Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone

Posted on October 29, 2012

Zoe Saldana’s on the set of “Nina,” in Los Angeles, California, in full Nina Simone costume and it’s jarring, to say the least.

We love ourselves some Zoe Saldana, but we really struggle with her casting here. You can slap a prosthetic nose on her face, a truck-load of dark makeup, and padding in all the right areas, but she’s never going to be able to embody the full-lipped, dark-skinned, soulful sensuality of the original. It’s truly one of the oddest casting choices we’ve heard in some time and these pictures don’t fill us with anticipation for the film. It’s like casting Kerry Washington as Aretha Franklin or Cameron Diaz as Elizabeth Taylor. It fundamentally doesn’t work.

Don’t get us wrong, the costumes look great. But she’s nowhere near Nina Simone and all the makeup tricks they used to try and turn Zoe Saldana into a curvy, dark-skinned black woman are distracting as hell.



[Photo Credit: PacificCoastNews]

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  • thatguy9

    I thought Mary J Blige had this role? hmmm.

    • HomeOfficeGirl

      Seems like that would have been a good choice…

    •  Yeah but they decided to go with Zoe instead. Which is kinda a shame since Mary does look like someone who can pull off Nina’s badass attitude. And plus, her features kinda fits more with that of Nina’s. Zoe is not a terrible actor but to me she’s just another generic tough-woman kinda action star. Definitely not the badass Soul Queen Nina is(was).

    • Little_Olive

      Yes! or Viola Davis (although she may be a bit overexposed for it). 

      • filmcricket

        She was the one I was hoping for.

      • Shane

        I could see that.

    • DeborahJozayt

      Mary J. would have been an awesome choice. Or even Eve.

    • B C


      • dschubba

        Yeah. She’d be a better match than Zoe, but the best way to do this, IMO, would be to cast a strong actress who can lip-synch, as opposed to a weak actress with a strong voice.

        • MilaXX

           Not by much. Nina was tall and dark skinned. Her skin color was important because it shaped so much of who she was. To cast someone who needs this much “help” with the features that made Nina who she was is an insult.

          • dschubba

            I understand this. My comment wasn’t meant to be an endorsement of Zoe Saldana, in any way. (Notice, I said “strong actress” not “marketable actress”.)

          • MilaXX

             I understood that. I was replying to why I don’t think Jill Scott would have been a good choice either.

          • dschubba

            You mean Mary J? All I was saying was that I’d rather see a good actress in this role, than just a good singer, since nobody’s gonna nail her voice anyway. Mary J. Blige would be preferable to Zoe in the same sense that being attacked by one dog would be preferable to being attacked by two. Both options suck, but at least Mary would have left blackface out of the equation. Jill Scott (meh actress, poor visual match) wouldn’t be much better.

          • MilaXX

            I get what you mean now.

          • Agreed. Especially considering the politics surrounding the casting of darker skinned women in the first place.

      • Thank you for stating this. No; Mary J. would NOT have been an awesome choice because Mary is not an actress. I’m so very tired of obvious casting choices of these mega hyped pop stars that usually fall flat on performance. Let actors do what they do…act. So what if she doesn’t “look” like Nina Simone. That’s why she’s an actress…she will figure out a way to embody her in other ways. Jesse Eisenberg doesn’t look like Mark Zuckerberg and the character he created didn’t either. But the character he created was beautiful. Acting isn’t about nailing someone perfectly…it’s about how you interpret and bring life to a character.

        • DocPooh


          You miss the larger issue.  Nina’s looks were essential
          to who and what she was.  Apparently, the producers of this film believe
          this enough to caricaturize her image with Zoe, otherwise they’d have her
          play the role without that awful makeup. 
          Heck, they might even have considered a white actress play the role for
          that matter!

        • MilaXX

           This argument would hold a lot more water if Zoe had ever shown herself to be that strong of an actress. She isn’t. Angela Bassets Tina Turner worked because she acted the heck out of it and wisely the producers did minimal outside changes. This bad wig, horrible makeup job and complete ret-con of the persons life they are supposed to be portraying all tell me that everyone involved in this are incapable of interpreting and bringing life to this character.

    • shawnhunter

      i was really hoping adepero oduye would get this role.

      • She really does look the part, I’ve never seen Pariah so I don’t know if she has the acting chops, but I’ve heard good things about her.

      • She would have been PERFECT. She has the exact same features of Nina and she’s a great actress. Ugh. Smh. 

      • I saw a picture of her yesterday and almost couldn’t tell the difference. She would have been perfect.

      • sojourneryouth

        I could not agree more.  Adepero looks a lot more like Nina, and she is an amazing actress.  Honestly, as a black woman, this casting hurts a little.  If Zoe were a better actress, and a bit more substantial as a personality, I would have less of a problem.  Hell, I dealt with Halle’s casting as Dorothy Dandridge without batting an eye, and her main acting talent is looking radiant at all times.  She at least looked the part, so her singular mediocrity was not so shocking.  Nina’s skin color, politics, and presentation of self was an integral part of who she was and why she is so beloved.  Zoe’s casting smacks of clueless producers thinking that any old black actress will do as long as there is enough chocolaty pancake makeup, Afro wigs, and ass padding.

