Zoë Saldana Is ‘Staying Absolutely Still’ in Preparation for the Return of Avatar After 13 Years

“I just hope that experience repeats itself,” Zoë Saldana tells PEOPLE of anticipation for Avatar: The Way of Water

Zoë Saldana Is 'Staying Absolutely Still' in Preparation for the Return of Avatar After 13 Years

Zoē Saldana wants Avatar: The Way of Water to make an impact on audiences the same way the original 2009 movie by James Cameron did.

“How am I gearing up? By staying absolutely still,” Saldana, 44, tells PEOPLE of how she’s preparing for the sequel’s anticipated release on Dec. 16.

“And just wanting Avatar 2: The Way of Water, wanting its reception to be similar to the first, where people are just taken for a ride,” Saldana says. “Where they get to learn, they get to live, they get to feel, but also they get to think a lot about who we are and what we are and where we are.”

Saldana returns as Neytiri for the new film, which “begins to tell the story of the Sully family (Jake, Neytiri, and their kids), the trouble that follows them, the lengths they go to keep each other safe, the battles they fight to stay alive, and the tragedies they endure,” according to an official logline for the movie.

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Avatar really was… It was a special experience for many,” Saldana tells PEOPLE. “And I just hope that experience repeats itself.”

Zoë Saldana Is 'Staying Absolutely Still' in Preparation for the Return of Avatar After 13 Years

Zoe Saldaña in Avatar (2009). Disney

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Disney and 20th Century Studios reported that the teaser for Avatar: The Way of Water racked up 148.6 million views worldwide in its first 24 hours of release across various channels when it dropped publicly in May.

Saldana, who also stars in the upcoming Reese Witherspoon-produced Netflix series From Scratch, happened to take on her latest project after a dinner with Witherspoon.

“We were at dinner with our partners and some common friends,” recalls Saldana about how she came to portray Amahle “Amy” Wheeler in the adaptation of Tembi Locke’s memoir From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home. “And I guess she saw the dynamic between my husband [Marco] and I, and then called me up the next day or a week later to tell me that her company, they had read this book, and it was going to be a part of their club.”

At the time, the New York Times best seller hadn’t been released yet, but Witherspoon, 46, strongly felt Saldana would have a real interest in it. In the end, Saldana wound up pulling double duty as a lead actor and executive producer on the series.

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“I was a little nervous because you’re scared to open up your heart to something that you know has an eminent ending,” the actress tells PEOPLE, but she decided to take on the role anyway.

Avatar: The Way of Water is set to hit theaters Dec. 16. From Scratch premieres Oct. 21 on Netflix.

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