Nina Simone’s daughter: Zoe Saldana is ‘being attacked so viciously’

nina poster

I really have to ask: did producers of Nina really think that they were not going to get any pushback this week? Were they unprepared for the sh-tstorm that dropped down on them as soon as they released the first trailer? I mean, obviously, someone somewhere knew that this film was a hugely problematic and controversial mess. That’s why it was shelved for years. So why now? And why is everyone involved with this film so touchy and tone-deaf? Yesterday, people involved with Nina started to come out and speak about the backlash. Let’s get to Robert L. Johnson’s statement first. He’s the founder and chairman of RLJ Entertainment, which is releasing/distributing the film:

“Zoe Saldana delivers an exceptional and mesmerizing tribute to Nina Simone,” Robert L. Johnson, founder and chairman of RLJ Entertainment and founder of BET said in a statement to PEOPLE. “She gave her heart and soul to the role and displayed her extraordinary talent. The most important thing is that creativity or quality of performance should never be judged on the basis of color, or ethnicity, or physical likeness. Quality entertainment should be measured by the sheer force of creativity and the commitment that an actor or actress brings to the performance. We are proud to distribute the film headlined by Zoë Saldana and David Oyelowo on April 22, 2016.”

[From People]

“The most important thing is that creativity or quality of performance should never be judged on the basis of color, or ethnicity, or physical likeness.” Sure. But if that was the case, why the f—k did the filmmakers decide to put a light-skinned Afro-Latina woman in dark blackface? If it was all about the performance, the art, the creativity, why did the filmmakers make it about skin color? Meanwhile, the director of Nina, Cynthia Mort, also issued a statement:

“Zoe gave an amazingly courageous and great performance. I think that’s all that should matter. I wish the movie well. There are very different visions of what the movie could have been and should have been. Other than that, I think Zoe was amazing, and David [Oyelowo] was amazing, and I’m proud of a lot of the movie. There’s a lot of good in it, and people should see it. The bottom line is this: Nina Simone deserves to be known.”

[From EW]

Nina Simone does deserve to be known. That’s why she already is known, beloved, respected and honored as one of the greatest musical talents in American history. That’s why the documentary about her life and career – What Happened, Miss Simone? – was nominated for an Oscar. The balls of Cynthia Mort to act as if Nina Simone was some unknown artist and it was up to this sketchy, ridiculous and offensive bio-pic to educate the public on Nina Simone. Sigh… and finally, Nina Simone’s only daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, gave an interview to Time Magazine. Lisa says that she does not run the Simone estate’s Twitter account and she doesn’t know who tweeted the clapback to Zoe Saldana this week. Some highlights from the interview:

On the attacks on Saldana: “It’s unfortunate that Zoe Saldana is being attacked so viciously when she is someone who is part of a larger picture. It’s clear she brought her best to this project, but unfortunately she’s being attacked when she’s not responsible for any of the writing or the lies…I really didn’t feel much of anything except for poor Zoe.”

The lie at the center of the movie: “The movie is about a relationship between my mother and Clifton which never took place. They never had an amorous relationship,” Simone Kelly said, adding that Henderson was a gay man. “The project has been tainted from the very beginning. Clearly, it is not the truth about my mother’s life and everyone now knows that. This is not how you want your loved ones remembered.”

But Zoe was not the right choice: While the family is “not upset with Zoe,” Simone Kelly said she didn’t think the actress was the “proper choice, appearance-wise… There are many superb actresses of color who could more adequately represent my mother and could bring her to the screen with the proper script, the proper team and a sense of wanting to bring the truth of my mother’s journey to the masses. And Nina, in my opinion, doesn’t do any of that.”

[From Time Mag]

I get that Lisa’s main beef is with the screenwriter/director Cynthia Mort for falsifying a narrative about her mom, and for the producers who let this happen. Again, I have to ask – what were they thinking? We’re past the point of asking how and why the film got made (that ship has sailed), but it’s fair to ask why the film wasn’t buried, right? This is so messy.



Photos courtesy of Fame/Flynet.

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144 Responses to “Nina Simone’s daughter: Zoe Saldana is ‘being attacked so viciously’”

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  1. Jess says:

    Forgive my ignorance, but how is this situation different from what Forest Whitaker did for the Last King of Scotland movie? I don’t remember any outrage then and I think he even won an oscar for that role.

    • Ann says:

      People care more passionately about Simone who is an American Icon, and close relatives and friends of Simone’s are still very much alive and present.

    • Cynthia says:

      There’re a lot of discussions about Africans playing African-Americans and vice versa actually, but the situation here is different. Nina was very vocal about the struggle faced for being a dark skinned Black woman with kinky hair, and very vocal about the beauty of Blackness. It feels like a slap in the face to put a light skinned woman in dark make up to portray her when there are actual dark skinned actress who could portray her.

      • Jess says:

        Ah ok, I understand why casting Zoe would be problematic in that case but how do we know if there were other dark skinned actress who auditioned but were turned down for the part?

      • LOT says:

        I have read criticism like yours on her being miscast, and they are fine. The comments on the script being disrespectful or untruthful are also fine.
        But there are quite aggressive racist rants about Zoe not being black enough, and they are all over. That part, in my opinion, looks like preventive censorship and it is – frankly speaking – unacceptable.

      • Mieke says:

        You make a sensible point. And still I don’t think that it can be the opinion of anyone who stands up for equality to judge someone else on their skintone in order to make a point about their ability to portray a character. The whole script is terrible. That’s a valid complaint.

        We are not our parents. They are responsible for us. We are not for their actions. As a Dutch person I have seen a glimpse of the US’ compartementalization. And if their is something keeping that in place it’s the groups themselves. This so-called fight should not be about whether someone has the right skintone to portray a real person. It should be about fictional characters having the same distribution of ethnicities as our pool of actors. As in, it’s a freaking job and everyone needs equal opportunity.

        If you want to overcome this, stop identifying yourself by the exact percentage of Irish, African, Polish and Thai blood running through your veins. It’s ridiculous. It’s hard enough to build bridges without all these stoopid labels as it is.

    • LOT says:

      Eddie Redmayne portraying a person with ALS disease while being healthy or playing a transgendered woman being a heterosexual man?

      • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

        Both had backlash,it just depends on how much you were listening or heard. The media loves to cover black outrage but spends little time giving others equal platform.

      • Jess says:

        Sorry but I don’t see an issue with the ALS role. Are actors now never allowed to portray any sort of health condition unless they have ALS or are paralyzed? That doesn’t seem right. The Theory of everything at least partly takes place over a period of time when Stephen Hawking was able-bodied. And after hearing Eddie speak about the role, I feel he took the time to try to understand not only the disease but the difficulties of being disabled.

        Stephen Hawking even said that he felt like he was watching himself sometimes…

      • LOT says:

        @ jess exactly, an actor is supposed to play. Why this preventive censorship only when black people are involved?

      • The Eternal Side-Eye says:


        Do you realize there are actual actors with ALS? I ask because people always seem to believe that if it wasn’t for a particular actor then no one would do these movies. Actors with disabilities complain everyday that able bodied people pretend to be cripple for a day and get an award and a movie while they’re willing and able.

        You can argue semantics on how much they’d need to cover of a non-disabled actor but there’s a disconnect in asking, “Oh so a healthy actor can’t play disabled?” without thinking of the disabled actors who want the work and never get it.

      • Jess says:

        @The Eternal Side-Eye

        ” I ask because people always seem to believe that if it wasn’t for a particular actor then no one would do these movies.”