    • Sobaika

      There was talk of her in the biopic a few years ago, but I get why they didn’t go with her. I don’t get why they went with Zoe.

      This role was begging for Anika Noni Rose.

    • Judih1

      Yes I thought Mary J Blige was the choice too, but perhaps she didn’t have the acting experience. I think Zoe is the wrong choice. Just because Nicole Kidman won an Oscar with a fake nose, doesn’t mean that ploy works for other actors

    • Candigirl1968

      Seems like this was made for Viola.  This is bad makeup and terrible casting. 

  • Squarah

    Agree so hard on this one.

  • this is so awkward because she doesn’t look like zoe or nina…

  • Imasewsure

    She must have a helluva agent… Don’t love the casting choice but I do love those plaid gloves

  • Cory Stottlemyer

    it’s sad that the only way a film like this could be made is not by casting an actual curvy, dark-skinned woman. hollywood man. was Adepero Oduye busy?

    • HomeOfficeGirl


    • greyhoundgirl

      Jill Scott?

      • jmorino08

         That’s what I was thinking!

      • Remember No.1 Ladies Detective Agency? AMAZING!!!

    • nancymae

      Adepero would have killed it! Everything about this film is so disturbing and irritating!

    • shawnhunter

      i literally just replied to the first comment saying the same thing! adepero would have been a phenomenal choice. she could look the part and she’s a fantastic actress.

    • MilaXX

      I posted this over  to twitter over the weekend. This is Adepero.  http://twitpic.com/b8k3jv

    • Alexandra Gama Lima

      Most people who are crying *foul* heavily on the web ( who are full of reason, btw), are on your (our) boat with Adepero Oduye.  

       Not only great talent, but, damn, if she can’t look exactly like Nina with much less effort!!


    • Introspective

      I hate that disqua only gives me one like per comment cause I’d like to give this 1000 likes at least. I saw Adepero at a Summerstage concert this year. Gorgeous in the face. Brought me to tears in Pariah. Ready for the world but apparently not for this role?? And Zoe was? Z can wear some clothes but the acting chops to do Nina are nowhere in her wheelhouse.

      Then there’s the physical mismatch which is really wrong given Nina’s life was completely determined by her looks and the lack of opportunity was a direct product of being big nosed thick lipped darkskinned and curvy all of which Z isn’t.

      Then there’s the fact that Ninas family wasn’t consulted and the biopic gets details horribly wrong: http://www.eurweb.com/2012/08/nina-simons-daughter-simone-speaks-out-says-mothers-film-is-unauthorized/

      Love Zoe (and the gloves) but the rest of this is a disaster of epic proportions. I can’t. And she shouldn’t have. Really.

    • Layla Portier

      Yes! Adepero has had my vote since the casting rumors started. I don’t know if singing ability was a factor; I’ve never heard AO sing. But, I know she could have played the hell out of this part.

    • Judih1

      I read somewhere that a bi-racial light skinned Dutch actress was going to play Hariette Tubman – another example of crazy casting by Hollywood. Curvy, dark skinned women do not exist in the eyes of Hollywood producers

  • I love that head-wrap!

    Can some kittens of colour please give me your position on this? It seems really not OK to me – like having Angelina Jolie playing a mixed-race woman – but do you feel differently? 

    • xay

      As an African American woman and a huge Nina Simone fan, the movie is problematic from start to finish. The events depicted are almost entirely fiction, the estate/family isn’t behind the movie. And then you get to the casting…

      Nina Simone’s physical appearance is a huge part of her life and her career. I understand that Hollywood is reluctant to cast darkskinned actresses adn that Zoe Saldana is very popular right now, however, I think it is very insulting  to basically put her in blackface and an afro wig. If you cast a light skinned actress, then have her play the role as she is. They didn’t have a problem with that when they cast a light skinned actress as Harriet Tubman in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and this movie is as historically accurate as that one was.

      •  Thank you! I had no idea of the back story to the movie – problematic certainly sounds like the word for it.

    • AnaRoW

      A lot of black people have been raging since her casting was first announced.  I just don’t get it.  They must have decided to go with the star of the minute rather than finding someone right for the role.  It’s not the fact that she doesn’t look like Simone that bugs (although it doesn’t help) but that she lacks the gravitas and personality of the original.  It’s bothersome in part because this sort of thing seems to happen more often when casting actors of color.  I can only hope it’ll turn out like Diana Ross as Billie Holliday.

