Zoë Saldana portrayed the legendary jazz singer Nina Simone in the 2016 biopic Nina

By Alexia Fernandez
August 05, 2020 08:14 PM
Advertisement
Zoe Saldana; Nina Simone

Zoë Saldana is apologizing for playing the legendary jazz singer and civil rights advocate Nina Simone in her 2016 biopic Nina.

The actress, 42, who is Afro-Latinx of Dominican, Haitian and Puerto Rican descent, spoke to Pose creator Steven Canals about portraying the singer in an interview on Bese on Tuesday.

"I should have never played Nina," Saldana said. "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 continued, "I should have done everything in my power to cast a Black woman to play an exceptionally perfect Black woman."

"I thought back then that I had the permission [to play her] because I was a Black woman," the Avengers actress said. "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. She deserved better."

Crying, Saldana added, "With that said: I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I know better today, and I'm never going to do that again."

Saldana's casting was met with controversy around the time of the film's release for the darkening of her skin and for a prosthetic nose that was intended to aid the actress in looking more like Simone. The singer died in April 2003.

The actress defended her portrayal of the singer in 2013 when she told Latina magazine, "Let me tell you, if Elizabeth Taylor can be Cleopatra, I can be Nina — I'm sorry."

Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone in Nina

"It doesn't matter how much backlash I will get for it. I will honor and respect my Black community because that's who I am," she added.

Saldana also faced backlash from Simone's estate when she quoted the famous star, tweeting, "I’ll tell you what freedom is to me- No Fear I mean really, no fear."

Simone’s estate responded, "Cool story but please take Nina’s name out of you mouth. For the rest of your life."

In 2015, a documentary about the singer was released on Netflix, called What Happened, Miss Simone? It was nominated for a Best Documentary Oscar at the 88th Academy Awards.