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The various members of the Guardians of the Galaxy all have at least somewhat dark pasts -- but Gamora is certainly a frontrunner for "Darkest." She was abducted by Thanos when she was a child -- following the murder of her parents -- and she was raised as a daughter of the Mad Titan, essentially raised to be a perfect assassin and killing many along the way. This is material any actor would find a challenge, but Zoe Saldana found a way to connect to the part by relating Gamora's past to the Lost Boys of Sudan. She recently told me,
When we were putting Gamora together in the first movie, I remember I had a conversation with James [Gunn], and I was like, 'I don't know why, but the Lost Boys of Sudan come up in my mind in terms of children that are taken from their villages or from their people - like Gamora was from her planet - and forced into a life of violence and corruption and just abuse. And what that may do to someone's heart, someone's mind.' And then I was given permission to go as deep as I can, so I did!
In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, writer/director James Gunn delves deeper into Gamora's past -- particularly in her relationship with her "sister" Nebula -- and that was a topic that I was curious about when I sat down with Zoe Saldana during the Marvel film's Los Angeles press day last month. I asked her about the conversations that she had with Gunn about the backstory, and she noted how she initially found her way to access the character.
The Lost Boys of Sudan that Zoe Saldana is referencing is a tragic bit of history during the Second Sudanese Civil War. Between 1983 and 2005, more than 20,000 young boys were displaced and/or orphaned during the conflict, and many were recruited as child soldiers by the opposing sides. Albeit out in the cosmos, Gamora's story certainly relates to this one.
Of course, an actor primarily studies a character's backstory in order to understand who they are in the present -- and that's exactly what Zoe Saldana did in understanding Gamora. After discussing the role that the Lost Boys of Sudan played in her preparation, she continued on discussing how it's caused the assassin-turned-heroine to be much less joke-y than her Guardians of the Galaxy teammates. She explained,
And what came of it was this warrior that is surviving, that will do whatever she can to get away from that -- even if she has to die. But she's also on this road to redemption. There's a great deal of baggage that she's carrying in this movie that prevents her from being as light and as funny and open as the rest of the Guardians. And I hope that [when] we go into a Vol. 3 we'll explore that more.
You can watch Zoe Saldana discuss her process developing the backstory of Gamora watching the video below: