EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Zoe Saldana

In 2004 Zoe Saldana played a Trekkie in Steven Spielberg’s The Terminal and just a few year’s later she walked onto the bridge of the USS Enterprise as the new Uhura. In our exclusive interview with the actress we talk about that journey, about her being a sci-fi fan, and even about clothes. We also get into one of the more surprising elements of her Uhura.  [interview contains SPOILERS]


Interview with Zoe Saldana

TrekMovie: I understand your introduction to Star Trek was through Steven Spielberg, playing a Trekkie in The Terminal, and he had to give you a little background on what it means to be a Trekkie?

Saldana: I didn’t even know what the word ‘Trekkie’ meant. So I didn’t know what conventions were. I knew of Star Trek, but not extensively. So part of doing my research to have the feel to be a Trekkie and to go to these conventions, I saw a couple of the episodes and I saw Trekkies 1 and 2, and I remember watching it and the people around me were sort of laughing at everything and I felt so overwhelmed and I felt so happy that I remember thinking ‘I want to be like that, I want to be so passionate about something that I incorporate it in my every day life and it is the reason I wake up and it fulfills me.’ So it was through the fans that I became very very curious. What is it about this show and these characters and these stories that drew people to keep it alive after forty some years after only a few seasons?

TrekMovie: Steven came to the set of Star Trek, so what was that like?

Saldana: Oh my god! He totally flaunted that he was the one that taught me to do [the Vulcan salute]. Because he really did. It took a little bit for me.

Video clips of Saldana as a Trekkie from "The Terminal"
(video put together when TrekMovie was first to report Saldana was in talks to play Uhura)

TrekMovie: You talk about being passionate, what would you consider yourself passionate about? Maybe fashion?

Saldana: I love fashion and am very passionate about it, but I am mostly passionate about what I do as an actor. I love being able to tell stories. The participation of storytelling is what keeps me obsessed. I guess I am a Trekkie for movies.

TrekMovie: What are some of your favorite movies?

Saldana: Blade Runner. I grew up in a sci-fi environment and am a huge sci-fi fanatic so Ripley [Alien] and Sarah Connor [Terminator] are some of my favorite characters of all time. I am driven toward women who are very strong and commanding and kick alien ass and all that stuff, and also kiss aliens. I would say Blade Runner, and The Hunger, which is one of Tony Scott’s first films. I saw it when I was very young, I think I saw it when I was nine or ten, I fell completely in love with the movie. It felt completely dark and hopeless because these people were eternally condemned and unable to love. And Blade Runner, I knew watching Blade Runner, and Dune, that I wasn’t old enough to understand the concept. But the fact that I was to grow older and be able to one day look at it and go ‘I get this now’ was so exciting to me at the age of five.

TrekMovie: You mention kissing aliens, so I can’t help but bring up something. I would say as a Trekkie it was the most surprising thing about this film. Were you nervous about the love connection with Spock and tell me how you prepared for it.

Saldana: I thought JJ [Abrams] was out of his mind when he and Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman decided to take that route. My concerns was what effect it was going to have on the fan community and whether or not it was going to go according to what they had known for so long. But at the same time there was no way to disprove that something like that had taken place before on the Enterprise. So after I gave myself that permission I allowed myself to go back to the script and read the story and focus on these characters and their journey and it made perfect sense to me. He is half human, half Vulcan, at some point if he was only going to be a Vulcan man, then why even make him half human. You are constantly waiting for him to break. It is that battle that makes Spock who he is and connects Spock to the beautiful friendship he has with Kirk and keeps him connected on a sensitive level when it comes to life. And I felt Uhura was a very commanding and — Nichelle [Nichol]’s Uhura was just so sexy and she always had things together and she had a swagger to her that was absolutely sensuous but confident. And she had already gotten there. I couldn’t necessarily start here there because there would be no journey for her. She was definitely very determined and a very strong woman and really wanted to be on that Enterprise and be the xenolinguistics expert since she was like five years old. So who else but Spock for her to look up to and have an infatuation with, more than Kirk.

Saldana was concerned over how fans would react to the Uhura/Spock relationship

TrekMovie: Did you talk to Nichelle about the love interest?

Saldana: I did not. I was so nervous to meet her.

TrekMovie: As someone so interested in fashion, you got to wear a number of outfits in the movie, what did you think of the wardrobe and [costume designer] Michael Kaplan’s work?

