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Zoe Saldana Is Apparently Taking Over For Mary J. Blige To Play Nina Simone

Zoe Saldana Is Apparently Taking Over For Mary J. Blige To Play Nina Simone

Sooo… last we reported on this project, it had been financed to the tune of $10 million, had been cast (Mary J. Blige & David Oyelowo in the starring roles), and was booked to start filming at the end of May last year, much to the chagrin of a lot of you folks.

That obviously DID NOT happen, as was initially reported.

Why? It had to be delayed until October, because, as you may recall, Mary J Blige later signed on to co-star in Rock Of Ages with Tom Cruise and the rest of that film’s cast.

I tend to get a little worried about projects that, at first, are announced as sure-things, and then get pushed around for one reason or another, no matter how valid.

Skip ahead to earlier today, around mid-day, when S&A reader Akimbo posted a comment on an old Nina Simone post saying that Zoe Saldana had taken over for Mary J, but without a source link.

That’s a rumor I’d heard previously, but didn’t want to post until I had further confirmation. After Akimbo’s comment, I was able to verify via 2 separate sources (1 a crew member who is attached to work on the project), that Zoe Saldana is attached to star as Nina Simone in the same film that has long been in development, with Cynthia Mort, whose credits include writing and producing several episodes of popular TV series like Roseanne and Will And Grace, still listed as the screenwriter and director of the project. 

If you recall, the film will focus on Simone’s relationship with Paris-based manager Clifton Henderson who will be played by Oyelowo.

Still no official announcement just yet; however, if my sources are correct, and this actually moves forward, I’d need some convincing that Zoe Saldana can embody Nina Simone. The choice makes little sense to me.

So much for our recommendation that Adepero Oduye star as Nina Simone.

But stay tuned; I’m working to get the full story on this… assuming there is one.

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AllPeople (AP) Gifts []

There is actually no such thing as a so-called "Light-Skinned
Black" person … but rather … such individuals and groups
are actually people who are of a 'Multi-Generational
Multiracially-Mixed' (MGM-Mixed) Lineage that some may
have been pressured or encouraged to ignore or downplay.
People of Mixed-Race lineage should NOT feel pressured to
'identify' according to any standards other than one's own.
The legal -application of the racist-'One-Drop Rule'
(ODR) was banned in the U.S. way back in 1967.
Listed below are related Links of 'the facts' of the histories
of various Mixed-Race populations found within the U.S.:
There is no proof that a 'color-based slave hierarchy'
(or that 'color-based social-networks') ever existed
as common entities — within the continental U.S.
It was the 'Rule of Matriliny (ROM) — [a.k.a. 'The Rule of Partus'
(ROP)] — and NOT the racist-'One-Drop Rule' (ODR) — that was
used to 'create more enslaved people' on the continental U.S.
This is because the chattel-slavery system that was
once found on the antebellum-era, continental U.S.
was NOT "color-based" (i.e. "racial") — but rather
— it was actually "mother-based" (i.e. 'matrilineal').
There were many ways (and not solely the sexual assault
and sexual exploitation of the women-of-color) in which
'white' lineage entered the familial bloodlines of
enslaved-people found on the continental U.S.
An 'Ethnic' category is NOT the
same thing as a "Race" category:
Other Topics:


I think Kim Wayans could pass as a good resemblence for Nina Simone. But just not quite sure she is the sort of actor that could fill that role, and be believable (pigeonholed into a certain role).

Get it together America

Nina Simone deserves to be portrayed by an actress who can capture her essence. When Hollywood was looking for someone to play Marilyn Monroe, they picked an actress (Michelle Williams) with similar feature to portray America's iconic sex symbol. Just like it wouldn't make sense to cast a Latina woman for the role of Marilyn Monroe, it doesn't make sense for Nina Simone either.

Brian Rushing

In all honesty, as difficult as it is for a woman of color to land a leading role in Hollywood we should really be celebrating the fact that Meryl Streep was not put in black face and signed on for the role (nothing against Meryl Streep). As a people, we need to move past the light skin vs. dark skin debate and advance ourselves academically and fiscally.

To sit here and debate the merits of casting a movie role that will not put a thin dime in any of our pockets highlights why the black community is in such dire straits: WE FOCUS ON THE WRONG D@MN THINGS!!!

Black men, stop spraying kids all over the place that you have no intention of helping to raise. Black women, stop laying down with men that are not making an honest effort at being in a committed relationship, settling down, having kids and being a good provider.

We have so much potential and yet we squander it at every turn on things that do not matter. When we embrace and nurture that potential nothing can hold us back.


