Millions of fans around the world were energized earlier this year by Marvel Studios' Black Panther, which featured a nearly all-Black cast -- a rare thing in Hollywood in general, and especially in genre entertainment. The results were undeniable, with the film attracting virtually universally positive reviews and grossing more than $1.3 billion worldwide.
Black Panther was the culmination of a slow build of increased representation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has received criticism in the past for relying heavily on straight white male lead characters. Zoe Saldana, who is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, made her MCU debut in 2004's Guardians of the Galaxy as Gamora -- and while that character is a green alien, Saldana's role was a notable instance of a woman of color in a prominent role within a major Marvel franchise.
With Saldana making her third appearance as Gamora in the soon-to-debut Avengers: Infinity War, she reflected on increased representation and diversity at Marvel Studios and in Hollywood as a whole, this past Sunday at a Beverly Hills press conference for the film attended by CBR.
"I'm happy. I'm super, super-happy to be an American right now," Saldana said the gathered news outlets. "To be in the entertainment industry, to be considered a public figure, and to also be given the opportunities by leaders such as our studio heads, when they take on the task of broadening the narrative for our stories. It's plain and simple. I think that as actors, regardless of our race and our gender, we just want to be given an equal opportunity to be able to be chameleons, and continue growing and connect with our audiences. So when directors and writers and producers understand that change needs to come from within, and as public figures we have the responsibility to take the lead and broadening that narrative, it just makes someone like me, who would be nothing but a positive recipient, super-happy, because I know that that means for our future generations."
For Saldana, the last part of that comment has very personal significance.
"I have three sons, and nothing is making me happier -- I keep saying happy, but it's true -- to know that they are going to inherit an influx of storytelling through media that represents them, and makes them feel seen and heard, and that their lives, and their heritage matters," she continued. "But only through their merits. I'm just really happy about that."
Nauturally, Saldana also divulged a bit on the pivotal and specifically personal role that Gamora plays in Infinity War, as the adopted daughter of the film's six-years-in-the-making villain, Thanos.
"Besides these kinds of movies carrying so much action and entertainment and visual effects that really cater to all of our senses, we wouldn't be what we are in the Marvel Universe if it wasn't for those emotional beats that all of these inter-relationships carry," Saldana shared. "And that thread involves a relationship between parent and child. I will speak also on behalf of also Karen Gillan's character Nebula -- we had so much fun with the arc, with the relationship that these daughters have with their father, because they finally get an opportunity to address what it was like to have a dad that's so 'complicated.' So it was fantastic."
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, Avengers: Infinity War debuts in theaters on April 27.