Saldana: Oh, Michael Kaplan is fantastic! I thought it was incredibly witty on his behalf, and JJ, to keep some essence of the 60s. My mom from remembers watching Star Trek when she was a girl and says not only was it special on so many levels, but it was trendy. Like what she wore was hot, from her eyelashes, to the way she styled her hair, to those little mini skirts. And that kind of defines it. So when you think of the Enterprise, you have an overall essence of what it is that they used to wear and the colors are very vibrant. Had they walked away from that, I think it would have been harder for us psychologically to immediately connect.  

TrekMovie: OK, so here is a really nerdy question. How can you tell what rank you are and the other women wearing the short sleeve uniforms?

Saldana: Its not the color?

TrekMovie: Actually that is the division you work in. The rank is the braid on the long sleeves, those stripes. 

Saldana: Oh god that is a good observation. I am going to ask Michael Kaplan "where was my rank?"

Saldana as Uhura hopes Kirk can handle being Captain, but how do we know what rank she is?


Up Next – TrekMovie talks to Cho
Next up in our final pre-movie series of interviews with the cast and crew of Star Trek will be John Cho talking about getting out of the chair and how I (in a small way) may be responsible for getting him the job of Sulu.

Other final pre-movie exclusive interviews at TrekMovie:




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Good interview.


haha, love your final question, Anthony!

Good interview. Funny, you got her on that last question!

Might I suggest Anthony that you change your last link? Zachary Saldana? lol :)

Zoe is lovely as Uhura in the new film; strong and smart and empowered in the way that Nichelle Nichols is but rarely got to be as Uhura, if that makes sense.

She’s going to endear herself to the Geek crowd with her choice of movie favourites isn’t she? Like Rosario Dawson and her BSG obsession and extensive knowledge of TNG it just makes her ”one of us” in a way that’s probably nothing more than a delusion, but a very nice delusion.

“a huge sci-fi fanatic”.. yet absolutely zero knowledge about trek? dont get me wrong, i dont expect anything but for her to act.. just didnt make sense to me. no wonder she’s ranked red.

stay hot baby

So far so good, except she might wanna work on her Vulcan salute a bit. Oh, and if uniform color meant rank, there would be a lot of captains for one ship.

I dont know about this whole Uhura and Spock thing….

I wonder why they decided to do that?

Jim: i thought the same thing.. just a little name dropping for some scifi street cred. it didnt work, but i think thats why they tossed some pics up there, lol.

@ 9, oh I’m not saying that she’s name dropping for a some inverse ‘cred, just that we as fans will overreact to her saying something which is true and feel exaggerated kinship

8: i think i remember reading it somewhere else, although it may have also been quinto.. anyway, from his interview posted earlier on the main page:

“Uhura represents a canvas onto which Spock is able to project the emotions he cannot express.”

i thought that was a pretty decent explanation. he goes into more detail, which i feel hits the nail on the head. plus, someone’s gotta get that green blood pumpin.

SPOILER: Spock: “Got any Vulcan in you? You will answer me.”

10: my bad. i still feel that way, ha ha.. although i have no problem admitting i dont know her interests. perhaps i shouldnt jump to conclusions based on a text interview. naaaah.

Why didn’t she come to Australia?

Only 18 hours to go till i’m seeing it.

Wow, nice guns in that last pic.

I’m still sticking with my theory about olfactory rank insignia for the women (just a dab of Lieutenant Commander behind the ear, rub a little on the wrists … not so much as to overpower the senses but clear enough so that other officers know how to address you).

Saldana’s smile at the end of that clip made me all melty.

Just like Spock’s more emotional side is shown in the two pilots, there are hints of an emotional link between Spock and Uhura in the early episodes.

There’s the duet in Charlie X and the “Vulcan has no moon, Miss Uhura,” scene from Man Trap.

The film opens in the UK in 14 hours.

Can’t wait.

Why aren´t there any interviews with Karl Urban, Eric Bana and Simon Pegg ?

Shows how obsessive-to-detail I am that the ‘how do you tell the rank on the short-sleeved tops?’ question was one of the first things I thought of back when the first cinematic trailer came out!

And I still don’t have an answer…


hummina, hummina , hummina


Isn’t it the color? wow that was amazing. And a very good point. I’m interested in seeing their response. Perhaps, since she is right out of the Academy, she doesn’t have a rank yet. Or at least not one they would show.

