For the documentary Gorillas on the Brink, part of Animal Planet's Saving a Species (airing tonight at 9 pm/ET) series, wildlife expert Jack Hanna brought Natalie Portman to Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park to hang out with endangered mountain gorillas. We asked the actress, best known for her Star Wars work, Closer, Garden State and V for Vendetta, about her own good works and her upcoming movie work.
TV Guide: So how did you get involved with hiking around the jungle?
Natalie Portman: They asked me to go to Rwanda with Jack Hanna to interact with mountain gorillas.... [We spent] five days in Rwanda, then I continued on to Kenya for an eco-safari, and to Uganda for a charity called FINCA I work with that gives loans to poor women.
TV Guide: Do you consider yourself an animal activist?
Portman: I'm an animal lover. I've been a vegetarian for 17 years. I won't wear leather.
TV Guide: How do movie wardrobe people react when you tell them you won't wear animal products?
Portman: They have to make me clothes from fake leather or vintage stuff. That's OK. I'll use recycled material.
TV Guide: How endangered are the mountain gorillas?
Portman: Very endangered. There are fewer than 1,000 left. And they're still being poached. They kill adults and sell babies on the black market.
TV Guide: How close did you get?
Portman: Five feet! But we couldn't touch them because they catch cold so easily. On our first day out, we happened upon a lone young silverback male... sitting right in our path!
TV Guide: What was the most affecting moment in Rwanda?
Portman: I got to name a baby gorilla at a big ceremony, which was an honor. I named mine Gukina, which means "to play".... All the babies were so playful.
TV Guide: What's your next movie?
Portman: Mr. Magorian's Wonder Emporium, a kids movie with Dustin Hoffman, who was really fun.... I play an assistant toy-store manager.
TV Guide: You're also in The Other Boleyn Girl. Was it intimidating to play Anne Boleyn?
Portman: Absolutely. I worked very hard to master the accent and to make everything as accurate as can be. She's an iconic figure in England.
Check out clips of Natalie Portman in our Online Video Guide.
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