Contributor, PEOPLE
Zoë Saldana and Marco Perego have an entirely unique relationship.
The Guardians of the Galaxy star was with ex-fiancé Keith Britton for 11 years before her yearlong romance with Bradley Cooper. Saldana was first romantically linked to Perego in May 2013, when they were spotted kissing at an afterparty. They fell in love quickly and had a private wedding a few months later, which they confirmed to PEOPLE in September 2013.
Saldana and the Italian artist have three sons together: Zen Anton and twins Cy Aridio and Bowie Ezio, who all share their parents' combined last name, Perego-Saldana.
In 2015, the Avatar star said that she and Perego were “meant” for each other.
"Since I've been with Marco, I've been lowering my guard," she said. "Finally, when we had our boys, I looked at my husband and I realized: I was meant for you, and you were meant for me. I've always felt comfortable around men as long as they were friends. Now I finally feel comfortable with my lover. I don't want to be separate. I want my church. I want to live inside the religion of our own little family."
On Valentine’s Day 2021, Saldana wrote a sweet tribute to her husband on Instagram. “My Valentine,” she wrote alongside a video of him playing soccer on the beach. “He can juggle three children, a mercurial wife, his work, the house and the weight of the world in the same way he kicks this ball. After 8 Valentine days together, you still manage to take my breath away just by walking into the room.”
From meeting on an airplane to red carpet PDA, here's everything to know about Zoë Saldana and Marco Perego's relationship.
Saldana was instantly attracted to Perego. The two met in 2013 on a flight to New York and sparks flew before she even saw his face. “I just saw him from behind. It was 6:30 in the morning, I was on a flight to New York,” she told USA Today in 2015. “And I can’t even describe to you, it was a vibration. He turned in that moment, because he felt the vibration as well.”
Saldana added that she was skeptical about love at first sight. "I know people don't believe in it; I didn't believe in it. I'm a very Sigmund Freud person, I'm very logical," she added. "But that — I'm OK not having an explanation for that. Because I don't need to explain that. It was enough that I felt it. And that was it."
The actress also shared that she had known of Perego’s work since 2008. “I’ve known my partner for five years. I knew of his work. I knew of him. Then we met,” she told The Hollywood Reporter in July 2014.
Saldana and Perego were seen leaving Los Angeles’ Chateau Marmont in April 2013. Photographers captured the pair driving away from the restaurant dressed for a date night.
The couple were spotted kissing at the Star Trek Into Darkness premiere afterparty. A source close to Saldana told PEOPLE, “They’re hanging out for sure, but it’s very new. It’s nothing serious yet.”
In September 2013, a source confirmed to PEOPLE that Saldana and Perego got married in an intimate, secret ceremony over the summer. “They are very happy,” the source added.
In August 2014, Saldana said she trusted Perego from the start. “I don’t do the ABCs,” she told Marie Claire. “I do what my heart says, what my heart feels. So from the moment I met my husband, we were together. We knew.”
She explained that learning "not to settle" was the most important thing she gained from her relationships. "If you're not happy with a person, leave," she said. "And wait until you find that one person who makes you feel good about yourself every single day and is not expecting you to change, but to grow."
Saldana also shared that she and Perego had “both individually vowed” to never get married before meeting one another. She told The Hollywood Reporter that she initially thought most reasons for marriage were not “natural” to her, until Perego changed her mind. “And as soon as we decided we were going to get married, we didn’t wait. We did it three weeks later. That part was very, very quick,” she said.
In November 2013, Perego was spotted with a new arm tattoo of Saldana’s face.
“It was the most romantic thing!” the actress later told PEOPLE. “I didn’t stop him, but I did sort of try to talk him out of it. I’ve done crazier things than that, and I’m pretty sure he has, too.”
In April 2014, Saldana and Perego attended the AOL Digital Content NewFronts event in Brooklyn, New York. The event marked their first red carpet appearance as a married couple. Perego wore a black pinstriped suit and Saldana donned a blue-and-white gown and bright red lipstick.
Saldana appeared to debut her growing baby bump at the Guardians of the Galaxy premiere, wearing a form-fitting Louis Vuitton dress. At the time, Saldana hadn’t yet confirmed her pregnancy.