“I go gate 6…..7” OMG, I loved the movie “The Terminal” I did not make the connection until I read this. So Speilberg put he on this path, humm? Could we see Tom Hanks as Commander Decker, or Commander Mendess?
Then you have the actor Clint Howard who stared in the TOS episode “The Corbimite Manuver” and one DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise episode.

35 Fresh and 0 Rotten

Keep it coming!

Her not knowing Trek (but knowing Blade Runner) is possible, I know some hardcore sci-fi fans who’ve never sat through an episode (or movie) of it. It all depends on where your interest is, or what you’re exposed to, I guess.

I don’t ever think I will be comfortable with Spock/Uhura. If he does go through a point in his life where he likes human females, bring in Leila Kalomi! They met on earth 6 years prior to the Enterprise, didn’t they? And seriously, are we all forgetting T’Pring, that bitch? Uhura seems to me like she’s a lot younger than Spock. He’s her freakin mentor!
anyway, that’s just how I see it, I guess.

The Uhura-Spock romance was sort of foreshadowed in TOS “The Changeling” when after Nomad wipes Uhura’s mind, when Spock says “That unit is a woman” you can tell that he cares about her.

Where’s Yeoman Rand? She’s supposed to be the Duty Squeeze.

I am most excited about Zoe being in this film. She spent a decade in the Dominican Republic living a life that helped to form who she is, as if living in and around NYC wasn’t like living on another planet. She’s one of the more cultured and sophisticated actresses out there, and was pretty good in “Pirates of the Carribean.” She reminds me of Linda Park, a Star Trek actress that will never be “typecast” into Star Trek because so long as she keeps her “nose clean” and doesn’t fall into the trap where actors believe they have to make buzzing noises in the tabloids to stay relevant, she’ll do just fine and live a long and happy life.


Remember the Farragut!

#25 – ha! :) — my favorite interaction between Uhura and Spock happened in one of the very early episodes, when Uhura gives Spock in the Command Chair her “hi suga’ baby” eyes, and says … “haven’t you ever walked on a Vulcan beach under a full moon?” He responds to her invite with “Vulcan has no Moon, Miss Uhura.” She rolls her eyes and says “Really? I’m not surprised.”

#24 … Spock as described in DC (The Spock Script Supervisor) Fontana’s “Vulcan’s Glory,” some of which appears in this movie always was a little more human before he had to become more Vulcan to try to reel Kirk in and provide some balance on the bridge. The reason Uhura would become attracted to him is the same reason so many female fans in the 1970’s showed off their “I grok Spock” bumper stickers … they see Spock as a challenge to conqueror. Among the female species, maybe there’s some prize for the woman who can trigger Pon Farr in a Vulcan male, but DC Fontana made it clear that Vulcans CAN mate more than once every seven (Earth?) years, but with a lot more self-control. Perhaps the challenge for women would not have been so great in Spock’s youth, yet one can not watch 3 years of Star Trek without seeing an untold story of a common past and a great friendship between Spock and Uhura. Of all of the controversies in this film, the Spock-Uhura relationship is the least controversial to me, and perhaps the most over-rated one in hindsight after having seen the film. I noticed that between the time of this film, the skirts are cut to make sleeves.

#28 Brilliant! I had forgotten that. It’s actually been a ‘long’ time since I watched the originals. I caught a few of the remastered episodes. Maybe I ought to take the Blue-Ray leap :)

@26 Oh my goodness, she was in pirates!! Wow, I never realized that. I need to watch her scenes again!

I’m gonna watch it in 3 hrs 45 min!!!

Also, during the movie sequence ST III, isn’t Uhura on Vulcan, staying with Sarek and Amanda? Hmmmm, kind of interesting that she’s there staying with them.

And of course in “Journey to Babel”, she knows who Sarek is, it’s Kirk who doesn’t realize…

I also understand now why Lt Uhura was always sitting with her body angled more towards Spock’s station rather than the turbolift doors. ;) Subtle subconscious…

It all makes sense really. The linguistics ties it together.

1 day, 8 hours, 17 minutes and 48 seconds…

6. Since when did every sci fi fan HAVE to know Trek? Sci fi is a huge genre! There’s so much variation, liking or knowing one type doesn’t guarantee another. That’s why it’s so great. Someting for everyone.

