Who Should Play Nina Simone in a Movie?


Courtesy of Tribune News Service

Zoe Saldana at last year’s (2015) Oscars.

Nina Simone was a great icon in American music. She was known for her empowerment, liberation, and love for African Americans. Nina was a civil rights activist, singer and journalist. A biopic is being created off of the life of Nina Simone and a light skin actress, Zoe Saldana is playing her. The trailer for the Nina biopic was released, and the trailer was not too well received, Saldana was accused of using “blackface.”

Stars such as India Arie, Queen Latifah, and Paula Patton have spoken out of the issue of Zoe Saldana’s casting. India Arie said that she was “saddened by the choice of Saldana,” she also said  “I don’t know her and I don’t think she did anything wrong,” adding, “I think they cast Zoe Saldana because they wanted a big name, but that makes me ask, ‘Is the name Nina Simone not big enough to get people to come to the movie?'”(People)

Queen Latifah defended the actress by saying “She is of African descent – I don’t see why she shouldn’t play the role. I just want to see it. Get rid of the hype and let’s go watch a movie.” Actress Paula Patton has said “Give her a shot, try to enjoy it and stop judging’.” Although the opinions of stars are important, I went around and found out what Indian River students had to say about the biopic dispute. (The Guardian).  Saldana herself responded to the controversy by saying  “Just like everybody else I feel very strongly about Nina Simone, and that (this) was a story that needed to be told.”(Huffington Post)

Emily Martinez, 10th Grade: I read up a lot about the situation and I think it’s juvenile to be so concerned and fighting over the color of an actress’s skin. If they want a dark skinned women playing Simone they should cast one. Nina’s dark skin was a large part of her identity, and she was proud of blackness, they are wrong in that sense what Zoe Saldana is not the one to blame.”

Travis Davis, 11th Grade: Blackface has nothing to do with the situation, because she’s not fully African American and she’s playing a fully black women? That makes no sense she is not doing blackface because that is when another race paints their face black in a way of mocking African Americans. She did not do that. However, they should use a darker skinned actress because people in the film industry are generally choose lighter skinned actress for main character roles. Not because Zoe isn’t qualified or of “proper color” but because it is what the family wanted. Considering the movie is based off of a real person they should honor her.

Many people feel as if the casting of Zoe Saldana was wrong, because it does not properly honor Nina’s legacy. As you saw others believe that if she is qualified she could receive the role. Nina Simone’s daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly  actually entered the conversation saying that, “It is unfortunate that Zoe Saldana is being attacked so viciously when she is someone who is part of a larger picture”. She also continued my saying “it is clear that she brought her best to the project”. (Rolling Stone) The highly anticipated biopic is to be released in December.