'Avatar' actress to play Uhura

Zoe Saldana has signed on to play Uhura in J.J. Abrams’ big-screen adaptation of “Star Trek” for Paramount Pictures.

In the original “Star Trek” TV series, Uhura – which means freedom in Swahili — was a member of the bridge crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise who rose to the rank of commander. Nichelle Nichols played the Starfleet Academy alum in the series.

Abrams is producing “Star Trek,” which revolves around the crew’s early days at Starfleet Academy, through his Paramount-based Bad Robot shingle.

Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci wrote the screenplay and will exec produce alongside Bryan Burk and Damon Lindelof. The film is set for a Christmas Day 2008 release.

Saldana, whose credits include “Guess Who,” recently wrapped the Sony thriller “Vantage Point.” She is filming James Cameron’s sci-fi tentpole “Avatar.”

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