To me a good film will get Box Office from word of mouth, Emphasis on GOOD. It has to have a good script, good actors, and a good director. If it's a good film, people will be encouraged to see it by friends and relatives and there will be buzz on the internet. A drama isn't FX heavy, so it shouldn't cost a fortune to make, and a good film can make money for years and years after its made. In addition, the film will benefit audiences, the cast of the film, and the company that produces it. Does it need to be any more complicated or easy than this?


I'm a big fan of Zoe Saldana. I think she would do a great job!

Takes One

Okay…The fact that Zoe Saldana is being sought to play Nina Simone isn't as absurd as you may think. Granted, she looks nothing like Simone so the transformation will be interesting. What's absurd is perhaps the lack of knowledge of how the film industry works by some of the posters here. Adepero would be a great Nina, but can she open a 10 million film? So many of US didn't pay to see her debut in Pariah, so there's that. Viola Davis would be a brilliant Nina, but can she open a $10 million film? So many of US had a problem that she played a maid in 2011, we didn't give her the opportunity to do so. The last time I checked, India Arie isn't an actress, and has never done so. Can she open a 10 million dollar film? Who knows.

Zoe opened a 40 million dollar film that basically broke even. In hollywood standards that's a failure but given the alternatives regarding black actresses who can open a film, I'm willing to bet hollywood execs will take it. Stop complaining and get out there and support BLACK ACTORS/ACTRESSES or trust me, you won't have anything to complain about in the future because Angelina Jolie will be hired to play a black woman AGAIN!


Actually she's not that much of a good actress…She just don't fit in movies too good. She'll die out soon. She did a Movie called "Colombiana…jaja what a joke of a movie. it made no sense. it drag'd the plot was all over the place…and the shit is, they should have put a real colombian Bitch on it…Zoe don't look shit like one, she's half P.Rican/dominhaitian.


LOL. Hilarious… in a sad way. I recall, not so long ago, how people were shouting down the person who had the temerity to petition against Thandie Newton playing a woman of full Igbo parentage. So what if she isn't Nigerian, eh? Being half-African should have sufficed. And now, Zoe Saldana, an Afro-Latina woman, gets dragged through the coals for being too light-skinned, slim and with fine features (fine as in keen/sharp – so back down). Short-sighted, much? Can't see her in the role myself (would be chomping at the bit to see Viola Davis play Nina Simone), but if the gradual fading of African peoples is part of Hollywood's plan, and many people of the diaspora are happy to go along with it (when it doesn't mean depicting anyone not of their own culture or nationality) then it isn't really much of a surprise.


This has to be the most commented blog in S&A history. I'm shocked. All complaints where people are blaming Zoe and the film industry for her getting the role as opposed to looking at themselves in the mirror.


Read "Put a Spell on You" ( you could probably get it on Kindle) and buy all her music. Otherwise,

Dalia May

Shouldn't there be an uprising of some sort about this? I signed the petition at (ya'll should too), but isn't there more that can be done? Perhaps create a Facebook page? I mean, it it got Betty White as a host of SNL, perhaps a large proclimation that "This Will Not Stand" could actually change Hollywood's/the producer's/the casting director's minds and consider actresses such as Adepero Oduye. Someone even mentioned Rutina Wesley for the part and, though I find her features to be as angular as Zoe's, I'd accept her in the role over the current pick because she is a positive representation of how beautiful dark skin is.

I have no issues with Saldana being cast in roles that require dark skin. I wasn't too happy about her being cast as Uhura (actually, I was quite livid when announced), but after seeing the film felt she did an excellent job. However, when we a have visual image of the character, and that character is very much a woman with dark skin, kinky hair and broad features , casting Saldana is just outright wrong.

I can't believe the individuals involved in this would lack enough forethought and intelligence to even think this would be an acceptable idea. This is Whitewashing for the sake of selling to white audiences and attempting to inaccurately "beautify" the world in a way that just isn't real. It needs to stop. It really does.

julius hollingsworth

I still say Lauren Hill is the actresss ,yes she was actor working before she became a name rapper/singer to play Nina Simone and capture who this lady was for this generation.Oh well
I hope she does a good job.I mean Zoe….if she decides to do it.

Carlton Jordan

Any more credible sources for this story?

kid chaos

Marry a white man zoe will jump to do this part.How about whoopi she has that same man look that nina had.


