Zoe Saldana and Nina Simone
Zoe Saldana and Nina Simone. (Photos: Getty Images)

From Ebony.com: For many of us, Nina Simone is nothing less than a goddess. Her music informs our lives (see: “Wild is the Wind,” “Feelin’ Good,” “Pirate Jenny, “Mississippi Goddamn,” etc, etc), her courage inspires us, we name our daughters for her, wallpaper our homes with her regal face in profile. The announcement of the casting of Mary J. Blige a few years ago, and more recently of Zoe Saldana, have been met by emotional outrage by those who truly know the meaning and the movement of Nina Simone because for us, she’s more than a singer, she’s a heroine. And when it comes to our history and our heroines, Hollywood gets it wrong far more often then right.

Nina Simone’s only daughter, an accomplished Broadway actress (Aida, Lion’s King, Rent) and vocalist who goes by simply ‘Simone,’ has made it her business to be a dutiful gatekeeper to her mother’s legacy for many years. She engages with Nina fans via the official Nina Simone website andFacebook page and has lovingly performed her mother’s classic tunes across the world. Last week, Simone took to Facebook to reply to the hundreds of concerned fans who’d been asking her thoughts on the recent casting announcement. Here she elaborates on that, the film’s problematic script and what it means to be the heir to “the High Priestess of Soul.”

EBONY: Can you clarify your feelings about the casting of Zoe Saldana to play your mother?

Simone: I love Zoe Saldana’s work. I’ve seen some of her movies more than once and really enjoy what she brings to the screen. As an actress I respect her process, but I also know that there are many actresses out there, known or not, who would be great as my mother. The one actress that I’ve had in my heart for a very long time, whose work I’m familiar with already, is Kimberly Elise. Many people have spoken to me about Viola. I love her look. I love her energy. Both of the actresses that I’ve mentioned are women of color, are women with beautiful, luscious lips and wide noses, and who know their craft. I also have no problem introducing someone we’ve never heard of before who can play my mother.

EBONY: This project that’s going forward, you’ve talked about having little to nothing to do with it. How does that happen?

S: I’ve been asking myself that question. How does that happen? As I said on my blog, when the announcement came out approximately six years ago that Mary J. Blige had been cast to play Nina Simone, I heard it along with everyone else and I was very concerned. How does someone just decide to do a story about someone and completely bypass family? Completely bypass her representatives? We offered to get involved with all the stuff that we have, from the music, to the pictures, to her writings, to connecting them with the stories of many people who were close to my mother, and we were ignored.

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