Watch: Zoe Saldaña On Which Sci-Fi Language Is Easier—Star Trek’s Klingon Or Avatar’s Na’vi?

In 2009 Zoe Saldaña appeared in two big sci-fi movies: as communications officer Nyota Uhura in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek and as the Na’Vi alien Neytiri in James Cameron’s Avatar. She has since appeared in two additional Star Trek movies, but the first follow-up to Avatar didn’t arrive until this weekend. This gave her an opportunity to compare the different fictional languages of the two franchises.

Klingon or Na’vi?

Danish movie journalist and friend of TrekMovie Johan Albrechtsen sent us a video clip from his Moovy TV interview with Zoe Saldaña (and Sam Worthington) for Avatar: The Way of Water. As a Trekkie, not only did he wear a Spock T-Shirt (which got an instant Vulcan salute from Saldaña), he decided instead of the usual Star Trek 4 update, he would ask which language was more difficult for the actress to master: Klingon (which she spoke in Into Darkness) or Na’vi from the Avatar movies. See her response below, along with Worthington jumping in.

Saldaña calls Trekkies “lovely”… feels grateful for association with space franchises

A couple of weeks ago, Saldaña appeared on Hot Ones, the popular talk show where guests answer questions while eating escalatingly spicy wings. Early on, Saldaña was asked if there are differences between Star Trek fans and Marvel fans and said, “Trekkies take it far more serious, they’re lovely,” adding that the optimistic vision of the future gives the franchise “a very special place in people’s hearts.”

Saldaña will be returning to the Marvel Universe as Gamora in May 2023 for Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3. A comment she made last month about feeling “stuck” in various franchises got a lot of attention, so earlier this week she clarified (via Deadline) how she feels grateful for all the opportunities the various film franchises have given her, noting that it has been hard to balance the work since starting a family, but saying “I’m happy in space, I’ve always been happy in space. I relate to people who love space as well. I relate to men like James Gunn and James Cameron and J.J. Abrams.”

Avatar 2 out now

You can see Saldaña (and Discovery‘s Michelle Yeoh) in Avatar: The Way of the Water, which opened on December 16.

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I had to learn Slovenian in my old age, try that one for size ;P I think Klingon would be easier!

Well done, but to put on my language hat, I doubt it! Slovenian is a ultimately a Slavic (and thus European) language. I’ve not studied Klingon, but my understanding is that it’s agglutinative (i.e., the grammar works by adding suffixes and prefixes) and is thus more akin to Turkish or Finno-Uralic languages, which are harder than European ones.

Fun fact: there’ll be an Avatar 4 before any Star Trek ‘4’ (unless Paramount is planning a 2026/60th anniversary movie)

Paramount seems to be constantly planning and announcing.

Actually doing the work to ensure a movie gets made seems the insurmountable challenge.

Wish they keep their internal conflict by themselves. For respect of the fans.

I understand they were merging Paramount, CBS, Viacom, etc. But seriously, I’m like Tiger2 now, will not believe anything until I find a ticket for the premiere.

Star Trek 4 came out decades ago. The next movie will be Star Trek 14.

Indeed. Oh Kelvin, Kelvin…

Huh? Trek 4 came out like well over three over decades ago?

She’s such a treasure. It would be a shame not to see her as Uhura once again.

She’s was good as Uhura, until we got Celia Rose Gooding, who is closer to Nichelle in appearance and demeanor.

Wow that video is great! He really loves his Star Trek. Not shocked Saldana thinks Klingon is harder. Imagine learning it in opera like I imagine all the Klingon kids have to learn it in school too. ;)

Thank you so much, Tiger2! :-D I’m Johan, the journalist who was lucky enough to get to ask Zoe the question (it was actually my FIFTH interview with her, since meeting her originally on the press junket for Abrams’ first “Star Trek” way back in 2009). I actually remember you saying nice things about my Star Trek supercut back in 2017 as well, so thank you again! :D I always love to talk Trek with the actors and filmmakers I get to meet – if it’s in any way relevant, of course. For example I’ve met James McAvoy three times and I know he’s a huge Trekkie, so we’ve talked a bit Star Trek on every occasion. As a Trekkie from a tiny city (17.000 people) in a tiny country, it often seems crazy to me that I get these opportunities. And thanks SO much to TrekMovie for sharing! Huge honor! Qapla’!!

