Zoe Saldana has played many celebrated roles across her career. Neytiri in Avatar, Uhura in Star Trek and Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy, to name just a few. Unfortunately, however, a rare misfire for the actress was 2016’s Nina, in which Saldana portrayed Nina Simone. Having a big name like Saldana playing such an iconic figure sounds like the recipe for a hit, but the movie ended up being blasted by critics and Simone’s estate refused to endorse it.
Four years later, Saldana has now publicly apologized for taking on the role of the legendary musician for the first time. While speaking with Pose creator Steven Canals, in which the pair shared their experiences as Afro-Latinx people working in Hollywood, Saldana opened up about why she looks back with regret at playing Simone, a role for which she wore a prosthetic nose and makeup to darken her skin. The star didn’t mince words and says she believes she shouldn’t have been involved with the film.
“I should have never played Nina,” Saldana admitted. “I should have done everything in my power, with the leverage that I had 10 years ago — which was a different [amount of] leverage, but it was leverage nonetheless. I should’ve tried everything in my power to cast a Black woman to play an exceptionally perfect Black woman.”
When the controversy first flared up at the time of the movie’s release, Saldana defended her right to portray Simone, commenting: “There’s no one way to be black.” Clearly, the actress has changed her mind completely since then, and she continued to explain why she’s come to feel she was wrong for the part.
“That’s [growth] and it’s painful. I thought back then that I had the permission because I was a Black woman, and I am,” Saldana explained. “But it was Nina Simone, and Nina had a life and she had a journey that should’ve been and should be honored to the most specific detail because she was a specifically detailed individual about her voice, her opinions, her views, her music, and her art. And she was so honest. She deserved better.”
Lastly, Saldana got emotional as she apologized for this misstep and encouraged another actress to step up and tell Simone’s story.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry because I love her music,” she said. “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.”
Zoe Saldana has got at least three major movies coming out over the next few years. She’ll reprise her role as Neytiri in both Avatar 2 and 3, which were recently pushed back a year by Disney. And she’ll also return as Gamora when Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 finally gets here.