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.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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