Actress Zoe Saldana

Celebrity Q&A, People
on November 25, 2011

Did Zoe Saldana really swim with sharks in Colombiana? Or was that a stuntwoman?

—Jose Salazar, Albuquerque, N.M.

She sure did! Saldana, 33, had to learn to breathe underwater with scuba divers for the role of Cataleya in Colombiana.

"While I was traveling underwater where there were sharks swimming, my heart was pumping," she says. "You know how we always have the little angel and the little devil [on our shoulder]? The angel is going, 'Are you out of your mind?' And the devil is going, 'Do it! If you follow instructions, you can get away with it.' I did it, and it was so amazing.

"Once we did it, we were high-fiving."

In Colombiana, the native of Passaic, N.J., plays a young woman who has grown up to be an assassin after witnessing the murder of her parents as a child. As a professional killer, she remains focused on her ultimate goal: to hunt down and get revenge on the mobster responsible for her parents' deaths.

"I don’t purposely go out there looking for strong characters. I look for characters that will challenge me not only internally but physically because I have a physical background," says Saldana, who has also starred as Neytiri in Avatar and Aisha in The Losers.

"When I was reading [those scripts], they were not strong [characters]. They were broken and fragile. They were bleeding on the inside because they have lost something that was valuable to them. It is just that physically, they can kill you."