Zoe Saldana Apologizes For Playing Nina Simone

In 2016, Zoe Saldana portrayed Nina Simone in a biopic titled Nina. The casting of the lighter-skinned Saldana was widely criticized at the time. “My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark,” Simone’s daughter Lisa told The New York Times way back in 2012, when the casting choice was first announced. “Appearance-wise this is not the best choice.”

For the role, Saldana wore dark makeup, a prosthetic nose, and false teeth. Saldana has now apologized for playing Nina Simone in a new interview. “I should have never played Nina,” she said. “I should have done everything in my power with the leverage that I had 10 years ago — which was a different leverage but it was leverage nonetheless — I should have tried everything in my power to cast a Black woman to play an exceptionally perfect Black woman.”

“I thought back then that I had the permission because I was a Black woman,” said Saldana, who identifies as Afro-Latina. “And I am. But, it’s Nina. And Nina had a life and a journey that should be honored to the specific detail… she deserved better.”

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry because I love her music,” she continued later in the interview. “We’ve been appropriating ourselves with someone like Nina Simone for a very long time. And I just want her story to be told and I want it to be right because she deserves it.”