‘Avatar’: For CCH Pounder, ‘it was one of the great experiences’

Dec. 14, 2009 | 4:30 a.m.


The final week looms. Premieres and screenings are happening, including one hosted by Hero Complex this coming Friday (Dec. 18th), and mostly positive reviews are being filed. We’re in the home stretch, and contributor Jevon Phillips talks to actress CCH Pounder, one of the key voices behind the Na’Vi.

CCH Pounder’s (Carol Christine Hilaria Pounder) years on “The Shield” and stints on “ER” and “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” gained her a number of respected awards, including Emmy attention. Now she steps headlong into the fanboy universe with a role in “Avatar.”

No stranger to sci-fi actioners with roles in films like “Face/Off” and “End of Days,” Pounder knows the crowd, and knew what she was getting into with “Avatar.”


“A lot of people think that I don’t have any idea of what I’m up against, but I do. I want to touch every genre that there is. … Sci-fi just seems to be my thing this year,” says Pounder.

She was drawn to the role, though, because of one individual, not a genre. “It wasn’t because it was sci-fi, it was because it was James Cameron.  I wanted a second crack at him.” Pounder almost made a connection with the director on the film “The Abyss.”

We were able to run down the busy actress and ask a few more questions:

JP: Your character, Moat, may not be as well-known as others featured prominently in the promos. Who is she?

CP: It’s interesting, and I don’t know why she’s not [in the promos much] cause she’s sort of pivotal … Queen Moat is the queen of of the Na’Vi. She is married to Eytukan and has two children: Tsu’tey and Neytiri. Neytiri is her really valiant, extremely brave and very independent daughter. She tries to keep the peace between Neytiri and her father… [And] she in some way sort of creates the freedom for Neytiri to be with the protagonist.

JP: Though you’ve done many genre films, like “Face/Off,” “End of Days,” and most recently “Orphan,” you’re more known popularly for your TV work and obviously “The Shield.” What was the experience like working on a set like “Avatar?”

CP: It was one of the great experiences … where you’re dressed in a motion capture suit and in what looks like a surfer costume covered in electrodes and you have a camera hanging from your forehead.  You’re doing all of your work in a giant gray box and everything is left to your imagination.  Where there’s a precipice or a hill or a poisonous flower or a horse coming by, you would just have to react to an area in the box where it might be. I was so tickled to be part of what I consider to be the next new technology. As opposed to putting on a lot of makeup, you’re just sort of a big EKG monitor walking around.


JP: Zoe Saldana mentioned getting coached to find the right accents for the characters. Was that something you were prepared for, and were there other tasks that came up that may have surprised you?

CP: Well I think one of the things that Cameron wanted us to do was not to be just physically blue, but to walk and talk different. We walked with a sort of menacing gait, so to say. We had gymnastics for a while. And yes, we were given a new language with new syntax. Sometimes our linguist may not have had [a word], so we made it up. We had to know past tense, present tense and future sense… It’s just such a complete world.

JP: Much has been made about how long James Cameron took making the film, and how long people have worked on it.  How long were you filming?

CP: I had a pretty short row … it only took me a year and a half to film, which I love saying because it seems so insane! Zoe [Saldana] might’ve been there for three years. That speaks to probably the details [that Cameron demands] and the fact that you are at the cutting edge of technology now.  I would imagine that we’re probably at a time where this is a giant computer, and in a few years it will be the size of a laptop in terms of how long it took to film and do. But it’s sort of wonderful to be at the beginning of something.

JP: Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver and James Cameron guiding it all. Despite all the talk of the special effects and technology, this is also a great cast.

CP: The chemistry was terrific ’cause I think all of the actors are sort of actors’ actors. Beyond the special effects and the incredible look, I think we started off with a really good script and a really good story.  And people will notice that.


JP: Speaking of that story, what do you think of the fan following and the heightened anticipation for the film?

CP: The public seems to know a lot more about it than I do cause they’re Internet savvy! They just sort of dig under every rock to discover what it is that this film is going to be about.  I will tell you that I saw 45 seconds of it with Jon Landau in what he called an extremely raw state.  It was already amazing. I think it’s going to be a very hot ticket.

— Jevon Phillips

Photos: Top: CCH Pounder. Middle: Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). Credit: 20th Century Fox. Bottom: Fans gather before the premiere of “Avatar” at the Odeon Leicester Square in Central London. Credit: Daniel Deme / EPA



Sigourney Weaver as queen of sci-fi: “Outer space has been good to me”

Avatar” designer on Jim Cameron, banshees and those nagging ‘Delgo’ comparisons

Michelle Rodriguez says “Avatar” was like making “Star Wars”

Jon Landau on wild budget reports: “They’re all false” 

“Avatar” star Zoe Saldana says the movie will match the hype: “This is big”

Jim Cameron, cinema prophet? “Moving a mountain is nothing” 

Sam Worthington looks for “Avatar’s” humanity: “I don’t want to be a cartoon”

Giovanni Ribisi pretty much loves Jim Cameron

James Cameron on “Avatar”: Like “Matrix,” it opens doorways

VIDEO: “Avatar” interviews with Sigourney Weaver and Jon Landau


3 Responses to ‘Avatar’: For CCH Pounder, ‘it was one of the great experiences’

  1. Wonder Why says:

    CCH Pounder should be mentioned in the credits of Avatar. She played an important part.

  2. Bert Ezor says:

    Which one was she the dragon ladie

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