        Hate to break it to you but that’s pretty much the case. While I agree when possible, casting a handicapped person in a handicapped role is ideal, it’s not always practical. & lets be frank here: depending on the disability, there are many roles that can’t be fulfilled by disabled individuals… Take Julianne Moore’s role in Still Alice for example, she plays a person that develops Alzheimer’s and a pretty amazing job in the role. Are you contending that the film-makers should have only considered actors who have Alzheimer’s to play the part?

        As for The Theory of Everything, if you want to make a film about (a fictional) person with ALS, it could be really interesting to cast someone who actually has it; but this movie was a biography which calls for someone who could play both stages of his life (before he developed ALS and after). & If Hawking himself who suffers from ALS said that Redmayne’s performance made him feel like he was watching himself, why are we getting upset over Eddie Redmayne taking the part?

      • The Eternal Side-Eye says:


        But it isn’t often the case. Obviously stages of advanced disease or degeneration can’t be played by someone with the actual disease but there’s whole agencies and unions for actors who are handicap or have diseases or are transgender who are begging for these roles they never get. The truth is people don’t think about them but still want their roles portrayed.

        Get a young strapping actor stick him in a wheelchair and check the box next to diversity without actually being diverse. It’s the same Hollywood games over and over and people don’t stop to ask why.

      • Colette says:

        I have seen lots of criticism of non trans actors portraying trans actors.I just read criticism this week about a trans woman winning a Spirit Award because she isn’t a “real” female.Backlash happens all the time even why it is not mentioned on a gossip site.

      • Annie says:

        False equivalence, dear. Black face is never ok. If you need to paint somebody’s face, you need a different person. Black people are sensitive about that and Zoe’s make up looks awful.

    • Pepper says:

      This is something I don’t get. Putting aside the blackface, there are so many instances of American and British POC actors playing Africans. Will Smith just did it with Concussion. Why not get an actual Nigerian actor to play a Nigerian man , instead of giving us American movie star Will Smith doing a laughable Nigerian accent?

      POC are not interchangeable. African people and culture are not interchangeable. Casting any random black actor as a Kenyan, or South African, or Sudanese or so on is the same as casting a stereo-typically Germanic looking white guy as a Syrian. Sure, they’re both caucasian, but there’s rather more to it than that.

      • Jess says:

        I think Hollywood mostly casts Americans or British actors in african roles since they are the most “bankable” (according to the sony leaks at least). Not saying it’s right, but I think those decisions are mostly motivated by money.

        They think casting will smith in a biopic will result in more profit since he’s well known around the world.

      • LOT says:

        They cast Americans to play Julius Caesar or Alexandros, Genghis Khan or Louis XIV. They can be Italian, Spanish, Russian, German…
        But since they have the money, they can spend it as they wish and since they own the main international distribution companies, they can also decide which movies will be seen in the theatres all over the world.
        that’s why I find disconcerting the extent and violence of the backlash in this particular case..

      • Linn says:

        Honestly, the same could be said for pretty much everybody not playing a character from his own country, or even the same region of said country and the same class.
        British people are portrayed by americans or australians etc. and vice versa. Most of the time somebody is playing a german or a russian or a french person the accent is terribly off for everybody from said country.

        If we only allow people to portray exactly what they know, what are we hiring actors for? Isn’t portraying somebody they are not kind of there job?

        And as Jess said, hiring a internationally famous actor is probably more bankable and of course if they plan to shoot in america it’s much easier if they don’t have to worry about stuff like Visas etc.

      • AlmondJoy says:

        Pepper, you can’t “put aside the blackface.” That is the very crux of the issue here. It’s one of the huge reasons people are upset about this casting.

      • Kate says:

        I didn’t mean put it aside as in it doesn’t matter, but put it aside as in it doesn’t relate to the next thing I’m about to say.

      • milietan says:

        Ok, by the same argument, white people are not interchangable. If African Americans can not play Africans, then British people should never play American characters. Think of all the American TV and movie characters being played by British actors.

    • Farhi says:

      I can’t help but think that some of it due to Nina Simone being an American icon vs. all other cases are usually black American or British actors playing Africans and any displeasure of Africans about casting simply never reaches the US media.

      I’ve seen criticism on the imdb from people from those countries about how unacceptable and ridiculous it is to see an American or a Brit in this or that iconic role, but that criticism never goes viral like this because those people don’t have a media voice behind them.

      I think this criticism of Saldana is a double edged sort because I don’t think black American actors want to experience the same kind of blowback when they play Africans or Brits playing Russians and Americans or Australians playing Americans. You have to allow for some creative license since actors can’t match the background of every person they play. That is why the do the research and some time they succeed and sometimes they fail.

      • Leah says:

        “I think this criticism of Saldana is a double edged sort because I don’t think black American actors want to experience the same kind of blowback when they play Africans or Brits playing Russians and Americans or Australians playing Americans.”
        I agree i think its quite hypocritical that this discussion is not happening when black african parts are given to african americans for instance. I vaguely remember there were some people who were pissed that a brit played MLK, so it seems to be that it only matters that it be accurate where representation of an american cultural or historical icon on screen is concerned.

    • Ennie says:

      It hapenned to Richard Valenzuela too, in the movie La Bamba. Ritchie Valens, as he was known, was portrayed by an actor who was far, far from Mexican, Lou Diamond Phillips. There are still roles that are portrayed by non Latinos, less is to say that really, American producers probably say: who cares about accents or heritage?
      We go to the movies and hear a supposed Mexican speaking like a Colombian, like Texan with full Mexican heritage Selena Quintanilla portrayed by JLo. At least JLo became famous in her own right, and is a Latina.
      We Latinos get it all the frigging time, the whitewashing. I hope there were more actors with clout to choose from. I am guessing that they went with Zoe partly because she is more widely known (due to big blockbusters where she has participated) outside of the USA than other actresses.

    • Bearie says:

      Why is it that a gay person can play a straight or straight gay and no one cares, but a light skinned black woman can’t play a dark skinned black woman without people destroying that person in comments? It isn’t supposed to be about how you look, but how well you act and what you bring emotionally. Zoe is a black actress and she was hot off Star Trek and Avatar at the time so they had a name. She’s not a bad actress and saying she can’t play a darker skinned woman is no dif than saying that a black person can’t play a white person, or that a trans person can’t play a nontrans person. It’s not about your looks but the authenticity of the performance.

  2. Crumpet says:

    I think Nina Simone is being incredibly gracious. She also articulates very clearly what is wrong with the movie and who is responsible. Kudos.

  3. Stacey says:

    Zoe should have known what the blowback would be to her playing Nina Simone and she should have dropped out. But she probably had visions of Oscar nominations in her eyes when she signed on for this project.

    The real problem, as Lisa Simone Kelly said, lies with the makers of the film who made this film over the objections of the family. And if what Lisa says is true that Clifton Henderson was gay and he and her mother’s relationship was fabricated, then this movie is a fraud as well. This movie sounds extremely disrespectful of her legacy.

    This movie never should have been made in the first place or it should have been made with an actress that looks more like Nina Simone.

    • noway says:

      I wouldn’t call the movie a fraud, it is just fiction. In fairness no one is saying that the movie is a documentary. They have basically fictionalized a part of her life, which happens all the time with movies and tv shows. That being said if the family doesn’t think it is a fair representation, they have the right to let the world know. Her daughter does speak eloquently about the issues too. I think she has the right indignation. Zoe is not a great choice, but hardly the main issue with this movie. If I was her family, I don’t think I would like the entire thing being a misrepresentation of her life either. Two good things to come out of this are Nina Simone is probably getting a bit more attention than she has in recent years and to a different audience, and the issue of discrimination of dark skinned black women is being discussed more. How’s that for a glass half full for a Friday.

