Zoe Saldana Says She "Should Have Never Played" Nina Simone in Tearful Apology

Avatar actress Zoe Saldana expresses regret for portraying Nina Simone in the 2016 biopic.

By Alyssa Ray Aug 06, 2020 12:00 AMTags

Zoe Saldana has apologized for portraying celebrated musician Nina Simone in the 2016 biopic Nina.

Earlier this week, the Avatar actress opened up about her controversial role while speaking virtually, via the Bese Instagram account, with Pose creator Steven Canals.

"I should have never played Nina," Saldana 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."

At the time of the casting, Saldana faced criticism for playing Simone over an actress who more closely resembled the late legend. While portraying Simone, the now 42-year-old actress, who identifies as Afro-Latina, wore a prosthetic nose and darkened her skin.

Amid the criticism, Simone's daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, voiced her displeasure about Saldana's casting.

"My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark. Appearance-wise this is not the best choice," Kelly relayed to the New York Times in 2012.

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Saldana, who credited growth and time for her current stance, revealed she has come to understand why her casting was questionable.

"I thought back then that I had the permission because I was a Black woman," she continued. "And I am. But, it's Nina. And Nina had a life and she had a journey that should have been, and should be, honored to the most specific detail. Because she was a specifically detailed individual. About her voice, her views, her music, her opinions and her art. And she was so honest. So, she deserved better."

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As she continued, Saldana found herself emotional while issuing a formal apology.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry because I love her music," the Guardians of the Galaxy star expressed. "It wasn't enough. With that said, she's one of our giants and someone else should step up. Somebody else should tell her story."

Not only does Saldana believe that Simone deserves for her story to be told, but she thinks it's one American audiences should hear.

"We've been appropriating ourselves with someone like Nina Simone for a very long time," she added. "And I just want her story to be told, and I want it to be right, because she deserves it. And America deserves it. Because the Americans that inhabit today's America deserve her story to be told."

Watch: Zoe Saldana Says "Avengers" Has Meaningful Messages for Kids

Before concluding this particular topic, Saldana promised that she knows better and will not make this kind of mistake again.

She shared, "I know better today, and I'm never going to do that again. Never. I'm learning. I'm still processing it. I've been processing it for ten years, and I think it's a conversation that I wanna have."

For Saldana's entire conversation with Canals, click here.