Zoe Saldaña Advocates For More Female CEOs at Cannes

Image credit: Deadline

“We need more female CEOs.”

This was the declaration made by Avatar and Guardians of the Galaxy actress Zoe Saldaña at the Cannes Film Festival’s Kering Suite on Monday. Saldaña, who is receiving high praise for her role as Rita in Jacques Audiard’s Emilia Pérez, emphasized the importance of increasing female representation in executive positions.

Emilia Pérez tells the story of an underpaid and underappreciated criminal attorney in Mexico, played by Saldaña, who gets a lucrative opportunity representing a cartel lord. However, the kingpin demands to transition to a woman named Emila, complicating the new identity and life.

At Cannes, Saldaña stressed the need for more women in leadership roles. “I think as women, we’re going to keep creating stories about us for us and forever, but we need more women sitting on boards, because they’re the gatekeepers,” she said.

She also offered further advice: “Once those women are there, don’t feel happy that you’re the only woman at the table … make room.” Saldaña suggested that women should bring other women into leadership roles, not just be content with their own presence at the table. Her point was not to be anti-guy, but rather to ensure more women have a seat and a voice.

Saldaña shared that Audiard was insistent on her playing Rita in Emilia Pérez. Although she had reservations about portraying a Mexican character as she is of Dominican descent, she gave Rita a Dominican backstory to make the role her own. Saldaña had expressed to her agents a desire to play a Spanish-speaking role, feeling her career had plateaued before Emilia Pérez came along. She emphasized that opportunities eventually come.

Saldaña spoke about how she has managed to avoid typecasting by leaning on her team. “I would love to say that I’m a one-woman shop. Sometimes, I can get in my own way. There are people that I trust. I’m a big girl, I’m wearing my big-girl pants.”

Her LBI representatives advised her to take on a role in Taylor Sheridan’s Paramount+ series Special Ops: Lioness, despite her initial intimidation by Sheridan’s long monologues. She couldn’t pass on the opportunity as she admired Sheridan’s material.

Saldaña expressed a desire to work outside of mainstream productions and where art is flourishing. Emilia Pérez received an 11-minute standing ovation at its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, highlighting the film’s and Saldaña’s success.

Re-reported the article originally published in Deadline.

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