  4. missmerry says:

    There are many superb actresses of color who could more adequately represent my mother and could bring her to the screen with the proper script, the proper team and a sense of wanting to bring the truth of my mother’s journey to the masses. And Nina, in my opinion, doesn’t do any of that.”

    I wonder who would be on that list of other actresses… I wish she gave examples of who she would have like to have seen in that role…

    • Stacey says:

      In other interviews the family has mentioned Viola Davis and according to Whoopi Goldberg, Nina Simone personally told her she wanted Whoopi to play her in any movie adaptation of her life.

    • roses says:

      I think Adepero Oduye who gave an exceptional performance in Pariah would have been a great idea. She was also good in 12 years a slave and the big short although she had limited screen time in those 2 films.

      • truthSF says:

        I just googled her roses. And yes, Adepero Oduye would be the BEST actor to portray a younger version of Nina. From her beautiful, smooth dark skin, to her natural hair, to her beautiful wide nose. This is Nina Simone Hollywood.

    • taxi says:

      Alfre Woodard!

  5. grabbyhands says:

    Zoe Saldana may not have personally engineered this project, but she certainly wasn’t forced into doing it. She chose to take it and I am certain she saw this and though “Oscar bait!” and ran with it. In her defense, most actors probably would have done the same thing, but it doesn’t make it right.

    Worse, not only (in addition to creating a non-existent romance) do they not consult her family on the project, Zoe herself gets on Twitter and is so disrespectful and rude to any criticism. And don’t get me started on the egotism of behaving like she was the only actress brave enough to take on the role. Please.

    • Guest508 says:


    • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

      Yup. I can’t wring out a drop of pity for Zoe. She’s doing this for a trophy on her chest and in doing so is perfectly exemplifying the racism Nina actually faced.

    • Alex says:

      Agreed. She acts like she’s the victim when really the only pity I have is for Nina (RIP) and her family

    • Ennie says:

      I don’t blame her for taking such a big role. Remember how few leading roles are being created for women actors. I understand she would try to get in the project.

  6. nina says:

    That makeup is awful.
    All she had to do was spend some time in the DR or someplace warm and she could naturally tan to Nina’s color. I have seen Zoe that color during summer in NYC so I know it is possible. She is already quite dark brown.
    That would have helped a lot but I still think Danai Gurari should have done it or someone like Viola Davis.
    The trailer was laugh out loud funny. I literally cried from laughing, especially when she pulls out the gun and when she laughs like pee wee herman lol
    That said, they (meaning the whole team responsible for this mess) should have respected the wishes of Nina’s daughter and estate and not went through with it. So disrespectful.
    Zoe is not a good enough actress to pull this off. She’s good in scifi flicks or romcoms when she plays the tough girl from brooklyn or whatever…but other than that, she just does not have the acting chops. She was the same “tough girl” in pirates of the carribbean that she was in center stage or that romcom she did with Kutcher. She needs to recognize her limits and work with them.
    Please do not spend any money to watch this movie. I’d recommend watching the documentary about Nina’s life instead.

    • RuddyZooKeeper says:

      It’s not just dark makeup. It’s a prosthetic nose as well.

    • Colette says:

      I don’t have an issue with Zoe as much as I do the horrible,unnatural makeup that was used,it’s caked on.But my friend who is dark skinned and studying drama feels dark skinned actresses are often ignored.So it’s painful when Nina has too be played by a light skinned woman who has to be darkened.It’s like a full figured icon being played by a skinny actress in a fat suit.

  7. Shambles says:

    I spent a lot of time yesterday looking through pictures of Nina Simone, and I was blown away. I think she’s gorgeous. Powerful, graceful, and elegant. Zoe does not emit that type of strength with her presence, and I think she was the wrong choice based on that alone. Add to it this extremely problematic charicature they’ve created by trying to darken her skin and widen her nose, instead of casting a dark-skinned woman who could identify with Nina’s struggles and use that to bring more juice to the role (Viola Davis was robbed), and this is just a giant, messy pile of NOPE.

  8. Sixer says:

    I much admire the daughter for showing huge grace while expressing a firm opinion in the middle of a highly febrile atmosphere and personal pain.

    • missmerry says:


      she’s taking pains to represent her mother, her family and herself gracefully and politely.

    • lucy2 says:

      Me too, I think she handled that beautifully.

    • Carol says:

      I agree. I get why people are upset that Zoe is playing Nina, but the hatred she is getting from people, especially the Nina estate, is mind boggling. Its like Donald Trump on steroids. I don’t blame Zoe for taking that job either. But I think more egregious is the lying about Nina’s relationship with Henderson. Why did the creators feel it was necessary to create such a false relationship? Is the movie supposed to be a “what if” fantasy movie? I just don’t get it. The movie just sounds awful.

      I love that Lisa is so protective of her mother and the way she has been dealing with all the controversy surrounding the movie. Very classy yet direct.

      • Original T.C. says:

        I understand your sympathy Carol but it’s a similar situation to Rooney Mara playing a traditional Native American and Emma Stone playing a light skin Asian. These actresses have the choice to not participate in Whitewashing but they ignore protests and apologize later.

        It hard for most non-Blacks to understand the emotional damage done to little girls who are categorized as being “darker than a brown paperbag and so are seen as the lowest on a totem pole of beauty. Many grow up with self-esteem problems. The most similar to colorism is the caste system in India or the separation of South Africans into black vs. coloured. Your opportunities in life become dictated by something as minor as a SHADE of brown.

        So imagine Nina growing up in a caste system where she is at the very bottom and is struggling to make it in an entertainment world that only allowed women of Beyonce’s (or even lighter) shade. She had to build up her self esteem and fight against both Black and White society that saw her as unworthy.

        Fast forward to a movie made about her life but casting a woman that in her time would have considered Nina beneath her. Zoe understands this caste system as it is very much alive in Latin American. Colorism was part of the Cuban Revolution as Castro fought the light/skinned and more Europen looking Cubans to gain better education, jobs and living standards for their darker and more African looking brothers and sisters. Cubans the same shade as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were the heads of most things and that is why most of Castor’s generation of Cubans in the U.S. are light-skinned and look more European and of course are richer. Zoe knows that it is the caste system that gives her the power to play a darker skinned woman while the reverse rarely ever happens. She saw the psychological pain these women suffered both in the U.S. and the islands. Alternatively she may have become obvious since she had “the right” features. She knew it’s wasn’t right but did it anyway just like Rooney and Emma.

      • The Eternal Side-Eye says:


        Perfectly said.

  9. Babalon says:

    I hope the movie bombs.

    Also, Judd Apetow outed himself as a privileged, tone-deaf jackass on twitter last night over this mess.

    Get it together, Hollywood. Goodness.

    • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

      Oh Lord, what did he say?

      • Alex says:

        In response to an article about the backlash he wrote “I think all actors should only be allowed to play themselves. Its offensive to pretend to be other people”

        Well you KNOW black twitter began dragging him almost immediately. Jezebel and Mic have articles on it

      • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

        Lol, people like him crack me up. The second it’s not the problem they can throw themselves in front of and become the hero is the second their sympathy meter drops.

        Glad he suddenly became a scholar on the struggle of dark skinned black women.

      • kori says:

        Ridiculous. I learned a lot over the last few postings. It’s pretty clear why this is an issue without sliding all the way down the slippery slope like Apatow did. It’s demeaning and flippant to bring it to a level of 100% similarity to a figure or nothing.

      • SloaneY says:

        Errrr…that sounds like a joke? Because acting is just pretending to be other people….

    • mark says:

      Privileged for saying actors should be able to play other play other people.

  10. Kae says:

    So it’s OK for Forest Whitaker to be darkened up to play a dictator in Last King of Scotland but Zoe does the same thing and Is being slammed

    This has everything to do with the fact that Zoe Saldana is an Afro Latina portraying a African American

    • lovemesseg says:

      What kind of logic is that?