WHAT NINA THOUGHT: "I do not believe in mixing of the races. You can quote me. I don't believe in it, and I never have. I've never changed. I've never changed my hair. I've never changed my color, I have always been proud of myself, and my fans are proud of me for remaining the way I've always been. I married a white man one time, but he was a creep.
Nina Simone, Nina Simone Interview –


The thing is Nina had a very distinctive look. A look that was readily not preferred even amongst Black American populations. If we are to believe that, from birth on, Nina's being, her body, had nothing to do with the choices she made, in life and in her chosen fields of excellence then we are all fooling ourselves.


Calling Akimbo – email me please (


To the alternative suggestions of Viola Davis, Adepero Oduye, Anika Noni Rose, and Lauryn Hill… I'll add on Tichina Arnold (singer), Audra MacDonald (singer/stage performer), Simbi Khali (stage performer).

Scottie Lowe

Pure and simple, African American beauty and talent does not solely reside at the light-skinned end of the color spectrum. Dr. Simone DESERVES, and we collectively demand, an actress to portray her who can not only capture her grace and beauty, but also her musical gifts. It is in my very humble but infinitely and exponentially more-informed opinion if you seriously considered Zoe Saldana for the role for more than a fraction of a nanosecond, that India.Irie would be the IDEAL candidate for the role. She is gorgeous! Her beauty is undeniable and she greatly resembles the The High Priestess of Soul. She is musically gifted. Now, I've never made a biopic before but I would have to imagine that having someone who understands music would be a more conducive option than someone untrained. And because she exists, no thrives, in an industry where she must compete with talentless light-skinned bimbos, her social politics and struggles mirror that of Dr. Simone. I can't imagine someone more suited for this particular role. She was made for it. Now, you don't have to take my advice. Hire whomever you so desire. It's your film. I can, however, assure you that I won't spend a near-nickel on a film that portrays Nina Simone with an actress more suited to play Lena Horne.


Zoe Saldana talks about being a Latina all the time in the media but she doesn't seem to mind taking on iconic roles meant for black women! It was a disgrace that Saldana for the female lead in Star Trek so many black actresses would of killed that part yet it went to a mixed race actress. Now Nina Simone might go to a woman that doesn't even LOOK like her. Saldana is the wrong choice she should follow Halle's lead and have the grace to step aside. When delusional Aretha Franklin wanted Halle for the lead in her biopic Halle said no because she knew she couldn't do it justice. Zoe needs to step aside and let a black actress have a chance at film glory.


Why don't they ask Kim Kardashian to play Nina Simone!
I just can't…..the entire production/crew of this film needs to just STOP and evaluate.
I absolutely love MJB as an artist and Saldana as an actress but for Simone – NO WAY should their names even be in the arena.
If Blige or Saldana are cast as Simone that production company & director need to be sued for defamation of character and fraud!


How do you say house nigger in Spanish: Zoe thinks Black actresses should stop complaining about racism. "“We have a Black president right now, So why the f— would I sit down and talk about how hard it is for Black women in Hollywood when there’s a Black president in my country?” >>>>>>>>>>


I am sorry I do Love Zoe, I love her in a lot of roles, I love her style, but she is wrong for this part, I look more like Nina Simone than Zoe does and I am a dude who looks nothing like Nina Simone. This is absurd casting, well how about BOW WOW to play Miles Davis, or Jennifer Aniston to play Diana Ross, that's about how absurd this casting sounds. But when they start to truly dissect the script -History Nina's life deeply and her deal with AmericaKKK the project in it's incarnation will never fly, just wait to the musical giants start speaking out, I would want to come out the house after that. Take my word for it when the outcries begin over the casting it sadly enough will be Zoe who will want to leave the country and none of this had to happen that way!!!


David Oyelow needs to run from this one fast as he can. First Mary now ZOE makes it clear the director is not in rhythm with the material and the great woman Nina Simone. He seems to have integrity. This DOES NOT.

Scottie Lowe

Sign the petition.


Reminds me of that biracial actress playing harriet tubman now its infesable for a darkskinned actress to play a darkskinned woman and one who was NOT A BEAUTY! Adepero Oduyebut would have been a good pick and nothing against the talented miss saldana but ill definately pass on this project.

Nancy Williams

Okay, let us step into realism now. "Mississippi Goddam" sung by dear Zoe–no no. Who is judging ugliness as opposed to raw talent? I am old enough (sigh) to remember all the brown skinned divas of yesteryear. Looks have nothing to do with talent. I can still remember Nina banging on that piano. Stop this inner colorisnm. Most of us have a unique admixture unique to the New World. My dear grandmother Roberta Hawkins West, was light enough to be constantly mistaken for various types of mulatto, Hispanic (or Spanish as it was called back in the day), Mestizo, etc. but when confronted with another language speaker, would say emphatically "I am a colored woman! as she hugged her beloved grandchildren Nancy, Judy and Ricky Williams, us decidedly not mistaken for anything but what we were. Colored, black, Negroe, etc. , complete admixture of our genealogy African yes white possibly, Native American possibly and yes Haitiam from our great grat grandmother, Feliciene Fouche Cromwell.


