India.Arie has weighed in on the controversy surrounding the casting of Zoë Saldana as Nina Simone in the upcoming biographical film about her life.

The 40-year-old, who portrayed Simone onscreen in a 2003 episode of “American Dreams,” has been vocal in her opposition to Saldana in the role. She saw an early version of “Nina” three years ago and said, “the way she looked in the movie was ugly.”

Writing of Saldana’s strategically-darkened skin and added prosthetics on Nina Simone’s dedicated website, Arie said “it looks like a person in Black(er) face with a fake nose.”

In her THR interview, Arie said that she referred to the look as “black(er) face” because she “didn’t know what to call it.”

“[The Nina portrayal] is a caricature,” Arie said. “You had to put a whole other face on someone’s face.”

In 2013, Saldana said of the controversy, “I don’t care who tells me that I am not this and I am not that. I know who I am and I know what Nina Simone means to me. So that is my truth and that set me free.”

Noted Arie, “I don’t know her and I don’t think she did anything wrong,” adding, “I think they cast Zoe Saldana because they wanted a big name, but that makes me ask, ‘Is the name Nina Simone not big enough to get people to come to the movie?’ ”

Arie also addressed director Judd Apatow, who responded to the Nina backlash on Twitter, Thursday, writing, “I think all actors should only be allowed to play themselves. It is offensive to pretend to be other people.”

“What he’s saying doesn’t take into account so many things that matter to this story,” Arie told THR. “I see why that is his point of view and he has that right. Why would you have the point of view of a black woman when you’re a white man? I respect his perspective.”

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6 thoughts on “India.Arie Discusses Backlash Against Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone

  1. I remember Walter Mosley commenting on Don Cheadle playing Mouse and pointing out that in the book the character was light skinned with grey eyes. We all bought in on Mouse. But LeVar Burton playing Ron LeFlore 5’7″ a buck and half vs a full grown baseball playing man. Not many bought it. It’s the real hollywood shuffle. Vote with your feet if you care. Myself, I think there are many other layers to Ms. Simone but no one should have the color altered.

  2. What I just thought is with the Miles Davis bio with Donald Cheadle coming out is the selected a real good actor who looks Miles. I think the difference is Miles Davis is musician they liked even with all his crazy antics. Peace

  3. leadjustone on said:

    India’s response shows the intelligence, class and depth that we have come to expect from her. What a great artist. She should have at least been given a shot at the role. Dissed at the Grammys and dissed on this project. No disrespect to Zoe, but this just ain’t right!

  4. demp109 on said:

    I am a huge Nina Simone fan, and I am so offended and hurt that the person who is “selling out” Ms. Simone, is so insensitive and ignorant. They really don’t what she was about, so why even try to do a project about her. Did they interview, her peers, family, friends, fans before casting Ms. Saldana? No offense to Zoe, but this is all wrong….Mississippi Got Damn!!!!!!!

  5. Barb on said:

    The bottom line is they refuse to hire dark skinned or African American women that is India’s complexion. When BP stop supporting they will stop the Racism. WF only understand when they lose $.

  6. Linda on said:

    If Hollywood had reached out to more darker skinned African American actresses-there would be no BACKLASH.

    Why hire a light skinned woman who you have to darken and add prosthetics to in order to have her pass as the person she is attempting to portray.

    I was looking forward to Nina Simone’s story being made into a movie–however, since Ms. Saldana is in the title role-not so much.

    If they ever decide to make Lena Horne’s life into a movie, I certainly hope Hollywood does not get some Caucasian to play Lena!

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