Zoe Saldana apologizes for playing Nina Simone in panned 2016 biopic

Carla Harmon
August 6, 2020

Speaking to Pose creator, Steven Canals, Zoe Saldana said that she should not have portrayed Nina Simone.

Saldana, who is of Dominican and Puerto Rican decent, was criticised at the time for taking the lead role in Nina, which involved darkening her skin and wearing a prosthetic nose to look more like Simone.

"I should have tried everything in my power to cast a Black woman to play an exceptionally ideal Black woman", she stated. It's more complex than just 'Oh, you chose the Halle Berry look-alike to play a dark, strikingly lovely, iconic black woman.' The truth is, they chose an artist who was willing to sacrifice herself.

In an interview with Pose creator Steven Canals, out on Tuesday, the Avatar actress got tearful saying she now regrets playing Simone and that she should have 'tried everything in [her] power to cast a Black woman to play an exceptionally ideal Black woman'. 'I thought back then that I had the permission because I was a Black woman, and I am'.


Writing on the official Nina Simone Facebook page in 2012, the singer's daughter, Simone Kelly, wrote: "I love Zoe Saldana, we all love Zoe".

Becoming emotional, Saldana added: "With that said: I'm sorry".

"... I know better today and I'm never gonna do that again".

We're glad to hear that Saldana has learned from her experience working on Nina. And Nina had a life and she had a journey that should have been - and should be - honored to the most specific detail because she was a specifically detailed individual. "Somebody else should tell her story". "I'm still processing. I've been processing it for 10 years and I think it's a conversation that I wanna have".


It's a completely different tone than the one Saldana, who is Afro-Latino, had during the promotion of the film where she once scoffed at the criticism in a 2016 interview with Allure. Somebody else should tell her story'.

In addition to playing Gamora in the Guardians of the Galaxy films (and in other MCU offerings), 42-year-old Saldana also plays Neytiri in the Avatar franchise and played the role of Lt. Uhura in the newer Star Trek films. "Female stories aren't relevant enough, especially a black female story", she said.

Not only does Saldana believe that Simone deserves for her story to be told, but she thinks it's one American audiences should hear. Do I continue passing on the script and hope that the "right" Black person will do it, or do I say, 'You know what? She said that she would never make such a mistake again. Never. I'm learning. I'm still processing it.


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