Epic fail. Disrespectul. And shame on her for accepting the role. I wont go see it baed on the casting problems alone mjb now this. Hollywood could give a rats ass about nina i do recall this is why she left the states in the first place. We are not worthy!


the girl does not eat. isn't a great actress. and is latina. it's such bad casting it's unreal.
it's a shame because you are right Adepero Oduye would have been an AMAZING choice.


I am so disappointed that Zoe Saldana got this part because she looks NOTHING like Nia Simone. Hollywood seems to think Zoe Saldana can take on ALL the black women roles. First Star Trek now Nina Simone this is a digrace! Nina Simone is NOT black Latina she`s a black American woman. See, Hollywood thinks that by pushing mixed race women and casting them will appease black audiences. This is not going to fly with a lot of people. There are tons of black actresses who would have killed the part. I always felt Mary J Blige was a bad choice anyway because she is NOT an actress she`s a singer. Well I will be skipping this film adaptation because this is not good.


I forgot to add who I think would KILL IT. Lauryn Hill. She's out on bail, feeling like the gov't is against her, and she can bring all that angst and pain in her love life/business to the role. That would be a superb comeback role. India.Arie is not a proven lead, and Adepero could be a contender as well.

kid chaos

Let be honest her family would be thilled if a pretty bi racial girl played her because this is one ugly chick.


Maybe S&A could reach out to Nina's daughter at some point?… (crossing fingers)


*faints* This is a cruel joke, right? Can somebody call India Arie's agent and see if she's interested?!


I hope she's playing the daughter…Nina Simone? No way…aesthetics are significant. Nina Simone was an actual person, not a made-up character, so her biopic should feature an authentic depiction of her.


Hot mess.


Apostrophe marks don't transfer well from MS Word to this website. LOL!!!!


Wow, this post must have just set a record for S & A for the # of comments in such a short period of time. I have been excited for years about the prospect of MJB playing Nina Simone. She always seemed genuinely passionate about the biopic, and when a person is passionate about something that person tends to do a nice job at whatever they are attempting.

I think that either Regina King or Viola Davis would be good. Anika Noni Rose may also be a good choice for the role. She is really petite, but that lady has range, just check out this past seasons episodes of “The Good Wife”.

Of the post, I think this part concerns me more than the casting, “Cynthia Mort, whose credits include writing and producing several episodes of popular TV series like Roseanne and Will And Grace, still listed as the screenwriter and director of the project.”

“Will and Grace” is one of my favorite sitcoms of all time, but what does this woman writer know about Nina Simone? Really??!!! I want her to pass a detailed exam regarding the life of Nina Simone before she even attempts to do this biopic. You don’t see me trying to write the biopic of Freddy Mercury.


There are other information, Zoe does not embody Nina but his daughter. Mary J Blige is maintained for the role.


Lawd ham mercy! Somebody pass me the smelling salts!

Lauren Croom

At the end of the day casting is about asthetics and ability. One should be able to envelop the audience in character without the distraction of "hey she looks nothing like nina". This movie, this story, is important. Placing our color spectrum issues aside, there are plenty of beautiful women (Oduye included ) who are up for the challenge the question is are we? Are we as black women up for the challenge of fighting to see our stories properly cast and portrayed?


Let's take the spotlight off Zoe for a second and shine it on Simone. Nina Simone was an unapologetically African woman – her style, her music, her essence. As much as I love Zoe and believe in her skills and capabilities, to strip that away from Simone, aesthetically, is a slap in the face. I think that's the real upset here.


What should a dark skinned actress do? Go jump off a bridge? Light skinned women rule hollywood. Always have. Always will.


I cast my vote for Adepero Oduye because of physical compatibility and acting chops. This is a very RAW role. It's not a matter of beauty; this isn't the role for Zoe.

Zoe would be a strong contender for a Diana Ross biopic for the same reasons. I believe her physical compatibility and acting style would be best for THAT role.

Miles Ellison

By the time this gets made, Nina Simone will be played by Meryl Streep in blackface, and the film will be about some random white guy who tuned Nina's piano.