    • dschubba

      On the one hand, I’m just glad it’s not Beyoncé (because she’s still hunting for that Oscar, and there are only so many
      singers she can play), but we all know that there are actresses out
      there who already look like this. They could have sought one out if they felt that such a thing was important, but they clearly didn’t. I understand that Zoe Saldana is one of most marketable brown girls out
      there, at the moment, (if not the most,  outright)
      but she’s not the
      greatest actress. I’m a Nina fan, but the decision to overlook something so important to her story doesn’t make me want to see this movie

    • BrooklynBomber

      There’s a petition on change dot org that has almost 9000 signers. “Nina Simone, dubbed The High Priestess of Soul, is an American icon
      and a music legend. Because of this, it is without a doubt straight up
      disrespectful to Ms. Simone and her legacy to get an actress who looks
      nothing like she did to portray her in a movie about her life. Getting
      light complexioned actors to play the roles of dark complexioned
      historical figures is not only a sign of blatant disrespect to the
      persons they are portraying, but it is also disrespectful to their
      families, to history, to the people who look like the persons being
      whitewashed, and to the intelligence of the audience. For too long
      Hollywood has gotten away with this practice of revisionist history and
      it is time that we let our voices be heard, be it by this petition or by
      boycotting the movie if no change has been made as to who will portray
      Nina Simone. This is not a diss to Zoe Saldana. She is an excellent
      actress, but this movie role so much bigger than her undeniable talent.”  And if you’re on FB, look at the Nina Simone page.

    • MilaXX

       I didn’t like Angie playing that role, but this one I hate even more because the Simone Estate has come out against it.

    • Tonia Smith

      *Kittens of colour*……..luvs it! As one of the aforementioned kitten this doesn’t sit well with me. This put me in the mind of Tropic Thunder when Robert Downey Jr. played a black character. Not right…..

      • turtleemily

        RDJ played a white method actor who had a pigmentation altering procedure for a black role.

      • Except that Robert Downey Jr wasn’t REALLY playing a black guy. He was a parody of the kind of actor who “lives” the role- going so far as to dye his skin just because he wanted to play a black role.

      • Jennifer Coleman

        And the RDJ role was satirizing the Hollywood mindset of actors going the prosthetic route to achieve accolades/awards for themselves and the film. Zoe playing this role syncs right in to that pompous, arrogant way of thinking, her and the producers.

  • L.

    Agree! Does Zoe have a wicked contralto we don’t know about that justifies this odd choice? 

  • Kimberly Jefferson
  • homofascist

    Ugh.  I have such a deeply personal connection to Nina Simone that this just FEELS so wrong.  I will cherish the memories of seeing her in concert the year before she died, and will probably elect to stay home, open a bottle of wine and listen to ‘After Hours’ rather than see this film.

    • BrooklynBomber

      Was that by any chance in NY at the Beacon? ‘Cause I’m still kicking myself for not being willing to pay a scalper $100 for that concert.

      • homofascist

        No – Chicago Theater.  She was not in particularly great shape and needed help to walk to the piano, but once she sat down there was absolutely no hesitation in her fingers or her voice.  

        • BrooklynBomber

          I can only imagine. I was a fool not to shell out that money!

  • ShivaDiva

    She must be fishing for an Oscar.  The Academy loves the Holocaust, mental disabilities, and weird prosthetics and accents.  This is odd, to say the least.  Almost like one of those Wayans brothers “impostor” movies.

    • How does the Academy feel about blackface? This is just weirdsville, like Katharine Hepburn in Dragonseed. And Ms. Saldana, you are no Katharine Hepburn!

      • Sobaika

        Well, considering the last Oscars had Billy Crystal in blackface, I don’t think they care. 

        Racial awareness is not really a thing in Hollywood.

        • But… but they gave Crash an Oscar for Best Movie.
          How can we possibly question their racial awareness after such a brave

  • Judy_S

    She’s a wonderful actress so I’ll suspend judgment. But even when you told me I could not see  Zoe Soldana in these pictures.

  • babylonsista

    The most commonly used argument for Saldana playing Nina Simone is the example of Denzel Washington, who is more than a few shades darker than Malcolm X. But Denzel Washington is an amazing actor with a proven track record in film. And I love Zoe, but…naw, man. Naw.

    Women waiting for a movie about Nina Simone expected a dark-skinned, strong-featured woman to play her. This is similar to the rumor that Aretha Franklin wanting Halle Berry (Right?? Child…) to play her in a biopic. It makes no sense.

  • RzYoung

    Yeh this is a bad move. I noticed recently when I was watching A Dangerous Method in HD/ blue-ray that the high tech quality is getting so good that you can see every fake whisker. So unless they’re planning on only releasing this in some betamax low fi condition it’s all going to look very silly…and distracting! 

  • Pants_are_a_must

    Should be a “Girl, This Is Not Your Oscar Role” post.

    • Jennifer Coleman

      Or even, ‘Girl, This is Not Your Lifetime Network Movie Role” post.

      I’m thinking this stinkball of a project is going to go the way of the disappointing ‘The Last Airbender’ movie, with its casting of western actors in Asian cultured roles. Along with being a boring production, that casting helped sink it.
      The thing about this casting of Zoe is not the lighter color of her skin, but the fact that her beauty is the accepted standard in Hollywood for Black women: commonly European features on brown skin. One of the things that made Nina so special is that she came on the scene and Took Over, even though the entertainment world did not have a place at the table for Black women like her. To take one of Hollywood’s ‘acceptable bankable’ Black stars, throw some brown powder, a rubber nose and an afro wig on her is so repellent and disrespectful of Nina’s legacy, I just cannot.

