It’s achievement enough for an actress to become one iconic character on film, but Zoe Saldana has managed the trifecta in this department: She is Lt. Uhura in the big screen Star Trek movies (assuming the role from TV’s Nichelle Nichols), the warrior Gamora in the Guardians of the Galaxy films as well as Avengers: Infinity War, and she is Neytiri, part of the Na’vi in James Cameron’s Avatar (two sequels to which she’s already shot, with two more in development).

Zoe was born Zoe Yaira Saldana Nazario on June 19, 1978, in Passaic, NJ. When the family moved to the Dominican Republic following the death of her father in a car accident, she discovered a love for dance and ballet but ended up quitting due to the fact that, as she has explained it, she had too much pride and ambition to be in the corps de ballet. When the family moved back to New York following her sophomore year in high school, she began performing with Brooklyn’s Face theater group, which led to a talent agency recruiting her.

Working on becoming an actress, she appeared on an episode of Law & Order, and then in the feature films Center Stage, Crossroads (which starred Britney Spears), Drumline, and as a female pirate in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Other film roles followed, but she probably gained the most attention for taking on the role of Nyota Uhura in J.J. Abrams’ 2009 production of Star Trek. From there, she went on to Avatar and hasn’t had to look back since.

At the time of Avatar’s release in 2009, we sat down with the actress to discuss the film and working with James Cameron. That interview, however, went unpublished. Until now. Scroll down to read our exclusive conversation with Zoe Saldana!