Hollywood seems to keep doing the same thing – casting people to place a race that they’re not a part of – no matter how often it apologises.
Four years after the Nina biopic was released, Zoe Saldana has finally apologised in an Instagram interview for insensitively playing Nina Simone.
The biopic followed the life of African American singer Nina Simone, a civil rights activist who performed and spoke at many protests including the Selma and Montgomery marches.
After her death in 2003, more and more people began to uncover her force and power, leading to biographies and the 2016 biopic that Saldana starred in.
Of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, Zoe Saldana used a prosthetic nose and skin-darkening makeup when portraying Simone. Lisa Simone Kelly, Nina Simone’s daughter, said she wished for actors with “beautiful, luscious lips and wide noses” because “appearance-wise, this is not the best choice.”
When the film’s trailer dropped, the official Twitter account of Simone’s estate told Saldana “please take Nina’s name out your mouth. For the rest of your life.”
.@zoesaldana Cool story but please take Nina’s name out your mouth. For the rest of your life.
— Nina Simone (@NinaSimoneMusic) March 3, 2016
When accusations of blackface first began to surface, Saldana had explained “if Elizabeth Taylor can be Cleopatra, I can be Nina. It doesn’t matter how much backlash I will get for it. I will honour and respect my black community because that’s who I am.” It seems that she may have missed the context clues about Elizabeth Taylor and how much backlash there would be today.
This week, four years after the film’s release, she apologised for her role in the film in an Instagram interview. She explained “I should never have played Nina… I’m so sorry. I know better today and I’m never going to do that again. She’s one of our giants and someone else should step up. Somebody else should tell her story.”
Perhaps there’s hope that Hollywood will start casting with racial recognition and respect.