Great interview. I’m really looking forward to her performance; she sounds like she does a fantastic job :D Personally I’m very interested in the S/U angle, assuming it’s pulled off in a way that respects, if not original relationships, then original characterisations.

She is great in this film. I won’t give spoilers (other than Scotty beaming tribbles into the Narada’s warp core), but Zoe’s performance is VERY strong here. You’ll see. :-)

TrekMovie: OK, so here is a really nerdy question. How can you tell what rank you are and the other women wearing the short sleeve uniforms?

Saldana: Its not the color?

TrekMovie: Actually that is the division you work in. The rank is the braid on the long sleeves, those stripes.

Yes Zoe, It’s the color – everyone on the Enterprise wearing Red is a Lieutenant, Gold is for Captains, and Blue is for Commanders. This means Checkov and Sulu are both Captains.

oh well, I still can’t wait to see this movie, I think she’ll do a great job!

Well, her dossier on the movie website says she’s an Academy student…so she’s at least equal in rank to Kirk (as a cadet). Guessing she’s not on command track (although, remember in the early 1st season, she wore command gold), so I’d assume she’s still either a cadet or an ensign aboard the Enterprise.

No rank stripe = ensign. Unless they braided it into her collar or something…

Lets not forget that look on Spock’s face when he is playing the Vulcan Harp and Uhura is singing to him… definately sounds like 2 former lovers who have become friends and serve together…

Off Topic – Rotten Tommatoes up to 41 reviews… still 100%

On a side note – Wolverine = 36%

28. I was remembering that scene too. I believe it’s in the Man Trap just before Uhura meets the shape shifter in the hallway and it transforms into a guy to lure her (sorry if I ruined the Man Trap for those who haven’t seen it). I was wondering about that scene and it’s implications when I saw it again as an adult (before any spoilers from the movie hinted at a romance). I think there’s a free-spiritedness, self-confidence, flirtiness, and a lack of judgement in her. I don’t get the impression she’s particularly monogamous in her relationships and you get a clear sense that she cares about everyone and is not afraid to express it. I haven’t seen the film yet, but I wonder whether it’s an obsession or a mix of empathy, genuine pleasure, and intrigue by a caring, free-spirited xenolinguist. I don’t think there was a thing going on specifically between the two of them through TOS and the movies. I think analyzing the later films for this is a bad idea (the fan dance is canon, too); and I would suspect that in the Journey to Babel since she’s the one hearing the majority of communications on and off the ship she would be in the know on who Spock’s father was.

The first time we saw short-sleeve uniforms (besides McCoy’s smock) was TMP, where long-sleeve uniforms had stripes and short-sleeve uniforms had shoulder epaulettes. Would have worked equally well in this film.

I know A LOT of sci-fi fans who love tons of stuff, other than Trek.


6. TrekYou – May 6, 2009

“a huge sci-fi fanatic”.. yet absolutely zero knowledge about trek? dont get me wrong, i dont expect anything but for her to act.. just didnt make sense to me. no wonder she’s ranked red.

stay hot baby

shes just too black to be hot to white americans like me but shes not black enough to be uhura…. shes supposed to be from africa not the bronx! anyone white who says shes hot is just pretending to not be racist.

I think if Leonard Nimoy has seen the film multiple times and has actually had GOOD things to say about the Spock/Uhura connection then I dont know how much is left for US to debate. For me, when it comes to Spock, Nimoy has the final word.

#33 very nice observation, i made a little side note in my brain concerning the numerous subtle moments between them. at the same time, you could argue that they possibly had the same kind of relationship that tuvok and seven had (writers missed an opportunity there, i found that more interesting than the dry romance between her and chakotay)

Saw midnight imax screening of Star Trek- it was amazing and zoe was great.
Im ok with the alternate timeline if it means another 40+ years of adventures…


44. iiiioubuzaneee – I can assure you that I for one find her incredibly attractive and I suspect greatly that I am not alone in that. And it has nothing to do with trying not to be racist. I’ll leave that up to you.

I love Zoe’s energy, sweetness, talent, enthusiasm, open and friendly and lovely features, her shapely form and her dark skin. Not sure why the later would cause any man, white, black, yellow or green to not appreciate a looker like her.


44. iiiioubuzaneee: You are an IDIOT. (…too black, not black enough, not hot…)

I’m a white boy, and I find Zoe to be the HOTTEST CHICK ON THE PLANET.

I love EVERYTHING about her. <3

Go back to your “white america” and never come back! Twit!