There has been controversy surrounding the Nina Simone biopic Nina ever since rumors surfaced about it over six years ago. In 2010, Mary J. Blige was slated to star in the film. Blige, who has been called the “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul,” was a great fit vocally, but some questioned her acting credentials. She eventually had to renege due to scheduling conflicts. Zoe Saldana was announced as Blige’s replacement in 2012 and that casting decision was met with derision for using the light-skinned Saldana to play the much darker-skinned Simone. Nina Simone’s daughter, Simone Kelly, expressed issues with the film. And there was criticism of Saldana’s singing ability, although who could even come close to mimicking Simone’s voice?
Well, the first glimpse of what all the fuss is about has arrived. The first Nina trailer is out, and it seems the doubters had some valid points. It’s hard to get past the fact that Saldana looks nothing like Simone, especially because Simone spent her whole career fighting against the tradition that a lighter complexion is somehow more beautiful and palatable. Saldana’s vocals on “Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair” don’t come close to Lauryn Hill’s let alone Simone’s. It seems the film was marred from the start, but hopefully it will do Simone justice because she was an incredible artist and activist and an intriguing person. Watch the trailer below.
Perhaps they should have gotten Viola Davis instead?
UPDATE: Yeah, Simone’s estate really doesn’t seem very happy with this casting:
.@zoesaldana Cool story but please take Nina's name out your mouth. For the rest of your life.
— Nina Simone (@NinaSimoneMusic) March 3, 2016