Zoe Saldana Speaks On Playing Nina Simone And How She Got The Role
“Nina,” the biographical film that focused on a period of singer Nina Simone’s life, is set for a limited release tomorrow (April 22), according to Colorlines. This day has been long in the making, after multiple attempts to get the project off the ground and has seen its fair share of controversy. Namely, the use of makeup to make Saldana’s skin appear to be darker and prosthetics being used to make her nose look wider.
Zaldana didn’t directly reference this controversy in a recent screening, but she did reference “well, the other obvious reasons” while talking about her initial hesitations with accepting the role. She did go on to speak about what it took for her to play Simone and what kind of process she went through. Take a look at some of what she had to say below:
On getting the role:
I was approached by a filmmaker—you know Cynthia Mort—and she said she wanted to meet me for the Nina movie, and I was really surprised because I thought, well, Mary J.’s doing that, and she was like, “Yes, she was as of recently, but she will not be a part of it, and this was a mutual decision.” …
As an artist, I am going to give you [the] step-by-step of how you approach something or you’re thinking of something, and you kind of go, “Well, I’m not going to touch that unless I get absolute clearing from Mary J. or her camp that this is true.”
Once that came about and I received confirmation, I turned the project down because for various reasons I thought I was not the right age to be a part of this project because of the time frame … which the director wanted to document or talk about in her story of Nina. And obviously—well, the other obvious reasons—but then something else came about once I kept brewing with this, and I thought, “Well, this project has been at every studio, pitched at every studio. It has been offered to a number of excellent, amazing actresses that, for whatever valid reasons of their own, decided to pass on the project. Do I sit on the side and wait and sort of, for my personal fears, do I just sit on the side and just pass this project from my hands to the next hands and just wash my hands of it and be done with it? Or do I make the decision to be a part of the telling of the story of an iconic figure in American history that happens to be a woman, that happens to be Black?” So I guess the good outweighed the fear and the bad.
I remember I moved out of my house. I left my mom with my assistant and my dog and my house and I moved four miles away to isolate myself because I just wanted to just live, try to re-create an environment where Nina and I could become, like, roommates. I wanted to be haunted by her. …
So that was kind of like my entrance to Nina. I didn’t want to approach her as this iconic musical figure because that just felt really external to me. I wanted to find some way to identify with her as a woman, as an artist, as a person of color, as an American, and just try to find any similarities in how powerless you can feel sometimes as an artist, when all you want to do is just exhibit your art, create art, and sometimes you have to go through so many layers of bullshit that can impede upon you feeling absolutely free, and I feel like she was really haunted by that.
On lessons from working on the project:
I learned that, as an artist, you have to make your own decisions and they have to come from your gut and from your heart, and not from any personal gains that you may think you’re going to get. I think that as a community of color that has bred amazing artists that not only have given us beautiful art that they create, they’ve given us our history, and these are stories worth telling.
Photo Source: YouTube