      If we don’t complain about one thing we can’t complain about another?

      It is wrong to use blackface. Forever and ever.

    • truthSF says:

      Please read Cynthia’s comments below. Because obviously, you don’t see the problem with this mess (on the screen) that’s right in front of you.

    • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

      The world has changed pretty significantly from the time Forest did that movie till now. Namely the people that have always been complaining FINALLY have a form of media that doesn’t censore them.

      For once you’re hearing people’s unadulterated feelings without the spin or control of another group.

    • Sam says:

      Okay, I’m in the camp that it’s not always totally wrong to darken an actor’s skin if it is minimal and it actually advances the character, so I’ll start with that. I am not part of the “it’s always wrong” camp.

      First, I remember when the movie came out, people noted that many African actors refused to play Idi Amin because many of them did not want to be associated with a person who was so terrible for Africa as a continent. There was a cultural resistance to portraying him in many cases. An African American actor did not have such baggage.

      And there is marked difference between finding a person who mostly hits the mark appearance wise and slightly darkening them (in Whitaker’s case) and this, which involves substantial darkening as well as prostheses. Zoe Saldana is not a person who looks like Nina but just needed a little more color to do so. She looks nothing like her, period. And in Whitaker’s case, the appearance was not central to the character. Nina’s life was defined by how she looked and how people reacted to her appearance. Her appearance was a huge part of her story. Given that, why not cast a woman who could understand that aspect of her?

  11. Liz says:

    It’s greeat that Lisa is placing the onus on the director. Equal blame should be placed on the owner, RL Johnson, who is the founder of the company releasing and distributing the film. The buck stops with Robert. I can’t help but think the owner was the one who refused to shelf the project indefinitely.

    The timing is suspect. Recently there was a lot of criticism about white actors appropriating other ethnicities in films, coupled with the lack of opportunities for women. I wonder if Robert is making a statement.

    • noway says:

      Robert L. Johnson did release a statement it is the first quote in the story above. He isn’t the owner just the distributor. Also, does anyone find it interesting that the distributor of this film is one of the most prominent and successful African American Media businessman in the country. Did he watch it before he decided to distribute it? FYI he is the founder of BET if someone didn’t see that.

      • WTF says:

        Yeah I saw that. And no I don’t find it interesting. Robert Johnson is the worst thing to happen to Black people since Clarence Thomas took the bench. He’s an opportunistic a$$ hat that never misses a chance to denigrate African American culture for his own financial benefit.
        This is the same fool that wouldn’t hire darker skinned people when he owned the network. He NEVER would have put Nina Simone on BET when he was there and I find his involvement even more offensive than Zoe being cast.

  12. Cynthia says:

    I can’t believe there’re people thinking that the controversy it’s about Zoe being Afro-Latina. Anyone who read anything about Nina Simone’s thoughts about Blackness knows why it’s so wrong to put a light skinned black woman with a fake nose and darken make up to portray Simone. Dark skinned Black actresses have it harder because of colorism and now they can’t even play roles made for them! I know Zoe was probably thinking about awards and prestige while taking this job, but she should have thought better. The people who should be really ashamed though are the producers and the director.

    • truthSF says:


    • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

      I think a lot of people want to make this into a savior piece about poor Zoe and how all the meanies are picking on this poor light skinned woman, ignoring that the reasons for this criticism is the unfairness shown to being respectful to and giving work to darker skinned women.

      So many people whining about folks calling her not black enough while comfortably ignoring that she’s the one with the job, attention, and money and in the process two darker skinned women were denied and dishonored. Both Nina and the actress they could have cast to play her.

      • Farhi says:

        Are you really implying that people feel compassion for Zoe because her skin color is not as dark as some other black women and they wouldn’t feel the same for say Viola Davis or Whoopi being criticized unfairly (in my view)? I do hope I read it wrong.

      • WTF says:

        @Farhi, Yeah, you read it wrong.

    • Marny says:

      I can’t believe the dimensions this situation has taken on. This is Hollywood!!! Their desire to tell stories with integrity is ALWAYS trumped by their need to make money and get exposure! When they started filming this movie, probably 4 years ago, Zoe was the biggest actress of color in her age bracket that I can think of. Why would they choose to have Uzo Aduba play the role when no one knew her yet? Viola Davis was very well respected but wasn’t yet the star of a hugely popular television show. India Arie didn’t want the part. etc. etc. I think all these expectations that movie roles are going to be given to the most qualified, most accurately skin-toned person, with the real accent, and so on is just completely naive and not the way that industry works at all. The top priority is money, period. People are making a lot of sense but it doesn’t matter. This isn’t an idealistic non-profit organization, you know?

      • anon33 says:

        Imagine if people who fought for civil rights had the same attitude as you. “We can’t change it, so why try?”


      • Marny says:

        I wouldn’t/don’t feel this way about civil rights. Hollywood isn’t the US Government

  13. Eleonor says:

    Nina Simone was such an amazing talent, and had a complex personality, she battled civil rights, but also her own disease. Her daughter did not have an easy life with her (understatement) I think she must be seriously pissed with all the people who worked to portrait her mother in a such simplicistic way.

  14. Lisa says:

    First of all, I think saying someone isn’t black enough must be incredibly upsetting to Zoe Saldana. Second of all, most people cast in biopics don’t look like the person they’re playing. Third of all, if you were a black actress, with all the crappy parts you get offered, and you got offered the part of Nina Simone, you would say yes!

    • Cynthia says:

      In a perfect world your comments would be right, but you’re ignoring that there’s a thing called colorism, which summed up with racism makesit really hard for actresses who look like Nina to get work. Point is, there was no need to get a light skinned actress and make a caricature of her with dark make-up, they could have chosen a dark skinned one. Zoe is still way more successful than many black actresses out there, so this project was more about prestige than anything else. More importantly Nina felt strongly about being proud of looking like she looked despite facing struggles for not being a singer resembling Lena Horne or Billie Holiday.

      • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

        Thank you.

        People more worried about Zoe are why she’s partly getting this colorism.

        Once again it seems darker skinned women are ignored while the lighter skinned woman is now cast in an entirely new damsel in distress role.

        Poor Zoe, why are people attacking her for performing blackface?

      • Saks says:

        @The Eternal Side Eye. No, people defending her is mainly because this has gotten so out of proportion she is getting death threats while others are insulting her kids. And because as Nina’s daughter said herself, this anger is missplaced.

      • The Eternal Side-Eye says:


        Death threats and threatening kids is never acceptable, it’s sick people who go that route. You can criticize someone without making it a life and death situation. Clearly I’m against this movie and role but that has nothing to do with Zoe outside of the decision she made in taking the role and the priorities of those who were doing the casting and production of this film. Her family, private life etc. should be off the table.

      • noway says:

        I think the anger is misplaced at Zoe. The reality of an actress is you get offered few scripts that have a substantive point at all. Most women are cast as the side kick or an after thought in a film and Zoe has been the side kick in mostly action adventure or sic-fi pics. When you get a good role you are probably going to jump at it, and actors are taught to become any character, no matter how unwise it might be. As one director recently said you are usually given a list of a few names of actors that are acceptable before you get bankrolled for a film. Good that Zoe was considered acceptable, bad for her in the backlash.

    • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

      Zoe has been the lead or main cast of three billion dollar movies in the last ten years. All have guaranteed sequels, all feature her prominently. This wasn’t some struggling artist desperate for a movie role.

      • LOT says:

        Any actor goes after roles. And nobody criticizes a white actor for being busy with different roles in one year. Do you suggest that since she is light skinned but not definitely white she can be fine with what she already has?

      • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

        I’ll tell you what I told someone else yesterday.

        Not everything is going to line up perfectly with white people. White people were not lynched for looking a certain way. Black people were. The entire economy of a struggling country did not hinge on whether white people got to stay in doors or were forced to work out in the sun like animals. It did for black people.

        A difference in skin tone was the difference between being the master’s pet and the poor woman raped in the slave quarters.

        I’m suggesting that lighter skinned Zoe fits in perfectly with a business that rewards acting based on color. I can point to dozens of female POC actresses who look like Zoe and merely a handful that are darker. I will weep for Zoe’s struggles after I weep for the women who auditioned for the role and were not given it only for Zoe to be picked and slathered with brown foundation.

      • stinky says:

        Viola is a busy woman. Elsewhere its been written that other actresses weren’t available for the role (due to conflicts & existing projects). If this is true, does it matter? All the other actresses who were said to be more suitable for the role DO have careers and work. So if its casting time and they wanna roll with the project, what then? It IS a consideration, is it not? Any actress would want the role but if youre already doing your Broadway show or filming something else – OH WELL.

      • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

        Viola is not the only dark skinned woman in existance. Nor is Lupita. Nor is Gabourey.

        If your movie is about a woman who struggled with discrimination at the hands of whites and light skinned blacks…and somehow along the way in production you find yourself having to paint a lighter skinned woman darker you have failed the entire point of your movie.

        This film didn’t need to go to a major actress, in fact between the production cost, the many years they shelved this film, and how much they paid Saldana for it they’re likely already in the red.

    • TheGrandSophy says:

      Yeah, I think all the hate directed towards Zoe for accepting the part is a little unfair. We’ve endlessly discussed the lack of decent roles for women over 30, much less for any POC. She may well have been thinking Oscar potential, but it’s probably more likely that she couldn’t pass up what looked like a plum role. She’s not exactly in a lot of movies. Was she supposed to pass it up because some people felt that she wasn’t right for the role or that she was potentially taking the role away from another POC?

      I think that we’re getting into dangerous territory when we start looking at the hierarchy of POC (darker-skinned AA women have less chance of being hired then lighter AA women, therefore these lighter AA women should stay away from roles based on darker skinned AA women to give them a shot). Instead of being seeing something positive about a movie featuring the life of an AA woman, we go on about the fact that the actress hired (despite being of Afro descent) wasn’t dark enough (cause clearly the Latina neutralises the Afro) *eyeroll*

      Zoe may not have been the best choice for the role (because she’s too light, too pretty, too whatever), but there are a lot of people cast in roles that don’t match the physical characteristics of the person they’re supposed to be playing e.g. Michael F as Steve Jobs.

      Whoever came up with the fabricated storyline though, needs his/her behind kicked. It’s not a biopic if you misrepresent someone’s life for (potential) profit. Ms Simone’s life was interesting enough without making stuff up. Zoe’s casting aside, I have no interest in seeing a ‘lie-opic’.

    • drnotknowitall says:

      I would normally agree with you. But in this case, the “darkness” of the person in question is actually central to the story. Nina struggled with being overly masculine, un-attractive, and very dark skinned. It was central to her. So to cast an attractive, feminine and light skinned woman is a total contradiction of what made Nina so powerful = her struggle with her own identity.

    • S says:

      Agreed. I also think there is a big difference (in fighting racism, colorism, etc) in encouraging directors to consider/hire darker skinned actors and attacking an actress and director over a single choice in casting that has a thousand different variables involved.

  15. Adrien says:

    I feel bad for Zoe. Yesterday I was, “yeah, she deserved all the criticisms”. Now I can’t fault her for taking the role. It’s rare for a poc to be the lead star unless it’s a biopic ( oh hey, Michael Jackson role is given to a white person). It’s her big chance and this backlash happens. It could ruin her career. Now I pity her. I don’t want to wish it to bomb but box office history is on Zoe’s side. Two of the movies she’s in made the billion mark. She was even a box office charm in smaller films like Center Stage and Crossroads. She’s like the opposite of Olivia Wilde.

    • drnotknowitall says:

      I don’t blame Zoe. I would want the role too. And I will see it, because I will see anything in which Nina’s music is showcased. Even if it is a stereo playing her songs in a closet, I will go. But, it really bothers me that an attractive light skinned woman is playing a woman who was deeply conflicted about her appearance and felt her un-attractiveness very acutely all the while attempting to embrace the darkness of her skin.

  16. Sarah01 says:

    I think Nina’s daughter has said enough. Let the movie come out and if she feels she still needs to shred it and everyone else then do it. Personally that’s not my way of doing things. She is speaking for her mom a lot. In my opinion only a person can represent their own opinions and Nina’s were very well known and documented. To me there is a fine line of keeping your moms legacy and riding on her coat tails. I don’t know what it is in this case. When the movie came out and she saw it she could’ve written an open letter or essay. That would have been more poignant.
    I love Nina’s music I like Zoe I want to see how she portrays her.

  17. db says:

    Although I think other actors would be better suited (mmm, Danai Gurira? Rutina Wesley? Adina Porter) Zoe doesn’t deserve the vitriol, she’s an actor who had the chance to get a great role. I agree with Simone’s daughter.

  18. The Eternal Side-Eye says:

    Everyone associated with this mess deserves backlash and criticism, that includes David Oyelowo.

    The reality is that the issue of racism faced in Hollywood doesn’t divide neatly between whites and blacks. Darker skinned and lighter skinned blacks are often put in competition for auditioning and getting work. It’s no secret and has never been a secret that the darker you are the harder it will be for you. Lupita didn’t skip into Hollywood playing a princess, she was a slave. Years later and we’re still sitting with fingers crossed that she even manages to get another movie role that’s positive.

    The one role Hollywood loves to get darker skinned blacks for that isn’t a slave? Villains. Ooh yes, the darker your skin the better.

    THIS would have been a positive role. But let’s not put it all on this film. Let’s do the math. How many movies that came out last year feature POC? Now how many black women? Now how many dark skinned women? Did you struggle to come up with one example?

    I don’t pity Zoe in the least. She has one of the most successful careers a POC could dream of. She has the luxury of getting cast as the object of attraction and desired woman, something women darker than her don’t. She has the luxury of getting more work. Some people can’t even get work. And she has the luxury of being the right skin tone to walk into a film for a role she looks nothing like and get the part, not because she can sing amazingly. Not because she’s the best actress. But because when it comes down to choosing blacks the lighter skinned ones are more acceptable to look at than those with darker hues. She profits from that racism and colorism.

    This movie will fail. Because just like every movie before it that was supposed to ‘honor’ something it ultimately doesn’t understand its subject or why it was special. It mocks it’s audience. It tries to tell them what the real moral of the story is while insulting their intelligence. That backlash seen online will extend to the premiere and it will be the second big flop of the new year.

    • Cynthia says:

      Right!! Poor Zoe who has one of the most successful careers for a Black woman in Hollywood! She doesn’t deserve to be attacked viciously and I bet she took this job with a picture of the Oscar in her mind, but you know who else deserves sympathy? Dark skinned actresses who are super talented but will never break through because they’re not light enough. Remember after Lupita won an Oscar and the Hollywood Reporter ran a piece of comments by casting agents and one said that even though Lupita is gorgeous she may have difficulties to be cast in a rom-com because she’s not the right kind of black? Colorism is the reason why it’s easier to break it into mainstream if you look like Beyoncé rather than Laura Mvula, and I say this as a big fan of both.

      • The Eternal Side-Eye says:


        Hollywood is small for WOC but even I can pick out 20-30 women that are Zoe’s skin tone who have had a movie role in the last five years. I can not do that with darker WOC. There are about five featured prominently in my mind and everytime they do a love scene a dozen think pieces pop up about how they’re such talented actresses but it’s silly/unrealistic to portray them as desirable.

