The backlash against Zoe Saldana’s casting as Nina Simone is growing. Last month, rumors began swirling that Saldana landed the starring role in a Nina Simone biopic after Mary J. Blige dropped out. The news immediately caused controversy and critics came from all over the media world.
Britni Danielle, a writer at Clutch Magazine saw this casting as another example of Hollywood sullying the stories of black people.
“From the questionable choice of casting Thandie Newton as an Igbo woman in the film adaptation of the novel Half of a Yellow Sun and Jennifer Hudson as Winnie Mandela, to Jacqueline Fleming, a biracial woman, playing Harriet Tubman, when other people are in charge of portraying us, it seems like any brown face will do,” she wrote. “Although Saldana is a talented actress, inhabiting such a complex and iconic role as Nina Simone takes more than just talent. The actress chosen should not only be able to pull off her mannerisms, wit, and her signature spunk, but she should also look like her.”
Clutch also posted a list of actresses they thought would be a better fit and suggestions included “Pariah”’s Adepero Oduye and India.Arie.
Tiffani Jones of Coffee Rhetoric also addressed the casting. “It’s a frustrating system of white-washing that incited people to chorus when biracial actress Jaqueline Fleming was cast as Harriet Tubman in Tim Burton’s farcical [and poorly rated] fantasy-horror flick ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ and when Thandie Newton was cast as an Igbo woman, for the film adaptation of Nigerian Author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book, Half Of A Yellow Sun, earlier this year,” Jones wrote.
“To note, Zoe Saldana is undoubtedly part of the African Diaspora and I’m not a gatekeeper for Black is, Black ain’t however, her being cast as Nina Simone sounds as random and egregious as Diana Ross’ portrayal of Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues [Oscar nod notwithstanding… and yes I went there].”
Simone Kelly, Nina Simone’s daughter, also spoke publicly about the casting on her Facebook page. “Please note, this project is unauthorized. The Nina Simone Estate was never asked permission nor invited to participate. I have seen many names regarding who you think should play the role of Nina. Remember Angela Bassett as Tina Turner? SHE NAILED IT! Angela Bassett is an ACTRESS! And, we all know she lip synced along with Tina and did an amazing job. Personally, I prefer an actress to a singer,” Kelly wrote. “Just because a person is great at one does not mean they will be great at the other. If written, funded and CAST PROPERLY a movie about my mother will make a lasting imprint.”