Much has changed in the last 13 years, but the character of Neytiri has changed right along with Zoe Saldana. Coming back to the role she played in Avatar over a decade ago, the actor was able to tap into that kinship she’s always felt with her character. “Neytiri and I, in a way, we’ve lived parallel lives,” according to Saldana. “There’s a level of fearlessness and rebellion that I have, as a person, that Neytiri had as herself.”
The fact that both Saldana and her costar Sam Worthington have become real-life parents since the last film served as an inspiration to writer and director James Cameron. “Both Zoe and Sam are parents, and I’m a parent of five, so we wanted to get into the family dynamics, and the responsibilities of having
“In my personal life, when I became a parent, fear entered my realm,” according to Saldana.
“The fear of losing something that you love so much, you know? And you just spend a great deal of your time creating these hypothetical scenarios that are just unimaginable.” That fear created an entirely new connection to Neytiri in Avatar: The Way of Water, as the character is also driven by great fear for her children, but it’s a connection that Saldana didn’t recognize until much later. “When I read the second script, that was her, that was Neytiri. But I didn’t see it then. I see it now. Because my job wasn’t to see it, my job was to be it.”
“You may be fearless when you don’t have kids,” agrees Cameron. “You learn fear when you have kids, when you have something greater than yourself that you could lose.” That parental fear drives both Neytiri and Jake in the film. “Sam plays a character that would leap off of a leonopteryx, go flying through the air with no parachute, to land on the biggest, meanest predator on the planet, to solve his
problem. Would he do that as a father of four? I’m thinking probably not.”
Saldana says she is trying her best to manage that fear now that she’s been a mother for eight years. “There’s nothing greater and more heart-breaking than when your child looks at you and goes, ‘momma, let me go, I can do this.'” In Avatar: The Way of Water, that’s just what the children of Neytiri and Jake are constantly telling their parents, and according to Saldana, “Fearlessness and fear are two very humbling sensations to experience.”
You can watch Avatar: The Way of Water in theaters now.
About Avatar: The Way of Water
Jake Sully and Ney’tiri have formed a family and are doing everything to stay together. However, they must leave their home and explore the regions of Pandora. When an ancient threat resurfaces, Jake must fight a difficult war against the humans.