Zoë Saldana has a deep admiration for Braddock, PA. The once-prosperous city was the home of Andrew Carnegie's first steel mill.
However, by 2009, the New York Times described the city's bleak existence as an array of "boarded-up storefronts, houses in advanced stages of collapse and vacant lots." The small town's population decreased by approximately 15,000 residents, leaving only an estimated 3,000 to weather the declining economy.
During her tenure in Braddock, she developed an immense fondness for the small community. The 35-year-old actress expressed that she personally feels the town exudes strength.
"You go to [the town] with this fear of seeing something that you can imagine is so heavy," she said. " "What you learn from it — and take from it — is the strength that you absorb from these people. It's very easy to leave when things go wrong. But to stick around and to basically give life to a town because of everything that it gave you, generation after generation after generation, that to me is what defines a true American."
"It's sticking together when it gets really rough," she said. "This is a town that's been hit really hard — and I've been to places around the world that leave you with a big knot in your stomach. You feel an elephant just has sat on your chest. Braddock was definitely one of those. But you sit down with the people and wish you had an ounce of the strength they possess every single day by sticking around. I was very moved by that."
The town of Braddock almost serves as a metaphoric symbol closely associated with the film, which centers around two downtrodden brothers who struggle to maintain their jobs at a steel mill due to cutbacks.
As a result of the financial strain, former steel worker Rodney Baze (Casey Affleck) turns to bare-knuckle boxing. When he disappears into the Ramapo Mountains of North Jersey, his brother Russell (Christian Bale) takes off to find him.
However, Russell faces opposition while on his mission to rescue his brother. Harlan (Woody Harrelson) stands in the way of his rescue mission. Saldana's character, Lena, is caught in the middle of the entire debacle and she's the woman who truly loves Russell. Unfortunately, she's married to a hard-working cop named Wesley, portrayed by Forest Whitaker.
"Lena has been torn by her life," Saldana says. "I needed to build that for her and I needed to understand why she couldn't stick by the person she truly, truly loved. She [married] someone who worked in law, who symbolically is going to keep her safe. I think [that decision] was due to her inability to cope with danger and pain."
Out Of The Furnace was released on DVD March 11.
Image via Out Of The Furnace, Facebook