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SHELTER IN MAKING HAVEN
by Brad Balfour
Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
September 12, 2006.
For actress Zoë
Saldana making the indie film Haven had a lot to do with
confronting her roots as being of Caribbean descent. While she's been
through the drill of characters of her age and ethnicity such as Center
Stage and Drumline which put the spotlight on her career,
Haven gave her a chance to really grapple with the nitty gritty of a
character and a culture.
Working with first
time feature director Frank E. Flowers, she got to work in a great place,
Grand Cayman Island, and with an ensemble of fine actors from Anthony
Mackie to Orlando Bloom. In Haven, Saldana plays Andrea, the
gorgeous teenage daughter of a prominent local businessman who falls in
love with Shy (Bloom) a poor fisherman who hangs out with other street
kids in town and not someone her dad or older brother (Mackie) approve
Saldana has been
working with lots of young indie directors and getting the chance to make
films that mean something to her--and hopefully the audiences as well.
She's definitely a face to keep an eye on.
What attracted you
to this project? Was it shooting in the Caribbean, in the Grand Caymans?
I had already shot
that same year another film in Caribbean I knew how wonderful it is to
shoot there. I am of Caribbean descent and it was how touching the story
was to me and how real the characters were that made me highly interested
in being a part of this project.
Andrea comes from a rich family where her father is very protective of
her. Did the sheltered family situation have a degree of authenticity?
Definitely. I got
interested in Andrea because she was so hurt by the people she trusted the
most in her life. The three men in her life – her father, brother and the
man she loved. She trusted them and they failed her. That's very popular
in a very conservative, traditional culture where the daughter is seen as
a prize and her virginity is more like the golden token that the family
has either to marry her to good family or to save face that she makes a
good appearance of purity. You never stop to realize you are using and
exploiting a person.
come from culture where you would see that--the boys are off to do what
they are free to do because we live in a free world for men. In the
Caribbean culture and I can only speak for that culture--girls are taken
more care of, kept sheltered; reputation is holy to the family the
appearance. It was the biggest flag for me when I read script. I always
wanted to do something related to that, to fight for that and against it
what it represents. She was so flawed but half of her flaws were not her
responsibility; they were through consequence of her being handled badly
by people she trusted. Her rebellion, that rebellious character, it felt
completely justified and there was no other path she could take.
The perception most
people who visit the Caribbean have no idea about the people who live
there. This film offered an authentic look at that.
At some point you
have to become aware that you are visiting this country as a foreigner.
Besides the resorts and everything you have to become aware that this
country has families that go back seven or eight generations. They're a
part of Caymanian folklore. Also it's a target; it's a country where
there's no income tax. It became center of a lot of scandal seven or eight
years ago along with the Bahamas; how people laundered money. The laws are
now more strict to protect the people that live there. If you go to an
island in the Caribbean it's not just beaches and fried fish. You have to
respect the culture that's been there been there for years. Haven portrays
You are of Caribbean
My mom is Puerto
Rican and my father is Dominican.
At what stage did
you come in the casting?
I was one of the
last ones to be cast. I was arriving from a trip and got the script on
Sunday. My audition was on Monday. I couldn't put it down. I was supposed
to meet Frank E. on Monday. Instead of reading we actually had hour and
half conversation about film, the character and how I saw Andrea. We
actually had a disagreement – that's a way to blow an audition, have a
disagreement with the director. We argued different points of views maybe
that's what he saw in me. Once I read her, I totally understood her –
maybe it was a little tweaking to fix, "Dude she wouldn't have gone that
way" Really...? So he said "Prove yourself." It was a very interesting
enriching conversation. Once I got the part we worked to find Andrea
What was it like
working with such a young director as Frank E.?
One night my mom
flew there to stay a few days. I was not shooting one night so I watched
him maneuver his way around his crew and the actors and what the vibe was.
I asked my mom, "What does he make you feel while watching him work?" He's
so extraordinary, so young. She said, "It was like watching a baby boy
play with sand for the first time." She put it so beautifully; it
describes what it was like working with Frank E. – like watching a boy
play with sand. You have all the sand in the world and you are building
You got to work with
two hot actors; Orlando Bloom and Anthony Mackie. What were they like? How
did you work with them?
We had lots of
conversations together. They had already started shooting by the time I
was able to fly down there. I was shooting The Terminal so I was
unable to there earlier. Everything happened at the last minute. It was
extraordinary. As soon as I met Anthony we clicked; it was an honor to
have him as a brother. He's so professional and on point. As soon they say
"Action" he turns and flips and he turns into what he has to turn into and
as soon as they cut he's back to Anthony. The man is like electricity he
channels that so powerfully.
One thing that
Anthony and Orlando have in common they're so similar to me is that I
trusted them. Orlando helped me to warm up to the script and to the crew
quicker; we had done a film together earlier that year so I was familiar
with him we knew each other so it was fantastic to work with him again.
was like having Orlando as your boyfriend – it wasn't a bad thing?
You can ask him
that... No it was great.
