A biopic detailing the life of a famed African American singer-songwriter is coming under fire after the lead role has been handed to a woman who looks nothing like the songstress. Producers for the upcoming movie Nina, a biopic about Nina Simone, announced this week that Zoe Saldana woud take on the role of the iconic singer when filming begins this October. Indie Wire reports that Saldana, 34, will play the lead role instead of Mary J. Blige, who’s been attached to the film for years. Actor David Oyelowo will star as Nina’s manager, Clifton Henderson, in the movie based on Nina’s 1992 autobiograph
After news broke that Saldana, a woman of Afro-Latina descent, was taking on the role, a petition titled ‘Replace Zoe Saldana With An Actress Who Actually Looks Like Nina Simone’ began to circulate online. Calling her casting ‘bulls—,” organizers are accusing producers of trying to “whitewash”the film by casting an attractive lighter complexioned woman as lead.
“It is without a doubt straight up disrespectful to Ms. Simone and her legacy to get an actress who looks nothing like she did to portray her in a movie about her life,” say the petitioners. “Getting light-complexioned actors to play the roles of dark-complexioned historical figures is not only a sign of blatant disrespect to the persons they are portraying, but it is also disrespectful to their families, to history, to the people who look like the persons being whitewashed, and to the intelligence of the audience.”
Besides Zoe’s fair complexion, the actress’s experience is also coming under scrutiny.
“The pure talent needed to submerge oneself into the innermost essences of … Simone requires an actress whom [sic] can emotionally articulate a mesmerizing life of disappointments, love and grace, artistic humilation, self-claimed regality, and unsung fortune we call Ms Nina Simone,” wrote a petitioner online.
So far the petition has 601 supporters. Viola Davis, India Arie and Adepero Oduye have all been named by petitioners as possible replacements.
What are your thoughts? Is Zoe’s casting blatant whitewashing or should we give the proud Latina a shot?
Check out side by side comparisons of Saldana and Simone below. –danielle canada