Zoe Saldana Cries As She Apologises For Playing Nina Simone In Biopic

Olivia Blair
·3-min read
Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

From ELLE

Zoe Saldana has expressed her regret at taking on the role of Nina Simone in a biopic about the singer's life.

Saldana portrayed the late 'Feeling Good' singer and civil rights activist in the 2016 film Nina. The film was roundly panned by critics (holding a 2% rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and also attracted backlash, including from Simone's family, who criticised Saldana as the choice of actor.

For the role, Saldana - who is of Haitian, Dominican and Puerto Rican heritage - wore a prosthetic nose and dark make-up for the film, which sparked an intense row over colourism, with many arguing that a darker-skinned African-American actor should have been cast.

Now, four years later, Saldana has opened up about her regret of taking on the role, saying the legendary soul singer 'deserved better'.

In a conversation with Pose creator Steven Canals on her digital platform Bese, Saldana reflected on her decision, explicitly expressing her remorse: 'I should have never played Nina. I should have done everything in my power, with the leverage that I had 10 years ago... to cast a Black woman to play an exceptionally perfect Black woman.'

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

'It's growing, it's painful,' said Saldana. 'I thought back then that I had the permission because I was a Black woman, and I am, but it was Nina Simone and Nina had a life and a journey that should be honoured to the most specific detail... she deserved better.'

Saldana then apologised profusely to the camera and began to cry.

'She's one of our giants,' said Saldana wiping her eyes. 'Somebody else should step up and tell her story... I want her story to be told and to be told right because she deserves it. I know better today and I'm never going to do that again. I'm learning, I'm still processing.'

The civil rights icon's daughter Simone Kelly publicly disagreed with the casting choice when rumours of Saldana's involvement with the film first started to circulate 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.'

Photo credit: David Redfern - Getty Images
Photo credit: David Redfern - Getty Images

In 2013, Saldana responded very differently to the criticism telling Allure: 'Let me tell you, if Elizabeth Taylor can be Cleopatra, I can be Nina—I'm sorry... it doesn't matter how much backlash I will get for it. I will honour and respect my Black community because that's who I am.'

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