Zoe Saldana Says She Should've 'Never' Played Nina Simone in Biopic
By Paige Gawley
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Zoe Saldana is revealing why she'd never play Nina Simone today. During a chat with Pose creator Steven Canals, the 42-year-old actress expressed regret over her choice to play the iconic singer in the 2016 biopic Nina.
Saldana's casting in the film was controversial at the time, largely because the actress had to darken her skin and wear facial prosthetics for the role.
"I should have never played Nina. I should have done everything in my power with the leverage that I had 10 years ago, which was a different leverage, but it was leverage nonetheless," she said. "I should've tried everything in my power to cast a Black woman to play an exceptionally perfect Black woman."
Saldana said she reached that conclusion after "growing," a process she described as "painful."
"I thought back then that I had the permission because I was a Black woman, and I am. But it was Nina Simone, and Nina had a life and she had a journey that should've been and should be honored to the most specific detail," she said. "She was a specifically detailed individual about her voice, her opinions, her views, her music, and her art. And she was so honest. So she deserved better."
"... I know better today and I'm never gonna do that again. Never," she added. "I'm learning. I'm still processing. I've been processing it for 10 years and I think it's a conversation that I wanna have."
The actress concluded her statement with an apology.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry because I love her music. It wasn't enough. She didn't get enough," she said. "With that said, she's one of our giants and someone else should step up. Somebody else should tell her story... I'm besotted that Nina Simone, her story, hasn't had a global f**king impact."
"I just want her story to be told and I want it to be right because she deserves it," Saldana added.
Around the time of the biopic's release, Simone's daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, said Saldana wasn't the "proper choice, appearance-wise" to play her mother, but didn't hold it against the actress herself.
"It’s unfortunate that Zoe Saldana is being attacked so viciously when she is someone who is part of a larger picture," she said at the time. "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."
"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," she added. "And Nina, in my opinion, doesn’t do any of that."