Oh wow, yes I remember you now! And I still love your video. It’s been one of my Trek playlist videos list since I first watched it and still do from time to time. I can’t believe that was five years ago already!

You’re so lucky you get to meet so many of these actors as part of your job but must be extra cool anytime it crosses over into your fandom. I’ve always loved Zoe Saldana as an actress and a person. I have serious doubts we’ll see her play Uhura again (at least in movie form) but you can never say never when it comes to Star Trek. And I remembered when McAvoy lobbied to play Picard when the show was developing actually. Never happened obviously, but again you never know; especially if they decide to just reboot TNG some day.

Thanks again Johan for this interview and yes thanks TM for posting it!

Thanks for all those kind words, Tiger2! Yeah, it’s crazy that it’s already been five years – tempus fugit! Back then my supercut barely had any clips from Discovery in it, because there had only been a couple of teasers, and since then we’ve gotten a bunch of shorts and FIVE new shows. Crazy stuff! I guess I’ll be posting a 60 minute long supercut in 2066 :-D

And yeah, I do feel incredibly lucky that I get to meet these actors and filmmakers, although for some reason I’ve strangely never gotten to interview any of the cast members on any of the Trek shows. A dream to realize another day! But yeah, McAvoy is great – I would actually LOVE to see him as Scotty on “Strange New Worlds”. Couldn’t they get him for just a few episodes or a single season perhaps? I remember talking to him in 2011 about losing out on the role of Scotty to Simon Pegg, which he was alright with, especially because Doohan himself wasn’t Scottish either, which also just shows that McAvoy is well-versed in the realm of Trekdom :-)

I still hope to see Saldana play Uhura at least one more time, fingers crossed! But yeah, I do have my doubts, which is also why I avoided the obvious “what’s the status of Trek 4?” question, because the answer would’ve undoubetedly been “still hoping it works out, would love to do it”, and I always try to steer away from the stuff that you can find answers to other places online :-) Rock on!

Yeah you TOTALLY have to make a new video for the 60th anniversary. It’s insane there will probably be an additional 500 hours of more Star Trek since 2017 lol. Unfortunately I doubt any of those hours will include another movie unfortunately.

I had no idea McAvoy tried out for the first Kelvin movie until now. Wow, he’s been trying to be part of this franchise for a long time. Both he and Rosario Dawson has been begging to just do something in it. Make them both Q’s in an episode and promote it to death. But they are big stars, you should find some way to include them even if it’s nothing more than marketing.

I wouldn’t mind seeing one more Kelvin film either, but at this point, yeah. I think the next movie, whatever it is, its budget has to be under $150 million or it probably won’t ever get off the table again. No one seems all that motivated to make another one, especially after the debacle of the last cancelled film this year. Unfortunately Star Trek doesn’t have Avatar budgets…or profits. ;)

McAvoy didn’t actually audition for the part of Scotty, but he very publicly lobbied for it :D and he said he would “kill” for a part in one of the sequels. I don’t get why they don’t get passionate celebrity Trekkies like McAvoy, Dawson and Tom Hanks onboard for a part and then, like you say, market the sto’va’kor out of it! :D

And yeah, wouldn’t mind a more low budget sequel either. I’m glad Chris Pine said as much. Make it more of a philosophical sci-fi epic akin to Edge of Forever than a grand action spectacle. Fingers crossed! And hey, merry Xmas!

N’avi does seem to be a much softer spoken language. I can imagine speaking Klingon would be hard on the vocal chords.

It’s been so long since I seen Avatar I don’t even remember what it sounds like lol. And haven’t seen Avatar 2 yet.

Re her statement about feeling “trapped” in genre franchises? While I’m glad she clarified her statement saying how grateful she is?
It’s common for actors who see their work as art to feel a bit pigeonholed.
Gene Roddenberry felt the same way for years before he accepted his place in show business.
Musicians want to perform different styles of music.
Songwriters commonly feel like they are retreading past songs and feel creatively stifled.
I’ve enrolled in a film school for writing for movies and TV shows.
While I hope to develop Twilight Zone-type content, time travel, or science fiction?
Who knows? I may end up being the darling of the Hallmark Channel, writing romantic Christmas movies.