Sunday 11 December 2016

Nina Simone family condemns casting 'painful' choice of 'light-skinned actress' Zoe Saldana for biopic

Published 03/03/2016 | 21:25

Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone in 'Nina'
Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone in 'Nina'

If there was any doubt about how Nina Simone's family feels about the upcoming biopic starring Zoe Saldana, recent social media posts make it clear they are not pleased.

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A fresh round of criticism for the film erupted after the trailer and poster for Nina were unveiled on Wednesday.

Saldana posted a quote from the singer and civil rights activist on Twitter, and Simone's estate responded with: "Cool story but please take Nina's name out your mouth. For the rest of your life."

Simone's daughter and others have decried the choice to cast a light-skinned actress as the African-American activist since Saldana took the part in 2012. Her skin was apparently darkened for the role.

Zoe Saldana
Zoe Saldana

At the time, Simone's daughter, Simone Kelly, said: "Appearance-wise this is not the best choice.

"My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark," Ms Kelly told the New York Times in a 2012 interview.

The Simone estate tweeted on Wednesday: "Hopefully people begin to understand this is painful. Gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, nauseating, soul-crushing. It shall pass, but for now ..."

The singer's estate cooperated with producers of the Netflix documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? which was nominated for an Oscar this year.

1968: This studio portrait shows American pianist and jazz singer Nina Simone reclining on the floor circa 1968. (Photo by Getty Images)
1968: This studio portrait shows American pianist and jazz singer Nina Simone reclining on the floor circa 1968. (Photo by Getty Images)

Robert L Johnson, founder and chairman of the studio releasing Nina, describes Saldana's performance as "an exceptional and mesmerising tribute".

"She gave her heart and soul to the role and displayed her extraordinary talent," he said in a statement on Thursday. "The most important thing is that creativity or quality of performance should never be judged on the basis of colour, or ethnicity, or physical likeness."

RLJ Entertainment will release Nina in cinemas, digital HD and video on demand on April 22.

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