A source confirmed to PEOPLE that Saldana and Perego were expecting twin boys. “She is beside herself happy over it all,” the source said.
Saldana and Perego’s twin boys, Cy Aridio and Bowie Ezio, were born on Thanksgiving Day in 2014, Saldana’s rep confirmed to PEOPLE. “Mother and sons are happy and healthy,” the rep added.
On Jan. 2, 2015, Saldana tweeted a picture of two baby bottles. "Happy #2015! Starting our #NewYear with a fullhouse," she wrote. "Our boys are finally here! Thank U 4 all the beautiful wishes!"
In an interview with InStyle, Saldana revealed that Perego took her last name after they married, though she initially tried to talk him out of it.
"I told him, 'If you use my name, you're going to be emasculated by your community of artists, by your Latin community of men, by the world,' " she recalled. "But Marco looks up at me and says [she puts on his Italian accent], 'Ah, Zoë, I don't give a sheet.' "
Saldana later clarified her comments in a Facebook post. “Fathers, sons, brothers, men everywhere: Your legacy will not perish if you take your partner’s surname, or she keeps hers,” she wrote. “I felt proud that my husband decided to take my last name as his own … and I his. … he also asked me, ‘Why not? What are you so afraid of?’ And it made me wonder … What am I so afraid of?”
She continued, "Why is it so surprising, shocking- eventful that a man would take his wife's surname? Women have never been asked if its ok for them to give up their names — why doesn't that make the news? Men, you will not cease to exist by taking your partner's surname. On the contrary — you'll be remembered as a man who stood by change. I know our sons will respect and admire their father more because their father lead by example."
Saldana wore a peacock-inspired Dolce & Gabbana dress with a long train of colorful feathers to the 2016 Met Gala. She posed for pictures with Perego, who wore a black tux with his hair tied back. They were photographed kissing on the red carpet.
Perego officially became a U.S. citizen in July 2016, which Saldana commemorated on Instagram.
"On our way to be sworn in as a US Citizen," Saldana wrote. "Marco has been dreaming about this moment for a long time. It was a process – as it should be, but we are finally here."
She added, "We are aware it isn't as easy for many immigrants to obtain their citizenship, we say to them NEVER GIVE UP. Stay the course, America would not be what it is if not for the immigrants that come for better opportunities. We send love and good vibes to you all today."
Saldana and Perego welcomed their third son, Zen Anton Hilario, in December 2016. Saldana announced his birth nearly two months later with a picture of her three boys on a playmat together.
"Marco and I are elated to share the news of the birth of our son Zen," she wrote in February 2017. "We couldn't feel more blessed with the new addition to our family. #threeboys… oh boy!"
Saldana told PEOPLE that she and Perego coordinate outfits on the red carpet “all the time,” without dictating what the other should wear.
"There's no directing my husband and there's no him directing me," she said. "We are definitely the kind of artists and individuals that follow our own hearts, but we're very supportive and very opinionated. It doesn't mean that we're not going to consider what the other person is thinking or what the other person is saying to us — we will hear it. There is a lot of respect and it's like a give-and-take."
Saldana and Perego want to teach their sons about compassion — and it starts with little brother Zen.
"We're in a constant Groundhog Day where we're repeating the same messages of compassion: 'Don't forget about little brother!' " Saldana told PEOPLE. "I mean, he's not a pushover, so that's a good thing. But it's really hard to be the little brother to two twin older brothers."
She continued, "They're identical twins and they're really attached at the hip and their connection is really majestic. So it takes a lot of conscious action to not forget about Zen — but Zen never lets them forget either. He's really persistent."
Saldana also shared that they are teaching their sons three different languages: Italian, Spanish and English.
"I think they're doing much better than we are," Saldana said. "They understand all three languages, and they also choose who they speak the languages with. So with their Italian grandparents they will speak in Italian, with their [Spanish-speaking] grandparents they speak in Spanish, and with Mama and Papa they will speak back in English — but they understand in any language we speak to them."
Saldana told PEOPLE that the Time's Up movement inspired her to change her parenting.
