Zoe Saldana regrets playing Nina Simone in 2016 biopic: ‘I know better today’

In an Instagram Live chat with 'Pose' co-creator, Steven Canals, the two Afro-Latinx powerhouses discussed the changing face of Hollywood and Saldana's new awareness about the 'Nina' film

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In 2016, Zoe Saldana wore a prosthetic nose and darkened her skin to play Nina Simone

Known as the High Priestess of Soul, Simone was an activist who was unapologetic about her Black features. Her life and career inspired change, which is why audiences were so enraged when Saldana was cast to play her.

READ MORE: Zoe Saldana fiercely defends her role as Nina Simone

Four years after the release of the failed film, which has a 2% Rotten Tomatoes score, the actress is expressing her regret for playing the role. 

In an Instagram Live chat with Pose co-creator, Steven Canals, the two Afro-Latinx powerhouses discussed the changing face of Hollywood, including facing racism. 

Canals then asked Saldana, “I know that this is a sensitive topic for you, but obviously, a few years back, there was a lot of controversy around the decision that you made to play Nina Simone.” 

“At the time, there were a lot of questions around blackface and darkening skin and prosthetics. I wonder what is your relationship with that choice now. How has the process of evolution changed not only the roles that you’re taking today but how it makes you reflect on that decision?” 

Jazz Singer Nina Simone Dies
Portrait shows American pianist and singer Nina Simone reclining on the floor circa 1968.
(Photo by Getty Images)

Saldana replied definitively, “I should have never played Nina.” 

She continued, “With the leverage that I had ten 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.” 

Saldana said, “I thought back then that I had the permission because I was a Black woman—and I am. But, it was Nina Simone, and Nina had a life and she had a journey that should have been honored to the most specific detail because she was a specifically detailed individual.” 

“So she deserved better.” 

READ MORE: ‘Nina’ director finally explains why Zoe Saldana was cast

Saldana said, “I am sorry. I am so sorry because I love her music… I just want her story to be told and I want it to be right because she deserves it.” 

The actress concluded her statement saying, “I know better today and I’m never going to do that again. Never. I’m learning.” 

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