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Wednesday 21 March 2018

Nina Simone Row: Zoe Saldaña defends her role

Zoe Saldana defends her role playing Nina Simone
Zoe Saldana defends her role playing Nina Simone
'Singing Nina —The Life and Music of Nina Simone' with Karen Underwood and Live Band comes to Tech Amergin on Friday March 4 at 8pm.

Star Trek actress Zoe Saldaña defends her right to portray black singer Nina Simone after row over her casting.

Star Trek actress Zoe Saldaña has defended her casting as Nina Simone in the upcoming biopic Nina about the jazz and blues singer-pianist who died in 2003 aged 70.

The singer Mary J. Blige was first cast to play Simone until she had to bow out for what Cynthia Mort, the writer and director of the film, described as “scheduling issues".

The casting of Saldaña has caused a major backlash for a film due out later this year. American academics have written about the controversy, and an online petition at Change.org, which calls for Mort to “replace Zoe Saldaña with an actress who actually looks like Nina Simone", has attracted 10,500 signatures. Simone’s daughter, Simone Kelly, said that the family estate had not participated in the film. “My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark,” Kelly said. “Appearance-wise this is not the best choice,” she added, referring to Saldaña.

But now, in an interview with HipHollywood, Saldaña — who is of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent, and describes herself as black and Latina — said: "What keeps me focused and what kept me from getting stressed from being hurt by the comments is I'm doing it for my sisters, I'm doing it for my brothers, and I don't care who tells me I am not this and I am not that. I know who I am, and I know what Nina Simone means to me.

"I can only rely on that and maintain as much humility as possible, so that when I have to face the world and we have to then give the movie to the world to see, and share it with them, that if it comes back in . . . a negative fashion or positive, I’m gonna keep my chin up. And Nina was like that too. I did it all out of love for my people and my pride of being a black woman and a Latina woman and an American woman, and that’s my truth,”

Saldaña, 34, is best known for her roles as Anamaria in the second Pirates Of The Caribbean movie and Uhuru in the 2009 Star Trek film. She also voices a Na'vi called Neytiri in James Cameron's Avatar.

Simone, who had hits with songs such as I Loves You, Porgy and My Baby Just Cares for Me, was a major figure in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and wrote songs about the racism facing African-Americans including Mississippi Goddam.

Martin Chilton Telegraph.co.uk

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