And what was it like
doing the more intimate scenes with him?
The same way it is
to do intimate scenes in a movie period. You can only pray to have
professional, attractive, good-smelling partner. I've been very lucky with
that. Then it is beautiful when you're protected and the person you're
working with has your back and is so professional and respectful. Then is
does not make it seem like a job. All in all, for me, shooting intimate
scenes is a bit uncomfortable; the technicality demands a lot of
concentration and lots of work. You're sweating, all these lights are all
up in your face you're wearing very few clothes, and everybody's there –
the cinematographer, the director and all the crew and he asking you to
kiss him in some odd angle – “it's a better angle for the lighting” – and
it's all a bit uncomfortable. But as long as looks like it then that's
what we were there to do. But I am producing so that's really good for me.
So you're producing?
I think it's about
time I start. The moment you realize what you want to see on the screen as
an audience member and what you feel the people need to see especially for
me, I am a Latino, a woman of color and from New York that I don't see
half on screen and I have that urge to tell stories. So it's time for me.
So what do you have
I am producing a
film based on book by Jamaica Kincaid; the novel's called Lucy –
she one of my favorite novelists. The novel is based on the story of this
young girl from the Caribbean. She leaves the island to come to work as
au pair. [It] is set in late '60s just as the country is going to war.
She works for a wealthy family in New York and the rude awakening at the
brink of war and flower power and music and the revolution and the civil
rights movement. It's her take on all that.
How did you get
introduced to that book and to producing?
I was familiar with
her writings and these producers approached me and wanted me to be
attached to the lead role of Lucy. Then we shopped it around for a year
trying to get the financing to get the film done. It's a period piece and
needs to be done in New York. It's an independent movie and to sacrifice
the authenticity and weren't able to so I finally jump on as a producer to
get money together.
Did you talk with
Not yet but she's
aware of it and she's very pleased. When it becomes more solidified I can
go and stalk her.
What else do you
have coming out?
I have a couple
films that are going to festivals. There's Constellation – I shot
[it] a year after I did Haven that found its distribution – with
Billy Dee Williams. There's Premium and it's been going to
festivals and getting good response. I just wrapped a film called
Blackout about the blackout that happened in 2003. It's set in
Brooklyn and how it took its toll on a neighborhood with Jeffery Wright
and then did a film called After Sex directed by Eric Amadio.
were you when the blackout happened?
On Park Avenue
getting hair done [laughs]. I had to cross because we were going to
my mother's house who live in Forest Hills and it was my sister's birthday
– on the 14th. We were all going to Queens had to cross 59th
St. Bridge. So we were all together.
You were able to use
[laughs]. I played a very different character but we had to get across
the bridge to get to Brooklyn so I used that.
You enjoy doing
I do but it's a
combination of many components... If nothing is good out there I always
want to do material that speaks to me that I can feel proud of, that's
different from the one I did before. It doesn't matter whether it's a
studio with a big salary or guerilla one with no money that we have no
license to shoot on the street, I will do them.
What would be your
I could say that
women in powerful positions. These roles I have not played yet; I've done
more the girlfriend. I love the evolution we are witnessing in Hollywood
not just a cultural one but sexual as well. Women now are getting the
roles that were written for men 25 years ago. Now it's a possibility to a
see woman in change of national security. That was unheard of years ago.
She would be a great wife and support her husband. It keeps me so happy
everyday to that there are more roles and producers who want to produce
films where women can be portrayed in powerful positions.
Are there women who
influenced you like that?
Playing a role
similar to Hilary Clinton. She is such a lady... Disregarding any
political inclination, how this woman has managed herself in public when
her partner embarrassed her. [I admire] how she kept a straight face and
remained a lady and swallowed that. She was married to someone in such a
powerful position who goes off flirting with some girl in a closet and
everybody is writing about you. You're the poor wife I don't know how it
would be like to be in that emotional position. That would affect how she
should be in public. She managed to keep her poise and class. That's
enough for me to trust her in terms of her wanting be a president one
Look at how the
right skewers her.
We live in the most
hypocritical country in the world. It takes an American to say that. I
love my country but we are the most closed-minded people. The moment a man
who is in touch with his femininity he's gay. A woman who is strong; she's
a lesbian or she is trying to kill her husband. It's so easy to make a
quick judgment for a bit of publicity. It kills the class of a nation and
makes us look tacky and unreliable. I have an issue with that.
What actresses do
There's so many I
admire. Whoopi Goldberg and Angelina Jolie are women I admire. Whoopi ever
since I've been young, for what she does in front of the camera and how
she has changed things she's the only one in her category and for what she
does off camera; she's a very powerful advocate for abused women and
against discrimination and other charities empowering women to fight.
Angelina too who at such young age instead being in spa or in Beverly
Hills she's in Africa lending her voice – that's very beautiful and
Who was your first
My mom. She does
everything – she managed to raise three girls by herself and live in
country not her own and still love and respect it. My mom is the most
amazing woman. Nobody tops her she's really cute.