Zoe Saldana: I’m the only actress who wasn’t ‘afraid’ to play Nina Simone

Zoe Saldana

Zoe Saldana nabbed on the Elle’s Women in Hollywood covers for November. She camouflaged her bump in a flouncy Lanvin dress that looks like a sparkly Muppet. Even though Zoe doesn’t want us to invade her privacy she recently confirmed to E! Online that she’s having twins with Marco Perego. Actually, she didn’t use the “t” word. She talked about Halloween and said, “I might need three costumes. I might have to make some adjustments, but it would be nice.” Zoe and Marco are about to have their hands full.

Jessica Lange and Annette Bening were profiled in this issue too, so here are some excerpts from them as well as Zoe. Are we still pretending that Zoe’s Nina Simone movie will see the light of day? That’s not a knock against Zoe. The film has been in production for years. Zoe says she was the only actress brave enough for the role:

Zoe was reluctant to play Nina: “I actually encouraged [them] to cast someone else. But she came to me and said that everybody was afraid, and I thought, ‘Sh-t, then how can we complain that there aren’t enough films about African-American iconic figures?'”

Zoe on if she always knew she’d make it “That’s how those seven years my sisters and I spent on a bohemian island played very well. We’re not American in terms of feeding into that machine that you have to be somebody. We were somebody the moment we were born.”

Jessica on veering away from glamorous roles “I never really thought of myself in those terms. When you’re young, you just take your beauty for granted. Sometimes I think, ‘Sh-t, I should have done that film!’ But it’s a passing thought. I played the parts I wanted to play. I do have regrets about films I shouldn’t have done, which took me away from my children. That’s the only real regret–time wasted.”

Annette on what surprised her about acting: “That movies would allow me to start and stop in a way that so many people couldn’t. I always wanted kids, and I took years off when my kids were little, and I still do completely withdraw. It’s been a way of saving myself and saving the work.”

[From Elle]

Jessica Lange is the boss. She frames her career in an interesting way: No regrets for the roles she’s skipped, but she does lament the roles that wasted her time. I hope she doesn’t regret Tootsie. Annette’s perspective is refreshing too. She’s grateful for her career and being able to take time away for her family. Jessica and Annette are legends. We’ll see what happens with Zoe’s career in the years to come.

I’m including some photos of Zoe looking very pregnant this week in Santa Monica. Plus one of screeching Marco Perego for the fangirls.

Jessica Lange

Photos courtesy of Elle

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57 Responses to “Zoe Saldana: I’m the only actress who wasn’t ‘afraid’ to play Nina Simone”

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  1. InvaderTak says:

    Well that was pretentious Zoe. Thanks for the Jessica Lange pallet cleanser.

  2. AG-UK says:

    Man she has a great agent as she isn’t really that great.

  3. Mala Malum says:

    Oh please. Zoe Saldana has repeatedly distanced herself from the label African-American. Which is fine, because she isn’t. But then she says that she was the *only* one who could play the part? There weren’t any actresses who actually look more like Nina Simone did (without having to wear darker makeup + prosthetic nose), and are happily black African-American women? Ugh.

    I realize that you don’t had to look just like the character to play them (Meryl Streep in The Hours) or be of the same nationality though. I guess Zoe just gets on my nerves because she has a history of inane and haughty statements.

    • Brionne says:

      Yep. I want to like this chick. I like the fact that she reps herself as bi-cultural (black + Latina) in countless magazine interviews. I loved her in Avatar and Colombiana. It was nice to see her in Star Trek.

      With that said she is wrong for the Nina Simone part and should have turned it down so a more appropriate actress could have an opportunity to show their chops. I’m thinking Lupita Ny’ongo, Tika Sumpter, India.Arie etc.

      • Nutty says:

        oh please no. Lupita looks nothing like Nina. Both she and Zoe are ‘conventionally’ too hollywood pretty to play a woman who struggled because she wasn’t considered conventionally beautiful.

      • Brionne says:

        Wow. I’d say there’s nothing conventionally Hollywood about Lupita Ny’ongo.

      • mony says:

        why you think Lupita is the girl of the moment? She is a model with proportional features and she does fit with standards of beauty more than other actresses of color that won oscars as well but didn’t get all this attention from the media. She, Zoe, Halle and Kerry are black women accepted by Hollywood because they are ‘exotic’ but still beautiful for their standards.
        If Zoe is too pretty to play Nina so is Lupita. Neither looks like Nina.
        If the movie was made today they would probably cast Lupita and that choice would be as controversdial as casting Zoe because they’d need to change her appearance dramatically.

