Zoe Saldana Defends 8 Bedeviling Differences Between NBC's 'Rosemary's Baby' and the Movie

Breanne L. Heldman
Yahoo TVMay 9, 2014

Zoe Saldana may not be turning blue or living long and prospering when she arrives in living rooms nationwide on Sunday, but she will be wearing some intense makeup and prosthetics as she gives birth to "Rosemary's Baby."

The "Avatar" actress, 35, takes on the title character — the one made famous by Mia Farrow in Roman Polanski's 1968 film — in the retelling of the novel by Ira Levin in a two-part miniseries on NBC, helmed by another Polish director, Agnieszka Holland. Saldana is also taking a producer role behind the scenes, along with her two sisters.

In other words, she has a lot riding on the TV event's success. But that's not keeping the star from taking a relaxed, self-deprecating approach to talking about the film, as Yahoo TV learned over tea at the Plaza Hotel in New York City this week.

With four hours to tell the story — as opposed to the two hours and 15 minutes of the original film — the new "Rosemary's Baby" has plenty of changes. Still, Saldana had no problem defending eight of the biggest.

1. This version happens in Paris, as opposed to New York City.
"It was a compilation of many things: To create distance between Roman Polanski's movie because we really wanted to let people know that we were doing a retelling of the novel, not a remake of his movie. He did it so wonderfully well and it should never ever be duplicated. Paris is sort of an extra character in this project and also a mother city … where it is the epicenter of sophistication and elegance but also darkness because of his aesthetics and its history. Agnieszka really showcased that a great deal throughout the series."

2. Polanski's film had quite a bit of blood and nudity — this version has network television standards to answer to.
"We all had a feeling that NBC, just by greenlighting this project and having it air on their network. It's so kooky — literally on Mother's Day? I thought it was a risk they were taking so we knew they were going to give us a certain amount of freedom. What they would tell Agnieszka is just shoot how you would be shooting this and then we'll pull back in the editing room. She was very surprised that they only had her do minor changes. Nothing severe."

3. Rosemary is much less passive in the modern telling.
"Having a female director and a very opinionated New Yorker, an artist, we were going to bring to life what we felt was going to a more realistic woman that is less subservient, kind, light-spirited, an innocent, but not a slave to a marriage or to a man or obedient. She loves her husband, she's very much committed to her marriage, but she's inquisitive and she will raise concerns and even when she's not heard, she will try to the best of her abilities to be heard, and that, to me, was much more natural for me to channel that. I would never know where to start — I would need months of preparation — to play a subservient woman. I mean, it's inconceivable to me. You say black, I'll say white just so I can contradict you, especially if you're a man."

4. There's nothing iconic about this Rosemary's haircut.
"I didn't want it to be about a fashion trend. … I didn't want it to be about the hair. I feel that the less and less I would think about these things, the more I would create a distance between the original 'Rosemary's Baby' and the retelling of it. I didn't want to touch what Mia did. She's losing weight, she's very sick, she's losing hair, let's cut it, let me try to look beautiful for my husband because I don't want him to not find me attractive. That's where I was coming from."

5. They had to fill all that extra time.
"There were things that were happening around Rosemary in the book that you didn't really have a chance to see [in the original film]. There was a very interesting relationship between Roman Castavet [Jason Isaacs] and Guy Woodhouse [Patrick J. Adams] that Agnieszka was able to showcase more. That's what we dove into a great deal."

6. Guy Woodhouse is much younger this time around.
"I was adamant about us casting an actor that would be of my age to play my husband. I did not want an actor that would be older than me. That is not a message I endorse, I don't like old me so I wasn't going to play Rosemary to do that, and I felt if Rosemary was going to be married to a professor that was much, much older. It would probably give you the idea that it wasn't his first marriage — it was definitely her first — and that it would be easy for him to sell her out. … I fought for that and we were all happy having Patrick J. Adams in the cast."

7. Mia Farrow is white.
"I think the people they had gone to before me were Caucasian and then they tossed my name and they all said sure. They sent me the script, I said no, and they were like no, but read it. … I met the NBC executives, I had dinner with the Lionsgate executives and my sisters and that was the last thing we ever covered. The fact that it was the last thing — it was an, 'Oh, and by the way…' after the second glass of champagne — it felt right to me that we weren't making an affirmative action decision, that it was about respecting my body of work."

8. Spoiler alert! This time, you see the baby.
"The first time I saw the film, I remember feeling so scared because I didn't understand — remember, the whole thing about Roman's movie was that he left it all to the imagination. There was nothing graphic, so I think I was a little too young to understand that I need to just let my imagination go. I remember going, 'What's in the crib?! But where's the baby?!' You never see the baby. Agnieszka pushes it a little bit but leaves it just enough back."

"Rosemary's Baby" airs on NBC in two parts, starting Sunday at 9 p.m., and concluding on Thursday at 9 p.m.