In the new comedy Zookeeper (hitting theaters nationwide today), Rosario Dawson plays Kate, a sincere and compassionate zookeeper who is pining for fellow animal lover Griffin (Kevin James). Unfortunately, Griffin is too busy chasing his gold-digging ex-girlfriend, Stephanie (Leslie Bibb) to notice Kate — that is until a few animals start talking to Griffin in an attempt to show him who’s truly worthy of his love.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Rosario is playing the moral center of this new movie; after all, the part-Cuban, part-Boricua actress has a heart of gold in real-life and is actively involved in a ton of philanthropic endeavors from the Lower East Side Girls Club to Voto Latino.
"I’m proud to be a citizen of the United States of America and I want to give back in every way I can," she says of her passion to get involved. "I was raised community-based. I grew up in a spot in the lower east side where it was really obvious how poverty and low-down neighborhoods can affect people—not being able to have access to education and how that just sets people up for life to have less and less of choices."
Zookeper isn't the first role in which Rosario's sharp moral compass has been featured. Here are five great characters Dawson's played that had us rooting for her on the big screen.
1. Rosario: Josie and The Pussycats
Josie and The Pussycats (2001): In this girl power comedy based on the Archie comic of the same name, Rosario played Valerie Brown, a feisty, no-nonsense songwriter, bassist and backup vocalist for a an all-girl band. But beyond the tough exterior, Val was also the smartest of the pussycats; so when music executives (and Carson Daily), try to brainwash her and her band mates in an attempt to turn them against one another, it’s Val who reminds Josie (Rachel Leigh Cook) to remember what’s really important: friendship.
2. Rosario: Shattered Glass
Shattered Glass (2003): In Shattered Glass, a drama based on the real-life career of journalist Stephen Glass — the New Republic writer who notoriously fabricated quotes, sources and entire events in articles in the mid 1990’s — Rosario played Andy Fox, a meticulous fact-checker at an online Forbes publication, who helps her editors prove that several elements in Glass’s stories are made up.
3. Rosario: Seven Pounds
Seven Pounds (2008): In Seven Pounds, Rosario plays Emily Posa, a self-employed greeting card printer with a heart condition and a rare blood type, who should be taking care of herself, but instead invests her time and energy into making Tim Thomas (Will Smith) a better man—mostly by example. Emily’s selflessness teaches Tim what it means to truly care about another person.
4. Rosario: Clerks II
Clerks II (2006): In Kevin Smith’s Clerks II, Rosario plays Becky Scott, the manager of a fast-food restaurant who is always giving Dante (Brian O’Halloran)—who is both her employee and her lover—the benefit of the doubt. Becky teaches Dante how to dance, work and love—which is impressive considering he’s quite the idiot!
5. Rosario: Zookeeper
Zookeeper (2011): In Zookeeper, Rosario plays Kate, an animal lover with a big heart who likes Zookeeper Griffin (Kevin James) for who he is on the inside. Kate helps Griffin get his life back on track.