      The general outcry on this casting is also gaining traction in the media with the releasing of the photos. I’m thinking Zoe had best hire a crisis publicist.

      • Rand Ortega

         LOL! What’s Kerry Washington’s character’s name on “Scandal”? Zoe’s going to need her when this film is released.

      • This post makes me want to hug you.  Hard.  This whole shit pisses me off so much I have a headache.  It just highlights EVERYTHING that is wrong with society.  Ugh.

  • Judy_J

    I thought you were going to say “….or casting Lindsey Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor”.

  • 909girl601world

    This shit? Makes my teeth itch.  There are any number of actresses who – sans blackface (O_o) – could’ve played the hell out of this role.  I’m usually all for giving people a chance, but there is something fundamentally wrong Zoe Saldana – a woman who has reportedly proclaimed how black she is not – portraying Nina Simone – a woman whose music was, in part, shaped by being her being a black woman involved in the fight for civil rights.  Dear God.

    • Eva_baby

       I think this casting is 900 kinds of wrong.  On so many levels.  But I must say that from all the things I”ve read, Zoe has always gone on record embracing both her black and Latina roots.  I think she made a huge mistake taking this role

      • MinkaL

        Zoe claims whatever ethnicity is convenient for her at any given time imo. I can deplore the system that encourages her to do so as a result of their own actively racist and bigoted perception of the world that they want to continue enabling, but I also can’t help but find fault with her personal integrity. 

  • This is the first I’ve heard of this and I’m kind of appalled. Hollywood really is a terrible place, isn’t it?

  • dschubba

    This movie looks like a disaster, what with the pancake makeup, the fake fell-in-love-with-a-gay-guy story (because what woman is complete without a romantic subplot?), and her estate’s vocal disowning of the whole project. I’ve been saying they should just take the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter route. Just be honest about the fact that it’s essentially fanfic.

    I’m hoping this might give rise to a Capote/Lennon/Prefontaine-like situation where a second (hopefully, more accurate) biopic pops up in response to this one.

  • Hollywood tends to forget that they’re allowed to have more than one high profile black actress at a time. I do like Zoe, so I’m going to wait and see. I’m curious how they’re going to handle the singing though. Nina had such a distinctive voice. I can’t really think of anyone who has her sounds.  

  • Rand Ortega

    Hollywood Apartheid at its worst. I love Zoe, but this is some white executive’s idea of casting the most well known black actress for white audiences. She’s completely wrong for this role. Not just in looks but in temperament. Nina Simone was the embodiment of power & intensity. Danai Guirra or
    Rutina Wesley would have been much better choices. Mary J. Blige– an amazing singer, not much of an actress.
     PS: Who the hell did Zoe’s makeup? It’s blochy like they didn’t finish! Disgraceful!

    • CozyCat

      If it had to be an actress who is currently “hot,”  why not Jennifer Hudson?  I know she sings in a different style, but it might have been a good stretch vocally.  And she has shown she can act.  (I think Zoe can act too, much better than she has been allowed to show in some of her recent roles anyway)

      • Rand Ortega

        JHud’s not trending very hot these days. She has been cast in “Smash” (TV), & maybe that commitment is why she either wasn’t considered or couldn’t do “Nina”, but her last 2 films went absolutely nowhere. Particularly the 1 where she played Winnie Mandela to Terrance Howard’s Nelson.

        • MilaXX

           Seriously that’s another bit of bad casting. I can almost forgive JHud as Winnie, but really? Terrance Howard as Nelson Mandela? They can miss me with that one too.

          • Rand Ortega

             Which is 1 of the many reasons why it barely saw the light of day.

          • Jennifer Coleman

            I heard both the Mandela and the Nina Simone movies are primarily for release abroad, so that the hue & cry over casting in the states do not mean much for the producers or distributors. 
            Frankly, While JHud has a voice & closer ‘look’ to Nina than Zoe, her acting talent is nowhere hear the quality needed for this role. She lucked out with Effie in ‘Dreamgirls’ but I’ve not seen her do any serious acting since.

      • MilaXX

         JHud already effed up Winnie Mandela so bad that the film has yet to be released.

    • MilaXX

       You know what is really sad about that? Zoe is Dominican & Puerto Rican.

      • Rand Ortega

        Doesn’t matter to them. All people of color are the same to them. It’s about their perception of who people are which they believe mirrors the perception of their audience.
        I’ll give you an example. A UN series being developed for 1 of the networks has a character from South Sudan (it’s integral to the plot). Several Sudanese model/actresses were being considered. The executive in charge didn’t like any of them. When asked why he said, ‘I want an actress w/ more refinement. W/ a look similar to (Fox News Anchor) Angela McGlowan’. Nothing could convince him that for the sake of authenticity that look wasn’t right for the role.

        • MilaXX

           And that? Makes me both sad and angry at the same time.

