us more about your character Graciella.
She’s an immigrant from Cuba. Her and her brother are in the molasses business and they find themselves in the South in the 1920’s-30’s, a time where the hostility amongst the masses was overwhelming because of the prohibition, racism, discrimination and gender equality and yet these two individuals manage to run a very lucrative and the most successful-run business in Florida at that time.
How do you feel that you connect with your character?
It was easy for me to connect with Graciela on a cultural basis because I am from the Caribbean and I grew up there partially so my take on Caribbean culture is that it’s super gracious; it’s about decency, grace, education and just being a very great individual. Those were the qualities I wanted her to possess because I just feel like that was what I read of her on paper.
This movie is all about paying the price for the American Dream, what is the meaning of the American Dream to you?
The freedom to do things that you wouldn’t be able to do anywhere else in the world.
You are known for roles with a futuristic theme and this [movie] is taking us back to the past on Earth, which do you enjoy acting in more— past or future?
I enjoy skipping time! [Laughs] I just enjoy going forward, going back. I think it’s so much fun. It’s gives me an inside [look] of what the possibilities can be moving forward and also what it was like back then. I gain a deep understanding sometimes to people and cultures when I’m able to go back in history and play a certain character.
A highlight of the film was the fashion, is there any piece that you loved or something you’d wear all the time?
I think everything that I wore I would keep and I would wear every single day. It was hard not to alter your walk or extra bend your wrists when I would wear all those garments. It gives a glimpse of what it must’ve been like for women at that time, where it was just natural to be gracious. I do wish we could back [in time]— sometimes it bothers me how casual we could be in public places. Sometimes we’re too bohemian or too casual and when somebody’s dressed [up] and looking dandy and dapper, it’s like ‘Oh, she’s extremely overdressed’ and it’s like ‘No, she’s enjoying fashion. She’s having fun.’ I [also] wish I was that bold and I would cut my hair that short. I loved it!
Really? So why don’t you cut your hair?
The only time that I would have cut my hair was when I would have breakups. Those were awesome because there is nothing that gets you over a breakup [more] than when you cut your hair. Immediately you relieve all that sh-t. But I’m married now and I am not ever breaking up.
Also, Dominican parents are not fans of their children cutting their hair.
Oh, no. My mom has always had short hair and she’s dyed it every single color known to mankind. My mom doesn’t keep up those kinds of traditions, which is why my grandmother always wanted to kill her. She kept our hair long for as long as she could and the moment one of us would have this yearning to cut it, she would allow us to do what we wanted with our bodies and that included our hair.
“Live By Night” will hit theaters everywhere on Friday, January 13th.