"You believe so much in Pandora that it's not a difficult journey."

Zoe Saldaña is just as ready as we are for the long-awaited Avatar sequel to finally make its debut in theaters later this year.

Attendees at the annual confab CinemaCon saw the first footage from the film, which has officially been titled Avatar: The Way of Water, last week. "It's exciting; nerve-wracking," Saldaña, who was on hand to receive the event's Star of the Year award, tells EW of the film's bow. "Humbling as well, you know — the wait is finally over. And we get to share something that we love so much with so many people that we know love it, too."

The film, which is 13 years in the making, will return audiences to the beautiful planet Pandora, with Saldaña reprising her role as Neytiri, a native Na'vi, and Sam Worthington as Jake Sully, the human soldier-turned-Na'vi. New additions to the cast include Edie FalcoMichelle YeohKate Winslet, Cliff Curtis, and more.

Speaking in a pre-taped message to audiences at CinemaCon, the film's director James Cameron teased that the sequel will once again "push the limits of the big screen" by utilizing "3D, with high dynamic range, with high frame rate, higher resolution, and a much greater reality in our visual effects."

As she did in the first film, Saldaña had to undergo quite a physical transformation to look like one of the blue Na'vi. Fortunately, the star is no stranger to turning into colorful aliens, having also played the all-green Gamora in the Guardians of the Galaxy. But according to Saldaña, the process of becoming a Na'vi is very different than turning into the Marvel hero.

Zoe Saldaña in 'Avatar 2'
| Credit: Everett Collection

"They demand a different kind of sacrifice, but they stand very unique on their own subjective grounds," she explains. "Gamora is a much more traditional approach where you wake up at 3 o'clock in the morning and you go through the whole prosthetic process. And then kind of once you see yourself and you feel Gamora on you, obviously, you transform, you know?"

She continues, "And when it comes to Neytiri, it's more of a practice. It's months of training, not just rehearsing with your director, but training with movement coaches, and traveling to the jungle and getting to feel what it's like to make your own food with all the elements that are around you. And once you use all of that, you do bring it into what we call the volume, which is the set, when you shoot under performance-capture."

The actress explains that all of that preparation helped inform her performance, because "this world has to become alive in your imagination." "Obviously, there are reference pictures, and Jim [Cameron] always has screens that are alive, and he's showing you a very rough version of what the environment looks like," she explains. "But you have been prepping yourself so much, and you believe so much in Pandora that it's just not a difficult journey for you to make."

That journey will finally make its way into theaters when Avatar: The Way of Water is released on Dec. 16. Additionally, the original Avatar will be remastered and re-released in theaters on Sept. 23.

Related content:

Avatar: The Way of Water
  • Movie

Comments have been disabled on this post