How Zoe Saldana Is Teaching Her Sons to Shoot Down Gender Stereotypes: They're a 'Blank Canvas'

Zoe Saldana is opening up about being a mom of three boys — and how she’s teaching them to combat gender stereotypes.

The 40-year-old actress voices the indomitable and independent Adelina Fortnight, an explorer who accompanies Hugh Jackman‘s Sir Lionel Frost and Zach Galifianakis‘ Mr. Link to find Link’s long-lost relatives, in Missing Link. She also stars alongside Timothy Olyphant, Emma Thompson and Stephen Fry in the stop-motion film by Laika.

The movie has a poignant storyline where Mr. Link opts to name himself “Susan,” which is something Saldana loves about the film — and views as a learning opportunity for her 2-year-old son Zen and his twin big brothers Bowie Ezio and Cy Aridio, 4.

“Our twins are 4 and the little one is 2, so he’s not really thinking about that, but our twins … were curious about the Trojans and the Trojan War and things like that,” Saldana tells PEOPLE in an exclusive chat. “And we’re expanding on this and we looked up things online — it’s only males, you know?”

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Zoe Saldana Says She’s Raising Her Three Sons in a “Gender-Fluid Environment”

Despite only seeing male warriors during a quick online search, Saldana says she and her husband, artist Marco Perego, are making an effort to enlighten the kids to the female warriors who’ve made history.

“I’m like, ‘Women, too, they were fighting.’ [They said,] ‘Wait. There were no girls, mom. Girls don’t fight.’ It starts so early,” Saldana says. “You immediately recognize that and you want to tackle it, but not from your sense of justice. It’s more from a sense of [a] blank canvas: ‘I’m painting this on your mind right now.’ “

Her and Perego’s efforts have paid off, with Saldana telling PEOPLE, “You immediately see how they click, and I think that’s how we’re going to change the course of history when it comes to the way women have been perceived.”

“It’s honestly what they see [outside] because it’s not what they hear, at least from at home, and not what they see in terms of the kind of dynamic my husband and I establish,” the Guardians of the Galaxy actress continues.

She explains, “It’s what they see outside of that, or what they don’t see when they go online or they go on YouTube or they go on shows. The curation of the content that your children are digesting, whether through music, through sound, through whatever, you have to be much more meticulous than you think.”

Missing Link is in theaters Friday.

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