Honey Magazine: The Losers is based on a DC Comics graphic novel about a team of highly trained, special black ops who are on a revenge mission. Was either of you comic book fans? How did you both prepare to breathe life into these two-dimensional characters?
Columbus: I was not familiar with the comic book. But what is amazing about The Losers is that it is a graphic novel grounded in some sense of reality. And because the comic book does not have a huge following, we had some liberty in what we could bring to the character. But most of us stayed true to the comic book and used it as a source. Also working with Sylvain [White, director of Stomp The Yard] again is great because he knows how to keep your character grounded and real.
Zoe: I had to study up to prepare for my role. We were all given comic books. What is cool is that The Losers are the renegades of the comic book world. They are like rock and rollers. We had this freedom to do whatever we had to do for the character and that’s what I did with Aisha. The movie is going to give the comic book a lot more notoriety. When I choose roles, I just look for a good script. I have a great team. After Star Trek, I did a movie in New Orleans for no money because I liked the character. She was dark and had survived sexual abuse. I became an actor for people not to know my face first, but to recognize my work. I was the blue alien in Avatar because I fell in love with her. It’s like a beautiful affair. You need your character and you fall for the role every time.
Columbus, you have said Pooch is like the Black MacGyver.
Columbus: [Laughs] Pooch is the vehicle specialist. He can rig any vehicle and can handle his weapons. Everyday on set, you get [paid] to play shoot ‘em up.
Zoe, you seem to be drawn to strong female characters like Aisha.
Zoe: I always take something from my characters with me. They haunt me. Letting go of Neytiri from Avatar was hard. I did not want to let go of her. Aisha is crazy, sexy and driven by emotions that are foreign to me. She is tough and complicated.
You both went through some intense physical training to gear up for the role.
Columbus: We went through some military and tactical training. We shot in El Yunque in extreme heat. Running up hills in full gear was intense.
Zoe: It always takes a village on set. We had an amazing gun expert. We called him Dirty Harry. The stunt coordinator was the same coordinator I had on Avatar. He was the one that trained me. He knows my body and that I am very resilient.
You and Zoe seem to share a special chemistry. You did this film and Death at a Funeral. What is it like to work with her?
Columbus: Zoe can definitely hold her own. She is like my sister. We did Death at a Funeral together, which is pure comedy. Doing films from different genres back to back helped us as actors. Working with vets like Martin Lawrence, Chris Rock and Tracy Morgan and then doing The Losers, you get to dial it down and bring a realer aspect to your character.
Zoe, how has your career changed since being part of the Oscar-nominated blockbuster Avatar?
Zoe: I have not really thought about it that way. I take it day to day and count my blessings. I want to continue being employed through my art. The fact that I am here is a miracle.
Unlike many women of color in movies, you have avoided being pigeonholed in Hollywood and have landed amazing roles. What is your secret?
Zoe: I avoid being put in a box in my life. It’s all about logic and humanity. I won’t pigeonhole myself in my career if I don’t pigeonhole myself in life. When I walk into a room, I feel like I’m the best. I am special. I feel equal. I want to give inspiration to people to be absolutely color-blind. You don’t want to be associated with a project that is narrow-minded. I am from New York, so this may sound a little arrogant, but it is up to you to expand people’s minds.
The Losers are in theaters April 23. Death at a Funeral is now playing.