        Everytime a darker woman achieves success there is an effort to remind the public that she’s still not good enough and that includes even Viola Davis who had a whole article devoted to how she’s pretty for a dark skinned woman but not conventionally beautiful.

    • vauvert says:

      After reading all your brilliant comments yesterday TESE, I agree with you completely. If a white girl raised in an insular white country can understand the massive discrimination due to colourism, why is it so hard for the rest?? To me the most telling bit was that most people could only come up with Viola as an alternative, followed by the “too old for the part’ bit. Yes, because I am sure there are zero dark skinned black actresses who could have gotten the part. My bad😡
      I was also incensed to hear about the casting call for Out of Compton, and it drives me batty that people still don’t get how you can have discrimination within POC. It’s real and pervasive and particularly in the case of a role model like Nina whose battles were in no small part due to how dark her skin was, the casting was all wrong. Zoe had the option (and the luxury, as a super succesful star acting in three major franchises) to not go for it, if the script – rightfully – called for how dark Nina was as part of the plot, and when she found out that they would essentially put her in blackface. There is such a thing as integrity.

      • Farhi says:

        @Vauvert, it is not hard at all to notice colorism in the black community in the US, it is pretty obvious when you see the girlfriends of the US sports players.

        What I resists is internalizing it like so many posters here have done. I refuse to internalize it. I refuse to see a black person with lighter skin as more privileged than a black person with darker skin. I will treat them the same, I will not assume.

        Colorism is wrong, and while we can understand it and see it, we shouldn’t internalize it if we ever want to get rid of it. That is my reasoning. There is no evil intent or willful ignorance in my actions.

      • The Eternal Side-Eye says:


        If you do not address a specific problem then you will never solve a specific problem. This isn’t a one time gaffe. This has happened for centuries. This has been happening since the time white actors were doing blackface. This is still happening and this is the first time the people hurt by this problem are finally able to voice their anger and frustration. If it sounds deafening it is because it has been going unheeded for entire generations. Without social media the news and other programs would still be spinning this as a case of blacks folks just whining without actually addressing the specific criticism. Zoe deserves this criticism as does every single person associated with this film. Her actions have contributed to further cementing a system that hurts women like the ones she’s so happy to play in a movie.


        Exactly. People can barely name enough dark skinned actresses to be in the role and don’t seem to think that immediately suggests a problem. Any given year we are told to get excited about a dozen new white actors/actresses who have acted in a film. This year it’s Joseph Trembley from the room and while I am happy for him I cant help but notice not a single person has brought up the little boy who acted in Beasts of No Nation. No, it’s just simply the system and nothing can be done about it. Don’t complain. Don’t get angry. Don’t actually try to call for change and show your displeasure.

      • censored says:

        @ Eternal
        All i can say is you are doing the Lords work here today.
        I really dont have the strength to deal the willfully obtuse and purposefully ignorant today
        The SAME posters asking the same questions making the same FALSE equivalencies that were painstakingly and eloquently answered by several other posters (yourself included ) time and time again
        Naw you dont understand because you DONT want to understand

        @Farhi it s really easy not to internalize something that doesn’t affect you personally in your day to day life , I always look forward to your patronizing comments and you rarely disappoint

      • Farhi says:

        @censored – do you want to discuss the issue or do you just want everyone agree with you, even when they have different backgrounds and experiences? Personal attacks like yours, they do hurt and they are unfair.

      • Asiyah says:


        The other day you said you are white, right? So why are you saying that YOU won’t internalize it? There’s nothing for YOU to internalize. It isn’t your struggle.

        And if you choose not to internalize it in a general sense that’s fine and dandy but that doesn’t change REALITY and REALITY is that colorism is very real and lighter skinned people have more privilege than darker skinned people. SADLY, THAT’S REALITY.

      • Farhi says:

        @Asiyah, on yesterday’s thread somebody said that white people don’t understand colorism. I was responding line of reasoning. Colorism is not unique to blacks either. It is also very prevalent in Asia and whites also practiced it well into the 20th century until the rise of the California beach girl image.

        We are a part of the same country, the same society. We can’t say – this is a black people only problem and nobody else can have an opinion on it, or this is a white only problem and nobody else can have an opinion on it. A problem can only be solved when most of the society comes to the same understanding of it.

      • vauvert says:

        Personally I don’t internalize this – it would be hard to do as I’m white. And no, I personally won’t treat lighter skinned black people and darker skin black people or white people or Asian people or native people differently. But I am NOT the casting director, so the problem is not my internalizing it, but theirs. And I get to scream BS when they do it.

        As you mention it yourself in a further comment, these social issues won’t get solved until and unless we as a society refuse to tolerate them. We can’t deal with everything all at once, but we sure should and can when a perfect (revolting) example happens right before our eyes. If my having an opinion is internalizing it, and taking a stand, not sure how “not internalizing it” would help??

        To summarize: There are enough examples of bloody racism in the movie industry. If you make one movie a year in which the protagonist is a dark skinned black woman, who fought against it during her life, casting a light skinned actress in the role only to use blackface in order to portray her story… well that is just so wrong. I don’t care how you dice it, it is wrong, and we have to stand up and say it is wrong, otherwise it will never change. You can call my attitude anything. That doesn’t matter. The issue matters, and I think there is plenty of blame to go in this case – the director, the casting director, the producer, the star. (I think saying anything more uncivil is wrong, threatening anyone or calling names is wrong. This should be a civil discourse about we resolve the problem, not creating a new one.)

      • censored says:

        Thank you for this
        I really didnt have the patience

  19. drnotknowitall says:

    I’m a life-long Nina Simone fan. Here is what offends me about the film. Taking liberties with biographical details sometimes happens (like in The Danish Girl). I can overlook that knowing Nina’s life. What I cannot overlook is the absolute horrible casting, which indicates that the creators did not understand Nina or what she was about.

    Listen to this song called “Four Women”, my fave of hers:

    Nina was not just a black woman. She was a very dark skinned black woman. She did not just experience racism from whites, but also from light skinned blacks. In addition, she was not an attractive woman. Her appearance and the way it made her feel as well as the way she was treated are CENTRAL TO EVERYTHING about who she is.

    So to cast a light skinned attractive woman and paint her darker is a total misunderstanding of who Nina was. It is an insult. I am outraged.

  20. M.A.F. says:

    The only positive thing I can say about this whole mess is that it exposed me to Nina Simone. I need to seek out that documentary.

    • Cynthia says:

      It’s really well- done. I watched it with a friend of mine who isn’t a Nina Simone fan like I am and she absolutely loved it.

    • Tulip Garden says:

      Yes! I sought it ou and watched it last night. I would never been aware of it except for commenters here. I found it fascinating.
      Simone was so complex, as was her life and the time that she lived it. It was jarring to read about a “romance” angle in this Nina movie. The woman was a genius-level gifted pianist, a celebrated artist, an activist whose activism probably cost her in her career, she was also an abused spouse, she spiraled into worsening mental illness, etc. I could go on and on about who she was as a person outside of her career. It baffles me why with all of this to delve into, any artificial angle would need to be created. I guess that’s Hollyweird.
      Anyway, thanks to the posters who sent me searching for the documentary.

    • Tiffany says:

      On Netflix. It is great. Recommended to all.

  21. Gwen says:

    Seriously why is everyone trying to make ‘clapback’ and ‘pushback’ happen? It’s not going to happen. Clapback sounds like ‘the clap’, or what a rapper calls the sound of two buttcheeks clapping together. You know? It’s gross.

