Zoë Saldana says that at the heart of Avatar: The Way of Water is the love of family.

She talked to Shadow and Act recently about the upcoming film, describing director James Cameron as “one of the best bosses I’ve ever had.” She also gave props the people she has admired in the industry whom she can now call co-stars, such as Sigourney Weaver and Kate Winslet. She also said that her on-screen love interest Sam Worthington is “like my brother” in real life.

One of the differences she experienced, though, was that her character Neytiri was now a mother, and as a new mom herself, Saldana realized how much she had in common with the character’s new phase of life.

“I’m a mother now and getting to experience all the fears that my character was going through because she’s a mother as well and relating to some of those was new for me, but welcoming,” she said.

She also talked about what it’s like to go from doing huge-scale productions like Avatar: The Way of Water and Guardians of the Galaxy, to smaller, more intimate productions such as Netflix’s From Scratch.

“There’s a level of ease of doing a film like Avatar because I don’t have to go through the grueling process of makeup and physical transformation,” she said. “It’s more of the internalization of all the work I’ve been doing, the training and the research.” She also said that working with the technology needed to create Avatar can be a process since the tech can shut down and need an hour to recalibrate.

“When you do a show like From Scratch, it is different,” she continued. “You do have to go a physical transformation, you have to work with your environment…[but] it all requires the same amount of training and research beforehand.”

What connects all of the plots of her her most recent films is love, whether that’s love of family or romantic love, and Avatar: The Way of Water is no different.

“We can talk about the technology and how much it cost to make and the impact that the first film, but the reason why it was so special was because it was a love story between a boy and a girl finding each other and going against their own currents of life and coming out together as a team and fighting for what’s right,” she said. “This is a continuation of that. At the core of all of this is a family.”

Watch the full interview below. Avatar: The Way of Water comes to theaters Dec. 16.