First Look: Zoe Saldana Was Spotted On The Set Of The Nina Simone Biopic

I'm Still... Displeased

So, the Nina Simone biopic is in full effect. Filming has started and today we get our first look at Zoe Saldana as the late, great jazz singer. She’s wearing tons of make-up to darken her skin, as well as facial prosthetics (for her nose), and, necessarily, an afro wig. Now I’ve already ranted and raved about this casting choice (and the disturbing racial implications thereof) and I am not going back to that dark place, lol. Plus, all my Facebook friends are pretty much taking care of that for me. This movie is happening y’all. Peep the gallery for more and click inside for a few more deets and a really fantastic interview with Nina Simone‘s daughter that PITNBR muchacha sent me.

I’d already heard that Nina Simone‘s daughter Simone Kelly wasn’t pleased and in this piece with CBC radio comes right out and says that her mother is ‘rolling over in her grave right now’ over the casting choice. That sounds about right:

Now– from what I understand from my good friend’s hubby (who’s a producer)– it’s a very small film by a first-time director, and it’s not expected to get picked up by the major studios… although that doesn’t make the casting decision okay. Still, she kinda looks like Nina in those photos. Kinda. I mean, I guess they did their best. But I’m still not excited for this movie that I will totally watch, if only to get my hateration on… and I honestly do hope that Saldana pulls off some kind of insane performance that makes me put my foot in my mouth.

[Photo Credit: Fame Flynet]

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  1. Megan

    Well the makeup helps, but she still looks nothing like her. It’s sad that they couldn’t find an actress that resembles her and can act, you know they are out there. But oh well, hopefully she shows us.

    On a side note, did you see the little girl who sang Nina Simone on x-factor? It blew me away and gave me chill bumps. Absolutely amazing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nU_dBDccruI

  2. Alejandro

    This is beyond repulsive.

  3. I’m not okay with this on any level… and I most likely will not watch it.

    But on a sidenote: i saw the best interpretive dance show to 4 women… EVER! It was the most moving experience!

  4. Alecia

    I agree with you Shannon, it’s wrong and they should’ve done proper justice to this woman’s life and career.

  5. Addygal

    This is just deplorable! Are there really now qualified black actresses or better yet unknown actresses that would have organically fit the role? I could be wrong but, I don’t see this as any different than the black face people get offended by.

    • I think we need to be careful that we aren’t using the term “black face” to be a generic term for making one’s skin pigment appear darker. “Black face” is a specific thing that was done for about 100 years. The makeup was done with exaggerated eyes and mouth, and was accompanied by performances of what was seen as stereotypical behavior of african americans. If you look at a picture of what “black face” actually was, Zoe CLEARLY is not wearing that type of make up.

  6. Addygal

    *no* not now sorry

  7. Natalea

    This just makes me…sad.

  8. DW
    Commented on this photo:

    This is so very disappointing. As a die hard Nina Simone, fan I will not pay to see this movie. The film makers clearly know nothing about Nina and only care about finding a big name, visually pleasing actress. Also, the story line is flawed and incorrect.

  9. im not sure how Zoe can be ok doing this role.

  10. Ella
    Commented on this photo:

    Did they darken her skin???? If you have to put make-up on her to make her look blacker, you picked the wrong actress.

    • The put make up on EVERY actor to make their skin lighter and darker. It is how the hills and valleys of a face stand out on camera with the intense lighting. Otherwise everyone would have a moon face. It is contouring.

  11. Since when does the actor/actress have to look identical to the person they are portraying? I have enjoyed Zoe in the films I have seen her in. Wasn’t their similar rumbling when Anne Hathaway was cast as Catwoman? Everyone went crazy and she totally pulled it off. Give the girl a chance.

    • @swile71 — I’d agree with you in most instances but the make-up is the problem for me. Is this really all that far from blackface?

    • swile71, the reason the Zoe Saldana casting choice is bothersome is because of the very particular stance Nina Simone took on race, specifically race relations in America as it pertained to skin COLOR.

      I have said before that I think Zoe Saldana is a good actress, and that I hope she will pull off a great performance BUT that the message in casting an actress who looks like Zoe is problematic, given Nina Simone’s politics and experience.

      The fact that she’s wearing make-up ALONE is not bothersome (most actors need this when taking on a biographical role). It’s just that it points to the fact that they chose a light-skinned actress to play the part of a woman who struggled with her darker complexion even as she expressed pride in it (in her music and in her actual life).

      But ultimately, I’m willing to ‘give the girl a chance’ as you say. In the end the film is being made and it would be something if Zoe ended up delivering a strong performance.

    • Matthew

      I agree with Trent.

      I am perfectly willing to let Zoe Saldana do her thing. The prosthetic nose and the afro wig are fine. T

      he dark make-up is disturbing, especially seeing as how it still doesn’t come close to Nina Simone’s skin tone. They might have well have just done away with the make-up and let her acting speak for itself.

  12. I don’t understand the outrage. Naomi Watts has to wear a wig and nose prothetic to play Princess Diana. Nicole Kidman had to wear a nose in The Hours. Daniel Day Lewis doesn’t look like Abraham Lincoln in real life, yet there is no outrage about his cosutming. The thing is if you wait until you find the perfect visual match to make a movie about someone, the movie might never get made.

    I don’t undertand why people are so obsessed with the visual. I think Zoe is a good actress, and it would matter more to me that her story be told by a skilled actor.

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