      • kitu4

        To be fair, dominican isn’t an ethnicity she is dominican and therefore black, sure she is nowhere as dark as Nina and her cultural roots are completely different, but racially she sure as fuck ain’t white. I say this as a fellow blacktina, its hard enough having people being colorist but growing up and realizing that you have to explain to people just how black or not black you are is horrid, people feed me the NOT THAT BLACK line ALL THE TIME and it is stupid, sure I’m latinamerican but my latinamerican roots are caribbean therefore I am mostly black. That being said she is a terrible choice for Nina Simone just because she lacks the character, the likeness and it is a shame that white execs would stoop so low to look for a “lighter, thinner, prettier” black/dark woman to play an icon whose physical attributes are just as important to the character as say Marilyn Monroe (of course in a very different way) especially when there are a shitload of darker, more talented women who could’ve done this woman justice on the screen.

        • MilaXX

          I wasn’t aware of that. I thought Dominicans like Puerto Ricans came in all colors of the rainbow. The few Dominicans I have personally known are lighter and a few made it a point t say they are not black.

          • kitu4

            Of course Dominicans and all latinamericans come in every color, hell, black people come in every color. My point is that being dominican it is very likely she has black in her, I’m pretty sure she’s said so herself. A lot of dominicans have a lot of black in them, I wasn’t trying to be a smartass just pointing out that her being dominican/puerto rican doesn’t actually cancel out her being black. In terms of dominicans/latinos with black heritage not saying they’re black maybe they don’t identify as such because they are so mixed, you also have to consider that in some latinamerican cultures being darker is not usually considered better the difference is people will openly say that. I get the “well you’re not that black” in a certain apologetic way that makes me feel like people are justifying my being attractive in their eyes or trying not to offend me. There are of course people who think differently, dominicans of every color, black people of every single shade you can imagine and most brazilians don’t look like Gisele Bündchen, but Zoe is black and I’m pretty sure she has said so herself. 

          • You know, I’m white and in Mexico, “shade-ism” really weirded me out. I lived there for 6 months between high school and college and people constantly complimented me on my pasty white skin- that was nice. What was very, very uncomfortable was the fact that the majority of people assumed that I was uninterested in dating morenos and black people- why would a girl who’s so “pretty” (aka ridiculously pale) date someone “ugly” (dark skinned)? I also took Intro to Caribbean Studies in college, and my teacher talked about how several Caribbean countries have been trying to claim a more mixed identity even though demographic information shows that they’re mostly black. One of the examples was looking at their beauty queens- they’re usually much lighter and more European-looking than the populace at large. It’s pretty sad if you ask me.

          • kitu4

            This! Its really sad, people try to find the white in them however they can “my great grandmother had blue eyes” that kind of crap. I am darkskinned and have a fro there is no denying the black in me, and for years I thought there was something shameful about me until I grew up and said “fuck it”. Now I constantly get “morena fina” which I understand to mean “fine featured dark skinned girl”. I guess you can get where they’re going with this, people are afraid to call me black sometimes and I’ll have to sit them down and explain that I am indeed black and that just defining me as “pretty darkskinned” is offensive and dismissive of my actual roots. I am black and have finally come to terms with that, it took me a while in a society with such a ridiculous POV but if people have to analize my blackness because I look more like Zoe Saldana and less like Nina or Whoopi then it’s just frustrating. 

          • kitu4

            I couldn’t find the original article so I haven’t really read all about the colorism and such, but the quote about the press is right on the money. 
            My main issue with her playing the part is why the fuck couldn’t they just get someone darker and who resembled Nina more to play her rather than slather on bad makeup. 

          • MilaXX

            FYI, just came across the open letter on Nina’s official site that I think sums up what you are saying.

          • formerlyAnon

            Honey, a Dominican can be 3/4 African and not identify as black. [Based on my being a white girl who married into a very mixed Dominican-American family, the generations I am most familiar with are 30 yr. old, now, and older and no more than one generation born/raised in the States. So it might be different with younger people/those who are more “Americanized.]

            ETA: This is of course a generalization. The stories I could tell you if they weren’t way off topic. But shorthand: black = Haitian = poor, ignorant, Not Us.

  • Sarah Thomas

    If you have to put an actor in blackface to play a character, cast a different actor.

    • lizlemonglasses

      This, exactly.

    • Judih1

      Exactly! Can you imagine Hollywood casting a black actor and putting them in “whiteface”?

  • I love Zoe, but yeah, I’m not sure if this casting quite works for me. 

  • Anathema_Device

    This just feels wrong on a lot of levels. If she can’t embody Simone without going to Avatar levels of costuming, maybe she shouldn’t play her? Not sure who else I would have cast. Other BKs upthread mentioned that Mary J. Blige was attached to this project at one point. She would have been good. Or what about Jill Scott? I know she is lighter, but she certainly has more of the look. As with Blige, I don’t know whether Scott has the acting chops.  Viola Davis would have been good, too.

    • Jill Scott would have been a wonderful choice.

  • I can’t with the whole Zoe as Nina, but I’ll happily steal that second look, head to toe.