    • Nutty says:

      well, she didn’t say she was the only one who COULD play the part. But the only one that accepted among those that the director proposed the part to (and I suspect she doesn’t know who are those actresses)

      people also conveniently forget that the one who originally got the role was Mary J Blige (who isn’t an actress and would need them to make her skin darker too since she’s more or less like Zoe’s tone) who firstly accepted it (claiming that she could make a good job since both she and Nina are drug addicts and crazy. Which is a questionable thing to say, tbh) but then decided she didn’t want to do it anymore.
      So there is a truth to what Zoe said here that others didn’t want to do it. What she might not take into consideration or not know is that most likely the director was looking for a big name and it’s among those that she got a no.

  4. QQ says:

    Yooooooo This girl needs to quit talking this round while she is ahead…and buy the rights to that Awful bad Halloween costume/bad Idea/ Miscast movie before it sees the light of day and eyerolls turn to hate!…it wasnt that you were the bravest actress standing..is that probably you were the only one a white casting lady knew/felt would bring in more audiences/was “prettier” which goes against the very essence of Nina ffs!! And Ima say it again: she needed to sit down til casting for La Lupe ever happened…she is the Worst!

    Jessica Lange…The Supreme! ladies and gentleman!! (This is gonna be my permanent comment for her!)

    • Brionne says:

      Well said. She is wrong for the part and wrong for accepting this particular part. Stretching her acting chops is one thing. Straining credulity is quite another.

    • FreFre says:

      Wow. You hit the nail on the head with that one. 100% correct and the same things I was thinking. Toss in the “I’m not black!” and that’ll do it.

    • Fatty Cakes says:

      She definitely needs to have several seats in an isolated, sound-proofed room with the door closed.

      I really resent the producers, director, whomever said it for assuming people who turned down the role were afraid. That’s arrogant to assume the actors you approached had no desire to participate through some fault of theirs and not any fault with the project or your concept. And I resent Zoe for not challenging that idea. Maybe the actors that were approached before her just met the people in charge of the project, and decided the film wasn’t in good hands. Which, if anyone has seen stills of Zoe’s “bad Halloween costume” (great description), is totally justified; I wouldn’t trust these people to make good decisions and make a good film either. Also, maybe the script isn’t very good. Or maybe they just decided not to do a project that Nina Simone’s own family didn’t agree with. I wouldn’t call any of those choices fear, I’d call them reasonable decisions.

      She’s just setting this up to forever be other people’s faults. Anyone who didn’t take the role was afraid. She’s a hard worker and everyone else is lazy. The reason there aren’t enough roles for black women is because actors don’t take whatever is offered to them (they’ve no right to be selective about quality, clearly). And if the movie doesn’t do well, I’m sure she’ll say it was because people weren’t open-minded enough to accept her or give the movie a chance. But it would never be because the movie was crap or she’s not the caliber of actress she seems to think she is.

      I tried to like her, tried many times, but I think I’m done with that now. She’s a decent, solid actor who will never be great and her “solid” talent isn’t enough to make up for the bullsh*t that flows every time she opens her mouth for an interview.

  5. mystified says:

    Sorry don’t really know who Zoe Saldana or Nina Simone is.

    One thing that I’ve always admired about Jessica Lange as an actress is how she consistently improves over time. Meryl Streep was always great. Farrah Fawcett improved from adequate to good. Remember “King Kong”? Jessica was absolutely terrible. She was so memorably bad that I hoped she would give up acting. Now I think she’s great. You hardly ever see that extreme of a change in acting. Amazing.

    • Sullivan says:

      Gina, you’re not missing anything by not knowing Saldana, but Nina Simone is worth the google.

    • Brionne says:

      Mystified, she was the star of Avatar. She was the young Lt. Uhura on the star trek prequels. She starred in Colombiana and she’s had parts as the pretty girlfriend in many films with Black casts. She briefly dated Bradley Cooper. She was an it girl for a few minutes about 3 yrs ago.

    • FingerBinger says:

      Nina’s Simone’s live version of Please don’t let me be misunderstood is worth a listen too.

    • Fatty Cakes says:

      And with Halloween coming up, it’s worth listening to her version of I Put a Spell on You.


  6. Gina says:

    This girl is much easier to like when she doesn’t speak. She complained loudly how her privacy was being compromised and then went on to pose naked with her pregnant self on the cover of a mag…..after she denied her pregnancy and implied we were all idiots. If I were the wife of a even less attractive version of Fabio, I think I’d just do my job and go home to her I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter hubby….a phrase that will only be relevant to those old enough to remember Fabio.