“​​When you look at parenting, the whole thing about matriarchy and patriarchy, and Daddy’s little girl and Mama’s boys — my husband and I find that completely ludicrous,” she said. Saldana added that, to combat this worldview, they are raising their kids in “a very gender-fluid environment” where they, as parents, don’t take on any particular role.
"He's the bad cop, I'm the good cop and vice versa," she explained. "There's no such thing as, 'Mom's the boss, listen to your mother.' No, listen to your father as much as your mother because we stand as a unit."
She continued, "I think what's very important in this Time's Up movement is that a lot of these men that are abusers still have prominent female figures in their lives that raise them and either overlooked something that they shouldn't have or encouraged something that they shouldn't have in their sons. Females' mothers are just as much at fault as fathers would be, whether you were present or not in the distorted image that males have had of females."
In a 2022 interview with Emmy magazine, Saldana shared how a dinner with Reese Witherspoon and her husband Jim Toth led to a role on the Netflix series From Scratch.
“We switch from Spanish to English to Italian,” Saldana told the outlet, recalling how Witherspoon paid close attention to their trilingual conversation that night. “We’re very passionate, almost a bit dramatic in how we communicate.” Saldana is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent and Perego was born and raised in Italy.
That 2018 dinner led to Witherspoon offering Saldana a role in her limited-series adaptation of Tembi Locke's book, From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily and Finding Home. "She said, 'I shouldn't be telling you this … but I think you're so right for the part,' " Saldana recalled.
Saldana told PEOPLE that she’ll “panic” if fans want photos with her when she is with her kids. The actress said she and Perego are teaching their sons not to talk to strangers, which makes for “very confusing” encounters with fans.
"I feel really uncomfortable," she said. "They're still at that tender age where they don't understand why a stranger is coming over and touching their mother. Like there's no sense of like, you know, boundaries."
She continued, "So that's why I'm mostly tense. Usually, before that I was OK. If I felt like it I would do it. If the environment dictated for that, it was OK, I would do it."
Back in March 2017, Saldana told PEOPLE of her plans to keep their sons out of the spotlight. “Marco and I have a great deal of respect for the privacy of our kids,” she said. “They’re dependent on us so they’re not in a position to make choices for themselves. … This is the path that we’ve chosen, we have to wait for their choices to be heard so in the meantime, we need to protect their environment and we’re all about that.”
Later that month, Saldana told PEOPLE that she and Perego are at “capacity” in their household. “If we were individuals that lived a much more consistent life, then we would entertain [having more kids],” the actress told PEOPLE. “But we don’t know when we’re going to be traveling and for how long, so bringing more children into an already hectic and full life just feels a bit irresponsible for us.”
She added, "Of all the things that I have going on right now, my children are my most important priority. And I know that my husband can say the same."
The couple were spotted kissing at The Hand of God premiere at the 2021 Venice Film Festival. Saldana donned a red Dolce & Gabbana dress while her husband wore a classic black tuxedo with Chelsea boots and ruby earrings.
In a Mother's Day Instagram post, Saldana called Perego and her kids her "favorite people."
Alongside photos of her family, Saldana wrote, “My reason, my destiny, my mirrors. On Mother’s Day I have you to thank. I hold you responsible for my sleepless nights, my guilt, my painful growth, my salty tears, my endless obsession with being responsible for you- for all that, I thank you.”
She continued, "If by any chance time were to stop and my life would hit a reset, I would still choose you, a million times over. And I would do it again and again- I would still choose you. All four of you. My favorite people. I love you x infinity."
Saldana told PEOPLE she connected with her character in Netflix‘s From Scratch, which was based on Tembi Locke‘s memoir detailing her experience as a Black American woman who married into a Sicilian family. “The fact that I would laugh out loud to all the things that she, as a woman that is not Italian, marrying a very Italian man, went through; it’s an ongoing thing for me,” she explained. “It’s a saga that never ends, that I love. I’ve learned to embrace a lot of it.”
"And a lot of it is just perfect and beautiful and blissful and exactly what I wanted," she continued. "But it's not for the faint of heart when you marry somebody who comes with a big baggage of 4,000 years of history and art and philosophy. And great cuisine. It's a lot to handle in just one simple day."
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