    • The Eternal Side-Eye says:


      They’re not trying to make it happen. It happened years and years ago. Perhaps what you’re experiencing is seeing a colloquial term prominently featured in black culture slowly make its way to awareness in other pop culture circles.

      Also, pushback has always been a phrase. That isn’t remotely new.

  22. Cynthia says:

    I feel like the screenwriters, the director and the producers didn’t even put in the work. Hollywood always takes a lot of freedom with stories about famous people but they completely went off the road with inventing a non existent relationship with a gay man. Since the director felt that an icon like Nina needed a proper film, why couldn’t she read a proper biography and write a story with some creative licenses who could honor her incredible legacy? I’ve read two biographies of Nina but even her Wikipedia page is enough to understand why the whole concept behind this film and casting in a slap in her face.

  23. putyourphonedown says:

    I’m not at all trying to jack this thread, but since this is literally the only commentariat I can think of that might give a single thoughtful sh*t about this, and we’re talking about color and cinema: where on the internet can I find people decrying Alfred Molina for taking on YET ANOTHER role in which he’s called upon to employ brownface? The only two Afghan characters in Tina Fey’s new film Whiskey Tango Foxtrot are placed by a) the cute, white boyfriend from Season 1 of Girls and b) Alfred Molina in 1000 lbs of self-tanner. Heck, Gods of Egypt got even more hate for white-washing than this. Does Tina Fey’s general like-ability just blunt the obvious racism? I don’t understand!!

    Ok, that being out of my system, I’m grateful to the earnest and articulate conversation here about colorism and Nina Simone’s unique legacy. Good on ya’ll, and please carry on :)

    • me says:

      I saw a clip of Tina’s new movie and was wondering the same thing ! It’s hard enough for a person of middle-eastern decent to get an acting role as it is, but to hire someone who isn’t even middle-eastern and give him a tan is disgusting. WTF? This sh*t needs to stop. Especially since the film is supposed to take place in Afghanistan, could they not have made it a little authentic? I know they filmed it in New Mexico, but damn at least hire middle-eastern people to play themselves ! I also saw a clip of Tina’s movie where her and Margo were talking about how Tina is a “6 or 7″ in America but in Afghanistan she would be considered a “10″. That made me so made. Excuse me, but middle eastern women are some of the MOST beautiful in the world.

      • Breakfast Margaritas says:

        Wow! Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I agree that great beauty can be found a mind Middle Eastern women. I don’t particularly care for Tina Fey, especially after an interview in which she seemed to be shrugging off concerns about stereotypes in her casts.

      • Magnoliarose says:

        Sigh. When will they ever learn.

      • jmacky says:

        @me and she already did that joke on 30 rock! she said she was a 6 or 7 in New York but a supermodel in Ohio. reused material and wrong geography. she needs to get to the middle east and would be humbled just walking around the markets.

    • jmacky says:

      yikes. i’m already pretty wary of Hollywood in the Mid East films—but WTF? there is an amazing Palestinian artist Jackie Salloum who did an amazing mash-up and critique of of Hollywood’s problem with Middle East set films, “Planet of the Arabs”

      I always need an antidote to Hollywood lameness—at the end of the day, they make a product. And they don’t make original, awesome products, they make terrible or mediocre ones…Hollywood is McDonald’s. generic, homogenized, hegemonic, boring.

      Nina Simone was a genius goddess, so many of us have survived on this planet bc of her work. This movie is a trifle…and like her daughter Lisa Simone Kelly wrote, a flawed script anyway. Maybe when a script is actually worthy, a beautiful righteous actress will take it on and express all the complexities of racism, colorism and artistic genius that this film is obviously lacking. Lisa Simone Kelly needs to be attached to the project bc to make a Nina film without dealing with her music is a crime anyway…her training and ability to combine so many musical genres with poetry and social critique is unmatched. A true Nina film needs musicians involved–and from all the worlds of music influenced by and with her—jazz, classical, r&b, soul, rock, hip hop, etc. etc.

      Her legacy lives on, goofy movie won’t touch her.

  24. Bread and Circuses says:

    Ms. Simone put into very eloquent words my vague opinions on the matter. Zoe took a role, and it turned out to be for badly-executed movie. Now, because Zoe is the face of that movie, she’s being made the target for all the ire that should be landing on the heads of the writer and director instead.

  25. Saks says:

    Why isn’t anyone criticizing David?! He is a producer on this film and they also screwed up with his character’s sexual preferences…

  26. mirage says:

    Zoe Saldana portraying Nina Simone doesn’t strike me as shocking at all.

    Blackface? I mean people need to chill out. This has really got blown out of proportion.
    It is ok for actors to alter their appearance to fit into certain roles.
    Especially in this instance where Zoe Saldana is recognised as a black women!
    Joseph Fiennes, a White British man, is going to portray Michael Jackson, a Black American man in a British comedy. That is shocking indeed.

    As for the fact that Saldana is not suitable for the role because she is too pretty and has never experienced prejudice like Simone did. That again is nonsensical.
    First of all, one can not cast an actor based on their personal history. They are supposed to fit into the role, and bring out emotions through their talents as actors! And also, what do we know about Saldana not experiencing prejudice. If I remember well, her big break in Avatar came about when she was in her 30s. Surely things must have been difficult for her before that.
    Myself, as a mixed race person, perceived as a black women, I don’t like to victimise myself and talk about prejudice. I’d rather ignore it and move on. I think Zoe Saldana is like that. But this is who she is.
    As an actress however, she is a blank canvas, she must be given that chance.

    The truly outrageous thing is how the film is based on a lie.
    That is all.
    That there might have been better contenders for the role, is possible.
    But then again, we were not present at the casting.

    • Breakfast Margaritas says:

      Nina Simone wasn’t able to ignore it and move on. That is central to her identity and central to who she was. Because of her appearance, in the very fickle world of Hollywood, where a Dihanne Carole, Lena Horne, Freddie Washington, Dorothy Dandridge and even Dionne Warrick were acceptable, Nina was not. Her considerable talent didn’t matter because her appearance was deemed not commercial, too ethnic. She was not allowed to ignore it as you have and as Zoe has been able to.

      It’s like having Beyonce play Winnie Mandela or Lupita Ny’ongo portray singing legend Celia Cruz. As much as I love Beyonce and Lupita, I wouldn’t be able to suspend my disbelief enough to really get into the movie. Casting matters.

      • ya says:

        Nina Simone had a ton of commercial success from a very young age though – she had a number of huge pop hits in the ’60s. She was very conflicted about this, and altered her music to become more political (and less mainstream) during the civil rights era.

  27. kori says:

    does anyone have any commentary on the issue of the black male character’s sexuality being changed? It sounds like the very interesting issues of color and sexuality that could’ve been addressed are being watered down significantly in the movie.

    • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

      This whole movie reads like something that started off well with a good idea and then little by little went more and more off the rails.

      I’m not sure I believe that they chose Zoe because she was so bankable. She’s had a charmed career and she’s got solid work but none of her single films have done exceptional and she wouldn’t be considered a box office draw. Not to mention at the time this film was being done David was basically an unknown.

      I suspect a lot of people got tunnel vision while creating the film and at a certain point after it was finished someone looked at it with enough clarity to go, “omg we fucked up.” You don’t shelve something this long if you’re proud of it and think it will be a box office success.

      I think they kept trying to fix things here and there and turn it into some idealized Hollywood biography film and instead it started becoming unrecognizable to Nina’s actual story.

  28. Breakfast Margaritas says:

    I liked Zoe Saldana in Colombiana. I will see her when the next Star Trek and Avatar installments come out. I just don’t think she was right for this particular role and I don’t want to see inappropriate casting overshadow Nina Simone’s struggles with black identity, celebrity and mental illness so I won’t see or rent the film.

