Based on a recent interview she gave, Zoe Saldana has done a 180-degree turn on her previous stance about playing late, great jazz, soul and blues singer Nina Simone in the 2016 biopic “Nina.” The actress, who’s Afro-Latina, not only expressed deep regret about accepting the part but said she should’ve tried to help cast another Black woman.
Saldana discussed the role with screenwriter and “Pose” co-creator Steven Canals in an Instagram Live session on Monday for the publication Bese. Canals asked the New Jersey native how she feels now about her choice to play Simone when compared against a few years ago when she was cast.
“I should have never played Nina,” Saldana said at the 41:28 mark. “I should have done everything in my power with the leverage that I had 10 years ago, which was a different leverage but it was leverage nonetheless.”
Many were outraged when Saldana was seen in the trailer for “Nina,” and discussions about colorism soon broke out online. That’s because Simone had a far darker complexion than Saldana and often wore her hair in an Afro, not straight like the actress does.
The common response to the trailer was the role should have gone to a darker-skinned Black woman, and that casting Saldana followed a long history of Hollywood casting agents turning their back on darker-skinned Black actresses.
Saldana’s skin was made to look darker for the role, she also wore face prosthetics, an Afro wig, and donned fake teeth.
The late singer’s family criticized the casting decision and in March 2016 tweeted, “Cool story but please take Nina’s name out your mouth. For the rest of your life.”
During her Instagram Live session, Saldana said because she’s a Black woman like Simone, she felt the role was fine to play. But she sees now that not only was perfectly capturing Simon’s music of colossal importance, her physical features had to also be accurate.
“I should have done everything in my power to cast a Black woman to play an exceptionally perfect Black woman,” Saldana told Canals. “It’s growing, it’s painful. 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 she had a journey that should be honored to the most specific detail because she was a specifically detailed individual about her voice and her opinions, her views and her music, and her art, and she was so honest. So she deserved better. But that’s said, so I’m sorry, ‘cause I love her music.” she added.
Saldana’s words are far different from in 2016 when the backlash peaked. At that time, she criticized those who slammed the casting decision while at the same time defending her Blackness.
“There’s no one way to be Black,” she said in an interview with Allure. “I’m Black the way I know how to be. You have no idea who I am. I am Black. I’m raising Black men. Don’t you ever think you can look at me and address me with such disdain. The fact that we’re talking about her, that Nina Simone is trending, we f—ing won. For so many years, nobody knew who the f— she was. She is essential to our American history. As a woman first, and only then as everything else.”