  • nannypoo

    Disturbing. I wish she had turned down the role. I’m guessing when the movie comes out she will wish the same thing.

    • MinkaL

      I don’t normally wish ill on people, but I sincerely hope she and everyone associated with this film fail in every way imaginable. This is offensive on so many levels, and she should know better. She’s not a fucking child.

      • pookiesmom

        It’s sad, because I would LOVE to see a well-done movie about Nina Simone. But this is just wrong on so many levels.

      • GTrain

        A-men! Somehow “Hollywood” is being made to take the blame for this mess but Zoe herself bears a lot of responsibility for this.

        • MinkaL

            Don’t misunderstand me, Hollywood is to be blamed. The fact they
          literally could not bear to put a tall, dark skinned women with clear
          African features in this film that they had to go to this extent to
          avoid it, is incredibly deplorable and problematic. It’s emblematic of
          the white majority culture that runs Hollywood and its inherent racism
          and general bigotry, and not just to blacks; Asians, the openly gay,
          etc. And in assuming these “safe” choices to present to the public, they
          help continue to define the black people in this country as always
          somehow lesser and unworthy than their white counterparts. So they are
          not absolved of any blame,  they carry quite a large portion of it,
          beyond this mess of a film. But, yes, Zoe does bear a lot of responsibility as well. She lacks self-awareness, depth and any notion of her privileged
          position. She doesn’t understand or doesn’t care how she’s being used
          here and the kind of negativity she’s perpetuating. And for that I feel
          no remorse in hoping that bites her on the ass. Like I said before, she’s an adult. She should know better.

  • turtleemily

     Don’t know if she can sing, but at least Regina King has a more similar eye shape to Nina.

  • Annabelle Archer

    I am going to try very hard to not come off as ignorant, racist or basically clueless.  If I fail, please accept my apologies.

    Here is my question/observation is this, offensively speaking, akin to a Caucasian in blackface?  To me, a little white woman from the South, it kinda does.  I mean, I know that the actor playing a famous character doesn’t have to be a dead ringer or whatever, but if it is deemed necessary to cover the actor in dark makeup then shouldn’t they have gone with an actor with darker skin? More correct facial features, the overall embodiment of the person they are playing?

    • MilaXX

       you are correct.

    • dschubba

      I wouldn’t say that it’s on par with a Caucasian woman in blackface, but it does feed into some problematic ideas about colorism. It reinforces the idea that the only attractive or acceptable black women are the ones that look somewhat European, and that casting a woman with dark skin and African features is undesirable, even if she’s playing a real-life figure who was dark-skinned with African features.

  • sweet_potato

    I really hate that this is the direction this project has taken.  I know there are plenty of black actresses who would love to play this role and be better suited to it.  I’m offended and embarrassed by the whole thing.

  • e jerry powell

    First thing I thought was damn, look at all that paint.  It’s an almost drag-worthy paint job.

  • MilaXX

    THANK YOU! I’m mad at Zoe for even accepting this part. Zoe looks like RDJ in Tropic Thunder with that awful makeup job. This was no her role. I can think of several actresses and/or singer better suited. The fact that Nina Simone’s own daughter and estate is against this seals it for me. Not watching this mess.

    Oh other actress better suited: India Airie, Viola Davis, Adepero Oduye come to mind off the top of my head. But that would mean actually hiring a dark skinned actress. [/sarcasm}

    • SapphoPoet

      I was thinking Viola Davis would have been a good choice. 

    • agentilities

      Or Lauryn Hill who can also sing!

      • MilaXX

        I think Lauryn is a bit too batshit to take on movie roles right now

        • agentilities

          I wholeheartedly concur, but still hope a movie role or something will bring Ms. Hill out of the funk she’s in.

  • I don’t think she looks like a real person here with the fake nose and the darkened skin.  She looks like a cartoon of Nina Simone.  Someone said this earlier, if you aren’t going to cast someone that looks like the person that they’re playing, then you should let them play the role looking as they look.  I think I’m more disturbed by the darkening of the skin than I am by the fake nose, but both seem very odd.

  • … yeah, Zoe, Love, you’ve lost a few points with me.  

  • sk8tfan

    I like Zoe Saldana but this seems an odd choice. Aside from the skin color question, which is jarring, she doesn’t seem earthy enough, or have the charisma or diva-ness to pull this off.

  • sweetlilvoice

    I looked at some photos of Nina and I’m reminded of a young Oprah (The Color Purple era).  

    • MilaXX

       Young Whoopie Goldberg would have killed this part.

      • formerlyAnon

         Yes. Everything else aside, she’s capable of being a better actress than she gets credit for. 

  • elizonthelam

    For me, a blonde white girl though i may be (aka someone please slap if i’m out of line), it’s the fact that Ms. Saldana is BOTH lighter skinned AND way skinnier than the amazing Nina Simone that kills me. Find a dark skinned skinny actress OR a comparatively lighter skinned curvy actress. Ignoring both of those physical aspects of Nina Simone feels like the ickier kind of Hollywood white washing. Also, for what ever reason, I expected more of Saldana.

