Descendants Up In Arms Over Miscasting For “Nina” Simone Biopic
By Lora Neng
WWW.STREETGANGS.COM STAFF WRITER
September 28, 2012
Race and aesthetics are always topics of contention in the entertainment business, especially when it comes to Hollywood biopics honoring great legends of the past. Nina Simone was an inimitable Blues singer and civil rights activist, and her reported portrayal by the former “Avatar” actor Zoe Saldana has a number of people feeling sour.
Saldana’s slenderness and light complexion as a Dominican-Puerto Rican were the most audible objections. Simone’s daughter Kelly told the New York Times, “My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark” and challenged that for “hours she practiced preparing to audition for the Curtis Institute of Music only to be rejected because of the color of her skin.” The late luminary’s brother, Nyack musician Sam Waymon, also objected to the lack of resemblance. Although the public at-large has not commented on Saldana’s acting chops, they simply do not believe she could convey the extraordinary experience of Simone’s resilience where the fight against prejudice because of her appearance played such a deep-seated role in her musical and activist career.
The issue of race oozed especially thick in Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam,” “Four Women,” and “Backlash Blues,” and she stood by her hair and tribal-inspired jewelry. Her depiction in “Nina” is expected to begin shooting in mid-October.
Writer-director Cynthia Mort insists that the film will not be a biography but “a love story about an artist’s journey unto herself.” Mary J. Blige was formerly expected to play the role of Nina.