Zoe Saldana Tearfully Apologizes for Playing Nina Simone in 2016 Biopic: ‘She Deserved Better’

Zoe Saldana Tearfully Apologizes for Playing Nina Simone in 2016 Biopic 2
Zoe Saldana Charles Sykes/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Righting her wrongs. Zoe Saldana apologized for playing jazz singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone in the 2016 biopic Nina.

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“I should have never played Nina,” Saldana, 42, told Pose creator Steven Canals on Bese’s Instagram on Tuesday, August 4. “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.”

The Afro-Latina actress added, “I should have done everything in my power to cast a Black woman to play an exceptionally perfect Black woman.”

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Saldana, who talked about her Dominican, Haitian and Puerto Rican heritage earlier in the hourlong interview, explained that she “thought back then” that she “had the permission” to portray Simone as “a Black woman.” However, she now understands why she faced backlash at the time for using skin-darkening makeup and a prosthetic nose to look more like the late vocalist.

“It was Nina Simone, 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. She deserved better,” the Crossroads star said with tears in her eyes. “With that said, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I know better today, and I’m never going to do that again.”

Zoe Saldana Tearfully Apologizes for Playing Nina Simone in 2016 Biopic
Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone in ‘Nina’ YouTube

Saldana was previously unapologetic for taking on the role, telling Latina magazine in May 2013, “Let me tell you, if Elizabeth Taylor can be Cleopatra, I can be Nina — I’m sorry. It doesn’t matter how much backlash I will get for it. I will honor and respect my Black community because that’s who I am.”

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Weeks before Nina hit theaters in April 2016, the Avatar star received criticism from not only fans but also Simone’s estate. Saldana quoted the music legend on Twitter at the time, writing, “I’ll tell you what freedom is to me- No Fear… I mean really, no fear.” Simone’s estate promptly responded, “Cool story but please take Nina’s name out your mouth. For the rest of your life.”

Simone died from breast cancer at age 70 in April 2003.

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