    • evasmom says:

      Gurrrrl! True dat! Lol. Funniest shit I’ve heard in awhile Gina. Made my morning.

    • Nutty says:

      what are you talking about?
      She didn’t pose nude. Are you dumb? and she never denied her pregnancy, she just got angry (rightfully so) when the media spread the news about her expecting twins before she even announced she was pregnant. Or is a woman not entitled to her own body and babies just because she’s an actress? If that site went to her doctor and the letter spilled the beans they’re both in trouble now because what they did is against the law. Privacy is a thing, even for actors.

      • DTX says:

        Did you know you can correct someone without having to call them names? It’s true!

        Respect is a thing, even for regular people.

  7. Mia4S says:

    They really, really had to darken up her skin for the role. The pictures were…troubling. It might be best if the movie is not seen. It’s not like we are likely to miss some great performance (Zoe’s a pretty medium talent). Nina is a very worthy figure for a bio though. Maybe a great stage musical?

    • Josefa says:

      This. People have been pretty vocal about how WRONG everything in that movie looks. And it sucks because Nina Simone really is worthy of a good movie.

    • Fatty Cakes says:

      “Medium talent” is perfect. I don’t think she’s a bad actress and I do think her work hustle is impressive, but I refuse to believe she works so much harder than ALL other black actresses and that’s the only reason why she’s been more successful. I’ll never understand why someone of middling quality and an uppity attitude continues to get so many roles. Is it really all about her looks or did she build a stronger network? I really want someone to study this from a business perspective and then teach someone one more talented how to do the same thing.

  8. Kiki says:

    Zoe Saldana needs to have several seats. You are a PIA (pain in the ass). Hearing her complain and bitch about how Hollywood is the worst and do the exact opposite to what you complain about is just atrocious.

    As for the Nina Simone bio-pic. No one is going to see that movie because of her. This is what I was saying yesterday to some of my friends, white hollywood is going to find some pretty black girl who is brown to appeal the audience of everyone. So all the black actors, whether dark or light, why depend on white hollywood when you can just do it yourself.

  9. bns says:

    She probably thought doing a biopic would get her an Oscar nomination, but she’s not talented enough.

    The movie will tank if it ever sees the light of day, and she, and everyone else involved, deserves it.

    • andypandy says:

      This x 1000!!!!
      Whilst Zoe has been fortunate enough to a part of ensemble casts in commercial successful films. She has not had much critical acclaim this Role Was all ABOUT Zoe, She thought she would pull a Charlize type Monster or hell even a Halles Monster Ball and win an Oscar. Her personal ambitions were always worth more than Ninas truth

      Incidentally a name that is rarely mentioned but who I feel has the looks acting chops and angst to play Nina Simone is Lauren Hill (But sigh we know that wouldn’t end well )

      • DTX says:


        I also thought of Lauryn Hill for this & truth be told I think she is a great actress as well as a talented musician. I saw her in concert when she was about 5/6 months pregnant and she still KILLED IT. I know she is a controversial person at times but I have a lot of love for her and I think she would have done Nina justice.

    • Nutty says:

      “but she’s not talented enough.”

      I forgot that the oscars are always given to talented actors and actresses only…

      • andypandy says:

        @ Nutty No they are not which is why Zoe though she could get one 🙂

        Oscar voters love the story of the pretty girl uglying up themselves for a role (for want of a better word as a I don’t think Simone was ugly but based on mainstream stds ) Think Nicole Kidman, Charlize , Halle Hilary Swank etc that’s all zoe cared about.

        Zoe doesn’t give a rats A$$ about Nina Simone , I would be surprised if she even knew who Simone was until she was approached to do the role
        She is pretentious and full of sh1t and it is sheer laziness By Hollywood in developing diverse talent why this woman is constantly being pushed down our throat

      • Pepsi Presents...Coke says:

        @andypandy: Oh, DAYUM. Another hole in one. 😈

    • The Other Katherine says:

      Nina Simone was one of the great musicians of the 20th century. The fact that she’s being played by a completely inappropriate, self-absorbed actress in terrible makeup (completely missing the point of Nina’s intelligent, jolie-laide sex appeal) makes me want to vomit.

  10. Brionne says:

    IF and that’s a BIG IF others were offered the part and were afraid to take it, it was because they understood how powerful an icon Nina Simone is as a Civil Rights figure and as a Black Artist and didn’t want to mess it up. This should have dawned on her.

