Nina, the new Nina Simone biopic due out on April 22nd, has suffered from a number of setbacks since 2010 mainly due to casting issues. When it was announced that Zoe Saldana had been officially selected to portray the soul legend, the problems only grew bigger, with many criticizing her lack of resemblance to Simone. In fact, Simone’s own daughter, Lisa Kelly, chose to support last summer’s What Happened, Miss Simone? documentary instead of Saldana’s forthcoming biopic.
Things came to a head this week when the first trailer for Nina was revealed. Saldana, likely excited for the clip to premiere, took to Twitter to quote the late, great musician: “I’ll tell you what freedom is to me – No Fear… I mean really, no fear.” Shortly after, the official Twitter account representing Simone’s “Estate and Legacy” hit back with a scathing reply: “Cool story but please take Nina’s name out your mouth. For the rest of your life.”
In a great article on The Root yesterday, writer Damon Young explained why people are upset with the casting of Saldana — and to be clear, it doesn’t have to do with whether or not she’s “black enough”:
“This isn’t about Saldana’s blackness bona fides. It’s about a woman who’s generally considered to be beautiful, even by Hollywood’s harsh beauty grading curve, being cast as a woman who mined much of her art and activism from the way women with features more commonly associated with black women are often (dis)regarded and (mis)treated.”
He later concludes that “giving her [Simone’s] story the Hollywood treatment negates the point of even telling it.”
For what it’s worth, Young also makes sure to call out those who were in charge of casting and putting together the biopic, saying, “Ultimately, while creating a movie about a woman who spoke of and created work about dark-skinned black women being ignored and erased, the filmmakers ignored and erased dark-skinned black women.” While Simone’s official Twitter account likely has a right to be mad, perhaps the anger is a bit misdirected.
Below, revisit the first trailer for Nina: