Zoe Saldana: Hollywood's New Female Action Star

PHOTO: Zoe Saldana arrives at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards held at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live in this Aug.t 28, 2011 file photo in Los Angeles, Cali.
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Move over Angelina, there's a new female action star in town and her name is Zoe Saldana.

If you haven't heard of her yet, you soon will. Saldana is carrying her first film, "Colombiana," in which she plays an assassin bent on avenging her family's deaths. Despite a slow opening weekend thanks to Hurricane Irene, the film debuted at No. 2 and remains firmly in the top 5.

"It's definitely holding its own and she's definitely on her way," Paul Dergarabedian of Hollywood.com Box Office said of Saldana.

Zoe Saldana in "Colombiana."

At 33, Saldana is no ingenue. For one thing, she has been in the business for more than a decade. A classically trained ballerina, she got her break playing a dancer in "Center Stage" in 2000.

She went on to play the girlfriend of Nick Cannon -- the real life husband of Mariah Carey -- in "Drumline."

She also brought home Ashton Kutcher in "Guess Who," the 2005 update of the classic "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." And she portrayed a young Lieutenant Uhura in the 2009 "Star Trek" reboot.

Zoe Saldana in "Drumline."

But it was her role as Neytiri in James Cameron's "Avatar," the biggest movie of all time, which put her center stage. Suddenly, Saldana was walking the red carpets, gracing the covers of magazines, posing for Calvin Klein underwear ads and making the best -- and worst -- dressed lists.

"She's paid her dues," Dergarabedian told ABCNews.com. "And with 'Colombiana,' she's hit that moment where everything has come together."

Saldana is a departure from the typical female action hero. Hailing from Queens, New York, she is Dominican and Puerto Rican and grew up, in part, in the Dominican Republic.

Zoe Saldana in "Avatar."

"She's knocking down barriers," Dergarabedian said. "She's also incredibly beautiful and beauty is beauty. Obviously, she's got the acting chops too. She's really the complete package."

She's also a fresh face. As previous female action stars like Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Garner age and seek out other roles, they are passing the torch to the next generation of young women who can kick butt on the big screen. Still, Dergarabedian admits he'd "love to see Zoe Saldana and Angelina Jolie together" in a film.

Last year, Saldana was the only woman to crack the top 10 of Entertainment Weekly's list of highest grossing stars under 40.

And she's not just popular with the male crowd, having made Maxim's Hot 100 list two years in a row. (Sorry, guys, she's engaged to her boyfriend of 10 years, Keith Britton, CEO of My Fashion Database.)

Zoe Saldana in her Calvin Klein underwear.

According to the market research firm CinemaScore, 57 percent of the opening weekend audience for "Colombiana" was female.

"I think that had something to do with Zoe Saldana playing a strong woman who really just kicks a** and takes names later, so to speak," Rory Bruer, distribution president for Sony, which released the film, told the Los Angeles Times.

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