  11. taxi says:

    Saldana is a pretentious thing without any special talent that I can see, so it’s sad that she somehow worked her way into playing Simone. It’s kind of an insult to Nina to put such a mediocre actress in the part. http://chicagoist.com/2014/10/09/music_video_of_the_day_nina_simone.php

    Colombiana was a revenge-based melodrama which didn’t need much acting range & in Avatar, painted blue & wearing a tail & mask, special effects substituted for discernible skills.

    She’s from Queens, her family moved to the D.R. when she was 10 & stayed 7 years.
    From imdb:
    “When I go to the D.R., the press in Santo Domingo always asks, “¿Qué te consideras, dominicana o americana?” (What do you consider yourself, Dominican or American?) I don’t understand it, and it’s the same people asking the same question. So I say, time and time again, “Yo soy una mujer negra.” (“I am a black woman.”) [They go] “Oh, no, tú eres trigueñita.” (“Oh no, you are ‘dark skinned'”) I’m like, “No! Let’s get it straight, yo soy una mujer negra.” (“I am a black woman.”)

    I’m not sure how this makes her so “brave.”

  12. lucy2 says:

    I imagine if they had done a general casting call for Nina Simone, a lot of very talented women wouldn’t have been afraid and would have jumped at the chance. There’s probably some unknown actress out there who would have knocked our socks off. But they wanted a bigger name, apparently, and probably to the detriment of the film.

    • Nutty says:


    • ava says:

      Agreed! You know there’s an unknown (or relatively unknown) actress out there who could have knocked it out of the park.

    • lucy2 says:

      Just last year there were 2 unknowns who scored Oscar nominations (and one win) on their first roles – Lupita , and Barkhad Abdi from Captain Phillips. There are amazingly talented people out there.

  13. andypandy says:

    Love Jessica Lange Back in the day she was neck and neck with Meryl not sure what happened glad to see her working

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      Remember how beautiful she was in Tootsie, if you are into older movies? Wow. Still looks great, too.

  14. Nutty says:

    Zoe pregnant and all looks really gorgeous, by the way.

  15. mandygirl says:

    Zoe will make a fine Nina Simone. Nina was raised here in Tryon, NC. My house is about two blocks from the little house she grew up in. We’re really proud of her here. She used to take piano lessons in Asheville, NC, too.

  16. Jaded says:

    I’m tired of Zoe thinking (and talking) like she’s all that and a bag of chips. Tracy Chapman would make an awesome Nina Simone, their voices are somewhat similar….wonder if she has any acting chops?

    Nina: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfJRX-8SXOs

    Tracy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=IL&v=89ue9anIXaA&feature=related&hl=en

  17. Persephone says:

    Maybe the other actresses didn’t want to play the Nina Simone because they’d read the script.

  18. Anne says:

    You know, when I read this headline, I thought “What an arrogant girl.” Having read the quote in context, I think, “Oh. Fair enough.” I became angry with her when I didn’t actually want to be. I don’t like when that happens.

    • KC says:

      ^THIS! I actually avoided the article for a day because as much as I like her I saw no way for Zoë to redeem herself from such an arrogant comment.

      However, to be fair 1- those words were out of context. She merely relayed that when approached she was told other actresses were too afraid. The headline basically inserts an air of condescension that her words simply don’t justify. 2-We really don’t know why the other actresses turned it down. Truth be told, I don’t think so highly of celebrities to think they nobly stepped down for someone more physically/professionally suitable. Why on earth wouldn’t they jump on an opportunity to “Monster” it? Nina’s daughter Simone has spoken up and made it clear that the script/movie is unauthorized and that the basic premise of the plot is a bold-faced lie, worse still lacked input/influence from someone truly close and related to her (her own daughter) and didn’t focus on who she truly was. I think it’s fair to think maybe those other actresses didn’t care for a script that didn’t fully or accurately portray noteworthy events in her life which seems like a good reason to turn down or be “afraid” of the role.

      I think it’s reasonable to bemoan the likelihood that Zoë didn’t do her homework/researching and turn down the role as others before her based on an untrue, possibly not honoring portrayal of a real person. For THAT I will take issue with her.

  19. Lucilu says:

    Zoe is a lightweight mediocre Black/Latina actress like many before her, and as soon as her usefulness wears off, she will be tossed aside just like all of the Latina actresses before her. Female Hollyweird actresses have a fifteen minute life span of real fame. Five minutes if they are women of color. As always, extremely blonde, white women last a whole lot longer than the Black and brown ones. With Zoe in the lead role, I honestly don’t know which audience (certainly not Black people) the producers of this “Nina Simone” movie is targeting. Most people, Black or white, don’t even remember Nina, and more importantly, young people have never even heard of her. Zoe did her best to play down the Black blood that will forever run through her veins, and as always, it will come back and bite her.