updated 12/21/2009 AT 10:00 AM ET
•originally published 12/21/2009 AT 11:50 AM ET
Zoe Saldana, Hollywood’s new queen of science fiction, didn’t need much of an introduction to the world of geekdom. Her nerdiness comes naturally.
The actress – who plays Neytiri in James Cameron’s 3-D blockbuster Avatar, and was Uhura in J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek – says she’s always been drawn to material with nerd appeal.
“For me, it’s been like preaching to my choir, because I was considered what you would think of as a geek,” Saldana, 31, told PEOPLE at the Avatar premiere in Los Angeles last week.
“I loved stories that helped me escape, and those happened to be the stories that fall into the category of geekiness. So, therefore, I am a proud geek!”
The success of Avatar, which took in $73 million dollars in U.S. box office this weekend, will raise Saldana’s profile beyond the fan-boy demographic.
To stay grounded, she says she’s leaning on family and focusing even more on her work.
“I became an actress to be in great movies, to work with amazing filmmakers,” she says. “And I think that’s how I want to leave a mark if I’m ever granted that opportunity.”