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The actress discusses the double standard in Hollywood as well as her reaction to the Nina Simone backlash

By Stephanie Petit
Updated June 15, 2016 02:45 PM
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Credit: Munawar Hosain/Startraks

Zoë Saldana has proven herself to be a talented actress who stars in box-office hits, but she still finds a major double standard in Hollywood.

In a candid interview with Allure, the 37-year-old revealed that a producer once told her, “I hired you to look good in your underwear holding a gun.”

“I was told walking into this project that they really wanted me for the part, and that any input or ideas I had to please share them,” she says. “That’s what I was doing, and this producer was so bothered by the fact that he had to disrupt his vacation to call me and tell me to stop being a difficult bitch. I thought, ‘Wow, it’s real. It really happens.’ ”

Saldana is no stranger to criticism. The actress, who is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, faced backlash after she was cast as music icon Nina Simone in 2012 for a biopic released this year, with detractors comparing Saldana’s turn – her skin was seemingly darkened for the role – to a form of blackface.

Saldana just shrugs off the hate.

“There’s no one way to be black,” she says. “I’m black the way I know how to be. You have no idea who I am. I am black. I’m raising black men. Don’t you ever think you can look at me and address me with such disdain.”

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Despite the backlash, Saldana doesn’t regret taking the part.

“The script probably would still be lying around, going from office to office, agency to agency, and nobody would have done it,” she explains. “Female stories aren’t relevant enough, especially a black female story. I made a choice. Do I continue passing on the script and hope that the ‘right’ black person will do it, or do I say, ‘You know what? Whatever consequences this may bring about, my casting is nothing in comparison to the fact that this story must be told.’

For Saldana, a bigger battle is being fought.

“The fact that we’re talking about her, that Nina Simone is trending? We f—ing won,” Saldana says. “For so many years, nobody knew who the f— she was. She is essential to our American history. As a woman first, and only then as everything else.”