Arts & Entertainment

Zoe Saldaña: ‘Maya and the Three’ protagonist challenges old establishment

By David Villafranca

Los Angeles, Oct 20 (EFE).- A Mesoamerican warrior princess refuses to conform to her society’s traditional gender roles in “Maya and the Three,” an upcoming Netflix animated fantasy television miniseries set in an exuberant and magical pre-Columbian world.

“Maya is challenging the old establishment,” Zoe Saldaña, the 43-year-old American actress that gives voice to that character, said in an interview with Efe.

She is one of numerous prominent Hollywood figures involved in this English- and Spanish-language project, which also features Rita Moreno, Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal, Kate del Castillo and Isabela Merced as voice actors.

“Maya and the Three,” a nine-episode series that is scheduled to premiere on Friday, tells the story of a courageous princess named Maya who joins up with three other warriors to save humanity from the dark lords of the underworld.

Conceived as a homage to the culture and mythology of the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas, “Maya and the Three” is a series created by Jorge R. Gutierrez, best known as the co-writer and director of the 2014 animated film “The Book of Life.”

Question: You already worked with Jorge R. Gutierrez (as a member of the voice cast of) “The Book of Life.” What’s special about him that made you want to do it again?

Answer: He’s brilliant. I think that not just are his stories wholesome and just so beautiful, but also his aesthetic for animation is nuanced. It’s fresh. It’s also very original.

Q: The series pays tribute to pre-Columbian cultures.

A: I think that who better than a person that is a part of that community to really tell a story authentically, you know from a lens that’s more internal, that’s more intimate. And I feel like Jorge really accomplished that. But he also did it in a way that it doesn’t feel preachy. It doesn’t feel like it’s a lesson in history. It feels like it was just the added bonus (to a) universal story of the coming of age of a young girl who knows who she is but (is) bound by these traditional chains that are forcing her to fulfill roles that she no longer wants to be a part of.

Q: Maya is often told, “that’s not a girl’s place.” How does she defy the traditional conventions of what it means to be a woman?

A: I think by Maya being a much more wholesome girl Maya is challenging the old establishment, of primarily men, to realize that a woman and her body really belong to her. (laughing)

Q: There’s lots of talk in Hollywood about greater diversity and representation on screen. Where does animation enter into this conversation?

A: I feel animation can be kind of like science fiction. By being in a much more fictitious sort of environment, it gives human beings the ability to reach outside of their capabilities of visualizing something. So my wish is by seeing “Maya and the Three” in the animation form one day we can all be talking and going to the movies to see an Aztec princess warrior in live action. You know, being incarnated by, I don’t know, Isabela Merced, or somebody, and making it a global blockbuster and for us to celebrate that heritage. Animation can really be that imitation of life … that gets us to visualize the unimaginable. So I feel like animation has always been a step ahead of its time. EFE


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