  • NCDFan

    Typical Hollywood logic, if she’s popular cast her in the part. There have been quite a few horrible casting choices lately.

  • Elizabetta1022

    One can only imagine what Nina Simone would say about this. 

    For those of you missing the real Nina, here she is singing “4 Women.”


  • dorothea_brooke

    Zoe Saldana is a beautiful woman, but (sorry Zoe fans) she’s not much of an actress. Obviously sometimes actors play real people they don’t much look like and do a wonderful job, that’s why it’s acting not impersonating, but in this case it just feels really wrong. Nina Simone was an icon of social justice and a hell of an artist, and to have her played a pretty girl chosen for her prettiness and thinness and lightness is a slap in the face to Ms. Simone’s memory.  Eff that Noise.  

  • Trisha26

    Thank you. Gives me another reason to dislike her. Yay!

  • Contralto

    yeah, totally not feeling this.

  • PrunellaV

    Never fear, this movie is going to fail. Not that that will change anything in Hollywood.

    • MilaXX

       except as another excuse for them to say black leads in movies don’t bring in box office.

  • Le_Sigh

    No.  Absolutely not.  It doesn’t fucking work at all.  She looks like she’s playing dress up.  

    Give me Viola Davis, or Mary J or Adepo O any day.  

  • The makeup is distressingly bad.

  • pookiesmom

    Ick. Ick ick ick. This is so bad it’s offensive.

  • glennethph

    I thought the picture was a joke because that face feels so slapstick-y.  It’s like an SNL skit.

  • PastryGoddess

    What an unfortunate casting choice.  Especially when there are so many great dark skinned actresses who are in hollywood.  In trying to market this movie to the mainstream audience, Hollywood executives forgot that those of us who actually know and love Nina Simone won’t be going to see this movie.

    Lets hope this hot mess of a movie goes straight to DVD

    • RedRaven617

      How about Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson? It seems to me that from a physical standpoint she is a better match, and she sings! So weird.

  • Contralto

    Speaking of insults to an artist’s legacy – the more I think about it, the more it occurs to me that is as big a mistake as casting Diana Ross as Billie Holiday.

    • MilaXX

       or 6’3″ Leon playing 5’7″ Little Richard.

      • Rand Ortega

        The only defense I offer to that is Peter O’Toole at 6’3″ played 5’5″ T.E. Lawrence in “Lawrence of Arabia” & killed it.
        Personally I loved Miss Ross as Lady Day. To me DR looked nothing like BH but captured the artist perfectly. The same w/ Angela Bassett as Tina Turner.

  • E.

    This is a fucking mess.

  • I can’t. There was a great open letter that was posted on another website and my favorite part was:

    “Black women are not discriminating against you because you are a light-skinned woman. We are expressing our frustration at a racial hierarchy that renders us too unattractive even to represent ourselves.”
    I realize Zoe is a “name,” but the fact that her family was not consulted at all, her love interest in the movie was actually a gay man in real life, AND this HAM-TROCITY of makeup just makes me feel like this is going to be a giant ball of f*ckery.

  • agentilities

    I didn’t realize they look so much alike!

  • l_c_ann

    It looks like makeup artists struck out and can’t make a darker skinned woman with healthy skin, or a plausible skin tone. 
    There are too many great darker skinned women who can also sing.  (Should have had a casting call in New Orleans, and Atlanta, and Houston, and New York, and…………………..)

  • I’m gonna go full on psycho on this.  First of all, fuck you in your face with a moose penis Cynthia Mort, stupid bitch who wrote this flaming turd of a movie.  Aside from the fact that this is done WITHOUT the consent of the family and without regard to the actuality of the events it portrays, it is done without respect to the artist and activist on whom it is based.  Nina Simone challenged EVERYTHING people thought about not only African Americans, but about WOMEN.  She was a musical phenom, a woman of power rising above the prejudice against her “too dark” skin and her no-penis having self.  You want to hear genius?  Go youtube Wild is the Wind, the High Priestess of Soul version where she accompanies herself on the piano.  You want to know what she represented?  Go listen to Mississippi Goddamn.

    It is beyond insulting that in this day and age anyone would think slapping a prosthetic nose and black-facing an actress is something to be applauded.  Oh, how progressive.  Let’s ugly-up a beautiful women for the sake of “art.”  Utter bullshit.  This is not Nichole Kidman as Virginia Woolf.  Everything about Nina was political, from her appearance, to her profession, to the timbre of her voice, and to attempt to represent her while ignoring what made her important is disgusting.  Fucking disgusting.  That bitch Mort could’ve made a totally fictional movie about a singer and her gay assistant falling in love, but she’s cashing in on the name of Nina because her bullshit movie would never have seen the light of day otherwise.

    I have nothing against Zoe, she wears clothes well but this has made me lose respect for her.  Not because she deigned to play Nina, but because playing this fictionalized version of Nina’s life shows no regard for the activists who made our modern world possible.