    I wish her well in her future roles. She has got the cutest little mixed twin babies and her husband seems pretty cool too.

  29. Brooke says:

    Now, if this sounds ignorant, I apologize in advance to all the offences that could potentially be made here, but here goes:
    I can clearly see this same actress being cast in this same role and NOT wearing the makeup to darken her skin, and the huge load of backlash and protests that will be made for “whitewashing” Nina Simone. I clearly remember this happening when wax figures didn’t represent true skin tone and made the celebrities looked lighter.
    Is the decision to use makeup in this case any different from the decision that white actors make to dye their hair, lose or gain weight, get a tan, lose a tan, use colored contact lenses, age their skin, use prosthetic noses and chins, etc. all in the interest of representing a real person realistically in a role?
    When it comes to black skin, because of history and because of prejudice, there is always offence. Black skin cannot “just” be black skin, and I think that speaks a lot about ongoing racism even today. I have no idea how good Zoe’s acting was, I didn’t see it, but if a decision was made to darken her skin to make her look more like her character, I don’t think we should be charging that up so much. There are dark-skinned actors that probably could have represented her better, sure. I just don’t understand why this woman is being attacked for a decision that was probably made with good intentions (to make her look more like Nina Simone).

    • lucy says:

      @Brooke, quite so.

      Again today, I offer: David Bowie as The Elephant Man, and Sandy Duncan as Peter Pan, Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West. Neither character was portrayed by an actor who shared the actual characteristics of the subject. It’s called ACTING! Why villify Saldana and not the makeup artist? the casting director? I think that some people simply will not be satisfied with the casting for a nonfictional character. I am not defending the casting director’s choice of Saldana, nor the makeup artist, I am asserting that people who are not involved with projects feel entitled to impose their own agendas and expectations on other people’s projects, and perhaps they should not.

      I still have not watched the trailer, but learning that the narrative is so wildly fictionalized, I have no interest in doing so. That sort of disregard for integral truth irks me just as it does when Oliver Stone makes dumb movies like The Doors and JFK.

      I think Lisa Simone Kelly’s statements are not only reasonable, but quite gracious. Tolerance is a virtue.

    • MrsNix says:


  30. Cassie says:

    Zoe is a Black woman!!! Only in the USA people can’t accept this fact just because she was born and raised in Dominican Republic instead of The USA!

    There are good reasons why Zoe should not have accepted to play the role of Nina. She does not have the right skin color/shade and she doesn’t have anything in common with Nina.

    She is not Black enough and she doesn’ have the facial features needed.

    I’m Brazilian, White and Latina with an Italian surname who lives in America and it’s a insane mess here.

    • Illyra says:

      I find it kind of funny that Obama, who is half white, consistently gets referred to as just “black”—but in this situation Zoe is *definitely* “Afro-Latina”.

      • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

        Due to the country’s racist past Obama is considered black because anyone with a single drop of negro blood in their system was black. The only people allowed to absolve this were those who had the luck of being able to pass for white.

        When you watch programs that deal with genealogy and family history there’s a reason so many whites are stunned to learn they have prominent AA blood in their genetics.

        Despite time passing that national history hasn’t faded. Obama was always treated as black. Always looked at as black. Will always be considered black. For better or worse. Zoe herself denied the Afro part of her identity in her early career and has only recently begun to willingly represent both titles.

  31. Jess says:

    I understand the outrage, but it’s quite arrogant that Americans think it’s not ok that actors from other culture tell their stories but are totally ok with their own actors telling other people’s stories.
    Let me tell you to Africans a black American is very different, they talk, walk and carry the self differently. You can spot them a mile off it isn’t anything to do with the colour of skin.
    Another point I would like to make is when did acting become a lookalike contest?
    Idris Elba spent 4 hours every day in make up on long road to freedom I still don’t think he looked much like Mandela. Acting should be about the best actor for the part.
    That said Zoe was never the best actress for a number of different reason.

    • MrsNix says:

      I don’t think you’ll find that most Americans believe that actors from other cultures can’t tell our stories.

    • Breakfast Margaritas says:

      None of the Black actors in Twelve Years A Slave were African-American and there were no complaints from African-Americans. David Oyewelo was cast as MLK with no problems. African-Americans generally applaud the works of Idris Elba, Thandie Newton, Chiwetel Edgiofor, among others. They are all Black Brits with West African parents.

  32. lucy says:

    Do people of color want to be accepted and treated as equals by which they are NOT judged by the color of their skin but rather by the content of their character, or, do they want – or expect – to be treated as special BECAUSE OF their skin color?

    Can’t have it both ways.

    • The Eternal Side-Eye says:

      The desires of persons of color can’t be summed up on a bumper sticker. It’s a nuanced issue.

      We don’t want our identity eliminated, we don’t want to be told to eliminate our unique differences to fit into an acceptable amalgam of whiteness. We want equal access to work and opportunity as well as not having our very existance attacked on multiple fronts. I want to actually see black beauty treated with equal attention and adoration that society tells me to worship Eurocentric beauty.

      I want to see black achievements given equal representation. I’d like for black history to not be confined to 2-3 chapters in our national children’s textbooks or famous black names to only be uttered during a single month.

      The list of things that need to be addressed is endless. Does that answer your question?

  33. applepie says:

    Let’s not forget this is entertainment for the masses. It’s all fantasy tied up with money. Will Smith has done roles in mainstream movies where the main character could be black or white. The studios have a film made that is bankable to the masses.. whatever they think that is…. knowing how people would react you would have thought the studio would be a little more clued up in their choice of lead role though…

  34. Magnoliarose says:

    Zoe really shouldn’t have let professional ambition override her common sense here. As a black Latina she should understand colorisism quite well and how destructive it is. If you ever watch any of the soap operas on Spanish speaking television networks most of the time the black people are cast in roles that are stereotypical and absolutely cringeworthy. It would be very unacceptable to do that in American films or TV shows. If you read about Latin American history or even some of the novels it is sometimes openly discussed.
    I don’t understand how she sat in the makeup chair and then saw herself and didn’t realize maybe this is not a great idea. She had to know there would be a problem. She had to have faced racism herself. But maybe she thought that would help her some in this role but If she did, she missed the deeper and most important aspect of Nina Simone’s struggle.
    Actors are always the face of a project and they will either rise or fall with the outcome and reception of the end result. This could harm her career for a long time and it is a shame. In this I pity her some and wonder where her people were when this went down and why they didn’t protect her better. Actors want to act and stretch themselves and I’m sure she thought she could too but many vanity projects go south frequently for this very reason.
    The lies about Nina’s life, the erasure of the gay issue and the blackface take a great story and just ruin it for those who would have loved a great biopic about this very complex woman.

  35. Tiffany says:

    I think that Zoe is not that great of an actor. This film was a disaster from day one and her ego actually thought that she was the best person for the part. And, she was not. She saw awards in her eyes and that is just not the case.

  36. Guesto says:

    @Magnoliarose – “The lies about Nina’s life, the erasure of the gay issue and the blackface take a great story and just ruin it for those who would have loved a great biopic about this very complex woman.”

    This is the saddest bit about it all, that such a great opportunity to do justice to this woman’s voice and struggle was so wilfully and ignorantly squandered.

    Being optimistic, it would be nice to think that all this backlash will have some positive outcome and results in someone else – someone with heart/soul and a respect for truthful storytelling – wanting to tackle Nina Simone’s story in a way that truly respects who she was. That would be a great outcome.

  37. Classy and Sassy says:

    I’m sorely disappointed they failed to find a Black actress who was more appropriate to play Simone, without the use of prosthetics…there are hundreds of actors of color, just as talented as Saldana. What a let down.