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Actress Affinity: Zoe Saldana

If you look at the Best Leading and Supporting Actress categories at last month’s Oscars, it was a good year for emerging female talent. Carey Mulligan got off to what’s sure to be a prestigious career and Up in the Air co-stars Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga got deserved attention too. None, however, broke into the mainstream quite like Zoe Saldana. With a comedy already out this month (Death at a Funeral) and an action flick due Friday (The Losers), she’s quickly becoming as versatile as she is sexy and it’s about time the credit follows

If anyone’s bothered by this, it has to be Halle Berry. The veteran actress, 43, has gone on a two-year hiatus and Saldana, 12 years younger, has crept into her niche with ease. Mocha skin and great facial structure aside, Saldana shares Berry’s athleticism in roles such as Star Trek and Avatar compared to Berry’s roles as Storm in the X-Men series and in the unfortunate Catwoman. Berry might have an edge as an Oscar-winner, but if you didn’t catch onto it, that was Saldana playing the emotional intense Na’vi princess Neytiri in Avatar. If she can give a performance that strong as a digital rendering, the sky’s the limit.

Saldana’s film career started with a supporting role in the 2000 dance film Center Stage. It was a natural fit as she studied dance as a teenager at a prestigious academy in the Dominican Republic where she lived for seven years. She was originally born in New Jersey to a Dominican father and Puerto Rican mother and raised in Queens, so she moved back to the States at age 17, which was when started acting.

Saldana climbed the Hollywood ladder fast in 10 years. After Center Stage she starred alongside Britney Spears in Crossroads and landed a small yet noticeable and extremely career-important role in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl as Anamaria. After starring in Steven Spielberg’s The Terminal and in comedy remake Guess Who? with Ashton Kutcher, she had a couple down years until 2008’s Vantage Point and eventually the role that put her in a spotlight: Uhura in J.J Abrahms’ Star Trek.

In Friday’s The Losers, in my opinion she’s the most appealing aspect of the film, and it’s not just sex appeal as the only female in virtually the entire cast or the cool yet physics-defying way she fires a rocket launcher. She’s impressive in the trailer, commanding a lot of attention despite being a few inches below her co-stars and there’s something about watching an actress or actor whom you really enjoy who you think has a chance to become a household name in the future. It’s like following a really good band that’s well-known by the music community who hasn’t made it huge just yet; you want to feel as if you get extra credit for catching onto them first.

She’s also got a great track record. That biased, because her resume includes far more guy-friendly films than the usual actress. Like a Natalie Portman, it’s easy to get on the fanboys’ good side when you break out in films such as “Pirates,” Vantage Point, Star Trek, Avatar and The Losers. I exercise no hesitation in saying that at this point more guys know who she is than girls.

The sad part is that despite billions of dollars and hundreds of millions of viewers across the globe, she gets no face exposure Avatar. That virtually wipes out all the fame and potential deals she could have gotten from that movie. I have a hunch, however, that years from now people will be revisiting Avatar and commenting that they can’t believe it and they never realized it was her.

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