Shouldn't we be wondering more about Cynthia Mort? Zoe's casting doesn't seem to make much sense from even a business point of view. It's more MTV crowd/Young Vanity Fair Hollywood casting than Newport Jazz Festival casting which SHOULD BE this movie's market. Zoe would KILL IT as Celia Cruz, but Nina? The more mature crowds would be less interested in "star power" and more interested in authenticity… that goes for the casting as well. If they want to go for star-power and authenticity, it would have to be Viola (though I'm a little Viola'd out), but given the time period being covered in this film, yeah, Viola seems the right. If younger, and a more indie movie, Oduye. Tambay did more research and it seems more likely than just rumor at this point.


Whoopie's twin Adepero Oduye and Viola Davis??? I'm noticing a trend among the commenters at S & A. Someone mentioned Paula Patton, (who can never catch a break on this site), Thandie Newton and Rashida Jones, then said "SARCASM". When actress/filmmaker Juliette Fairley suggested there should be more roles for bi-racial women, the board erupted in protest. And everyone has seen the protests/hate on everything Halle Berry. And now it's NO-NO-NO Zoe Saldana and yes to ugly Whoopie Goldberg… I mean Adepero Oduye. See the trend? S&A's most loudest voices have continually harbored a culture, a disdain against beautiful bi-racial women. I know it hurts but y'all can't deny it. Case in point, there was nothing but tears of joy behind the casting of fat lesbian Queen Latifah, fat Jill Scott, dark big lipped Alfre Woodard and Whoopie's look-a-like Adepero Oduye, to play white chicks in Steel Magnolias, but Ms. Saldana can't play Nina Simone? What's up with that?


Everybody gettin outraged over an incomplete rumor.

You think just Mayyybe shes's actually playing Nina's daughter….and that part is left out, to get some buzz, outrage buzz maybe, but buzz all the same?

Have you seen pictures of Nina's daughter??…….Feel any better? smh


Zoe is wrong for the role as Nina. MJ would have been a far better choice, as would Viola Davis. There needs to be somewhat of a similarity in looks, at least when making believe. Maybe Zoe could pull off a Lena Horne?


Dominican I'm Dominican I'm Dominican – oh wait you want me to play Nina Simone? Oh ok I'm black I'm black – really.


This is crazy for a bunch of reasons.
Does pure greed and the Hollywood-a-forcation of any and everything trump history?
Nina was unique in both looks and talent.
Hopefully, this "project" will linger until someone suitable comes along.
But with our obsession on perfection in especially modern model types to portray everything….
I guess a new term will be entering the lexicon: This is a Brownwashing.


No…just no.


Sigh. She's gonna have to hit the tanning salon to pull this off. Not to mention seriously improving her talents as an actress. Why not Adepero Oduye? Well, she's simply not a hot enough property — yet. If brass postpone discussion over casting the pic til some dailies from "12 Years a Slave" emerge, Ms. Oduye might just have a shot. Fingers crossed…

Aisha Melloy

I love Zoe with the fiery intensity of ten white hot suns, but this is such a casting mistake. Not because of her skin tone, not because of her body type, but because Nina went to Paris and connected with Henderson in 1992 when she was ~60 years old. Even Mary J., at 41, wasn't old enough for that, but she was closer than Zoe, who's 34. I don't understand this at all.

ojie king

I'm going to reserve my comments until i see an official announcement.

Terra B

I guess Paula Patton, Thandie Newton and Rashida Jones weren't available. *sarcasm*


Slow down people. It's not 100% confirmed yet, so it may not happen. I'll wait for an official before commenting.

the black police

All I can say is WOW.


Sounds good, I think Zoe can pull it off just fine.


Sigh…. Well at least Zoe can act and hopefully the makeup department can work it out. Although there are other actresses that look more suited to the part, she will better than Mary J for sure… (love Mary when she sings!) Hey if Charlize Theron in Monster or Nicole Kidman in The Hours can get past their looks for a role why not Zoe? Plus she'll draw a bigger audience to a worthy subject.


Adepero Oduye would Have been perfect!


I would have like to see Heather Headley give it a shot. They kind of favor and Heather plays the piano–oh yeah, she can act. She's got a Tony.


She should have said no like Halle Berry re: Aretha Franklin bio. Talk about a square peg in a round hole. Of course, until I see this movie on a theater marquee, I'm going to assume it's not going to happen. I was thinking Viola Davis too – better match that Saldana.


Its bc Zoe is hot right now


Damn…these Hollywood folks really don't give a shit about black women do they?! This makes NO SENSE at all. I looove Zoe but this AIN'T RIGHT. And if they can afford Zoe they probably can afford Viola Davis. Who's casting this anyone? The three blind mice. smh


For my money I'd go with Aisha Hinds


Oh. I hope not. I like Saldana but her as Nina? No


Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone? That's going to take some TALL acting from her.

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