In March of 2016, the first trailer for the Nina Simone biopic Nina was shared, and the film received immediate backlash due to the casting of Zoe Saldana (who identifies as Afro-Latina) as the titular singer. There were accusations of blackface, accusations that had legs considering Saldana wore dark makeup for the role, as well as a prosthetic nose and false teeth. Furthermore, Simone’s daughter Simone Kelly expressed her dissatisfaction with the casting choice when it was made public in 2012, saying, “My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark. Appearance-wise this is not the best choice.”
Now, even Saldana herself wishes she hadn’t played Simone. In a new interview, she said she should not have had the lead role in Nina, saying:
“I should have never played Nina. I should have done everything in my power with the leverage that I had ten years ago — which was a different leverage, but it was leverage nonetheless — I should have tried everything in my power to cast a Black woman to play an exceptionally perfect Black woman. I thought back then that I had the permission because I was a Black woman. And I am. But, it’s Nina. And Nina had a life and a journey that should be honored to the specific detail… she deserved better. […]
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry because I love her music. We’ve been appropriating ourselves with someone like Nina Simone for a very long time, and I just want her story to be told, and I want it to be right because she deserves it.”
Watch the full interview below.
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Zoe Saldana (@zoesaldana) sits down with "Pose" (@poseonfx) creator and executive producer Steven Canals (@stevencanals) to chat about Afro-Latinidad, colorism in the Latinx community, Nina Simone, and more. #AfroLatinx #AfroLatinidad #BESE #ZoeSaldana #StevenCanals #Pose #PoseFX #AfroLatinos #Dominican #PuertoRican