    • Rand Ortega

       Your post is wonderfully raw, pissed off, brilliant & it brings to light the heart of the problem. The  people who greenlighted this movie probably heard more than 1 pitch to bring the Nina Simone story to the screen. It may have been their initial idea, they probably called several agencies & requested a writer or director or both to make this film. Out of all of the candidates, don’t you think there had to be at least 1 writer or director of color who wouldn’t jump at the chance to do this story justice? Lee Butler (“Precious”)? Steven McQueen (“Shame”)? Kasi Lemmons (“Eve’s Bayou”)? Euzhan Palcy (“A Dry White Season”)? et al? Do you think any of the aforementioned would cast Zoe Saldana, let alone give her that makeup & prosthetic nose? But they chose Cynthia Mort. They chose her because they believe she would tell a story that was palatable to a predominantly white audience. They believe like them she either doesn’t have or is willing to ignore the awareness of what we know is an affront to what Ms. Simone, her music, her very being was about. Mort will tell the story that they want because they believe they have the right to tell the stories of people of color their way. The way that makes the most money & won’t frighten their core audience. Just like “The Help”.

      I don’t know much about the plot, but I wonder if there’s a plucky young white girl/boy  whose story this really is.

    • agentilities

      can I hear an Amen to that somebody!!!

  • Meelah

    This looks so bad.  The Party City Wig, bad patchy brown face paint, horrible nose prosthesis, and the bucked teeth.  Just simmer on that..they gave her BUCKED TEETH!  What is going on with her upper lip???  I’ve never seen Zoe in anything that showed that she’d be able to tackle this role.  Maybe a cameo as Nina Simone but an entire movie of the African American version of Micky Rooney’s “Asian” character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  Don’t get me wrong Zoe is a woman of African descent so I don’t feel that her being cast alone is racist or wrong.  I just question her acting abilities and the choice they made to make her look different.  I’d have more respect for the director/producers if they just let Zoe play the role looking like herself with a better wig. 

  • MilaXX

    Agreed. I understand actors stretch a bit to play real life people, but this is too much of a stretch. That hair and makeup is laughably bad and more importantly with a major part of Nina’s identity was tied to her color and the treatment she received as a result this just feel wrong.

  • Iroqhard

    I just don’t understand how they can shoot that blotchy makeup job and somehow think it works. Or the prosthetics. She looks like she is wearing a bad halloween costume. Love Zoe the fashionista, not crazy about this. And the producers/writers, who couldn’t find enough drama in the FRICKIN’ LEGENDARY LIFE of a LEGENDARY PERFORMER that they had to make up a story? They can suck it. 
    I understand for sake of brevity condensing characters in a person’s life, and if you are making a movie there is always a certain amount of fictionalizing going on even in a biopic. But in this day and age, with the world’s knowledge literally in my pocket, how do Hollywood types get away with just making shit up, but still calling it a biography? I don’t get it. 

  • maggiemaybe

    I agree 100%. This pisses me off.

  • How disappointing. Adepero Oduye was so clearly right for this role that her name crops up in the comment section of every article about this movie, yet they still went with name recognition over the actress who was the better fit. Ugh.

  • ccm800

    Viola Davis. period 

  • Distracting is the exact word. All I can focus on is the blackface and the nose. I love her, but this was such a poor choice.

  • I could’ve sworn that was Jada Pinkett-Smith. Quick! It’s not too late to change it into a movie about the Smiths…except that even less people will watch that.

  • i like saldana and i wish her all the success in the world, but this is so fucked up. hollywood is so fucked up.

  • ChristySchiff

    Agree on the miscasting – but that second outfit with the little cape is terrific!  I want!

  • kitu4

    So sad. I won’t be watching it, the makeup by itself was enough but if her own family can’t stand behind it then its definitely not worth it. 

  • formerlyAnon

    I think there were way better choices and Saldana’s selection completely reflects Hollywood’s ideas about beauty and bankability.

    That said, I don’t blame her for accepting the role. She’s an actress. She wanted what I’m sure she hopes will be a good role, the lead, in a successful film about an iconic American artist.

    Nobody said Lohan should have turned down the Elizabeth Taylor role because it was too much of a physical stretch. YES, there are sociological and political dimensions to Saldana playing this role that don’t exist in the Lohan example.  Which is why Saldana will have to suffer the criticism and the assumption that she either doesn’t care about or is ignorant of the dynamic at work. (I find that assumption doubtful. She’s been on both sides of it in her career, I’m sure. Got work because she looked white enough & lost it because she isn’t white.)

    But I would be interested to know if she’s actually sorry she accepted the role. Maybe. Or if she regrets accepting it – I doubt it. If she turned it down, it’s not like they’d have gone looking to hire someone physically closer to Ms. Simone.

  • It’s a damn disgrace that a”latina” would even be considered for this role.  Kinda reminds me of Diane (yes, Diane) Ross playing Dorothy in The Wiz in the 70s.  Both are ill suited and prolly pulled out the old knee pads for the role.

  • Shane

    You know, India.Arie would’ve been perfect in this role… I don’t see why she wasn’t looked at.