LONDON (AP) — Zoe Saldana has played an alien and a future space traveler — but taking on the role of an actual famous person proved even harder.
The 34-year-old star of “Avatar” and “Star Trek” plays pianist, singer and activist Nina Simone in the forthcoming biopic “Nina.”
Her casting drew criticism from some, who argued that Saldana bears little resemblance to the singer, who died in 2003 aged 70.
Musician India.Arie said “they should have chosen someone who looks like Nina Simone,” and an online petition for a boycott of the film attracted more than 10,000 signatures.
But Saldana said she feels strongly that she’s right to play Simone, an immense, irascible talent who made an indelible mark on both music and the civil rights movement with songs including “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” and “Mississippi Goddam.”
“The Nina Simone story needed to be told, and I’m really blessed that I did it,” said Saldana, a New Yorker of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent.
“I’m human. I wish I was made of steel and so certain things wouldn’t affect me,” Saldana said at a recent London event to promote “Star Trek Into Darkness,” in which she plays multilingual communications officer Lt. Uhura.
“So it did affect me but I couldn’t let that deter me from doing what I needed to do.
“Just like everybody else I feel very strongly about Nina Simone, and that (this) was a story that needed to be told.
“I do believe that if everybody had more information about how this all came to be, it might help,” she added. “But then again, I’m not here to get the acceptance of people. I’m here to be an artist first.”
“Star Trek Into Darkness,” the second film in J.J. Abrams’ rebooted series, sees Uhura play a bigger role in the action, to Saldana’s delight. She even got to do a scene in Klingon.
“They flew in this linguist from San Francisco who gives courses. You go away for the weekend and you just speak Klingon,” she said. “It ended up being much easier than I thought.”
Like the entire Enterprise crew, Saldana has mixed feelings about Abrams’ imminent departure for the “Star Wars” universe. He is due to revive the series with a new film in 2015, so it looks unlikely he’ll be at the helm of a third “Star Trek” voyage.
Saldana hopes he’ll remain as a producer, with another member of the existing team — possibly one of the writers — stepping in to direct.
She said she wouldn’t want to see a new director come in and lose the essence of Abrams’ reboot of the series.
“There’s been a tone set” with Abrams” movies, she said — “So much so that it’s made a fan out of me.”
Aha! So is Saldana, like Abrams, a “Star Wars” fan in the “Star Trek” camp?
Neither, it turns out.
“I’m more of a ‘Dune’ kind of person,” she said.
“Star Trek Into Darkness” opens Thursday in the United States.
Also On Black America Web:
This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (6/18-6/24)
25 photos Launch gallery
1. Me & the homie @jaleelwhite #RujohnFoundation Happy to be in Jamaica! Good times
1 of 25
2 of 25
3 of 25
4 of 25
5. Good Morning. Early day in Detroit! Making press rounds for @thebossnetwork's Ladies That Lead Tour. Thank you @traycemadre and @colourbynumbr for my glam.
5 of 25
6. POWER the best show on TV @djenvy, Queens we so big out here. #EFFENVODKA #FRIGO
6 of 25
7. They said u lost a step, wasn't explosive as once was, the best days was in the real view, questioned your drive, your leadership, your commitment, you don't have killer instinct, going back home is the worst mistake in your career, he got the coach fired, players traded, won't work between him and Kyrie, Him and Kev won't work, love your teammates to much, there's no way he can deliver a championship in his hometown, etc etc etc.... But guess what THATS NONE OF MY BUSINESS #StriveForGreatness #ThisOneIsForTheLand #PutSomeRespeckOnMyName Hahahaha!!! Yes sir
7 of 25
8. Oooooh weeee this man right here is responsible for at least three of our four babies!! #JOE ❤❤❤🎤 #rnb #king #voicelikebutter #ForPeetesSake
8 of 25
9. Hanging with my @abcnetwork family! @abcunclebuck tonite y'all check us out ! @anthonyanderson @traceeellisross
9 of 25
10. My broski ( @sayeedshahidi ) and I are on Top 5 Live on @go90 at 5 (which is super duper close)! Make sure to tune in :) #UncleBuck #Blackish
10 of 25
11. Lights out💤 #GoodNight
11 of 25
12. Late nights mornings
12 of 25
13. Ran into the lovely talented @siedahgarrett on this brutiful favvuz deh!
13 of 25
14. #halal #love #thedargans #kattwilliamsSHOW #mashallah when that Jennah piece HIT!! @sweetjennahcollection glasses by @baddieglamaccessories LIZ 😍 @dynamiteko top @dazzledmv and jeans @thevision414 and shoes: @louboutinworld
14 of 25
15. Big Hair and Optical Illusions #OceanDrive #MiamiLiving #coverparty
15 of 25
16. MAMA and THE SAVAGES ... ⚓️ #supportyourlocalgirlgang
16 of 25
17. From the bottom of my ❤️, thank you new followers & old! & hello fellow night owls! #grateful #racheltrue #naturalhair #curlyhair #curlygirl #healthyhair
17 of 25
18. I feel so grateful because I met these amazing young minds, visiting from Houston TX, during their college tour stop today at #usc.These students are ALL extraordinary and embody academic excellence so I'm humbled to have shared a few moments with them to applaud and celebrate their bright futures ahead! Thank you @EmergeFellows for inviting me to speak and blessing me with your love and attention this afternoon!
18 of 25
19. Happy Fathers Day Pops. U taught me how to be a man. Lessons of love, hard work & gratefulness. Sorry the fishing didn't stick. LOL. I Love U!
19 of 25
20. Sky Zone and Ice Cream! Best Fathers Day Ever!! Photo credit @mariahcarey
20 of 25
21. Look what finally came in the mail 😎 #mtvmovieawards2016 💥+🌽! #straightouttacompton
21 of 25
22. Claudia Jordan: ....
22 of 25
23. 'Member that time I almost knocked a bajillion dollar camera off the car? Really? Yeah, me neither! #Greenleaf Episode 2 comin atcha!
23 of 25
24. Full of love. #birthday #Cabo
24 of 25
25. Oh hey! Look who just joined Snapchat
25 of 25