Zoe Saldana Says 2016 Role Was a Mistake

Actress offers tearful apology for playing Nina Simone
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 7, 2020 2:10 AM CDT
Zoe Saldana Has Big Regrets About Playing Nina Simone
Zoe Saldana arrives at the 2019 LACMA Art and Film Gala at Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, in Los Angeles.   (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

When Zoe Saldana's decision to play the role of Nina Simone in 2016 biopic Nina was criticized, she initially responded defensively by tweeting a quote about freedom from Simone herself. Saldana is now singing a different tune. In what Page Six describes as a tearful apology, the actress in a Wednesday Instagram live video acknowledged the role is one she "never" should have taken. "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," said Saldana, who is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent and darkened her skin and wore a prosthetic nose for the role. "I should have done everything in my power to cast a Black woman to play an exceptionally perfect Black woman."

She continued, "I thought back then that I had the permission [to play her] 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 have been—and should be—honored to the most specific detail because she was a specifically detailed individual." CNN reports the news that Saldana had been chosen for the role in 2012 brought an avalanche of criticism, as "much of Simone's work centered on her marginalization as a dark-skinned black woman in America." Simone's estate was no fan either, at one point in 2016 tweeting at Saldana: "Cool story but please take Nina's name out your mouth. For the rest of your life." One more line from Saldana at the time, per the Guardian: "If Elizabeth Taylor can be Cleopatra, I can be Nina." (More Nina Simone stories.)

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