Back to IndieWire

Jill Scott Is Cool With Zoe Saldana Playing Nina Simone (Well, That Is If….)

Jill Scott Is Cool With Zoe Saldana Playing Nina Simone (Well, That Is If....)

Yet another development in the endless controversy of the year.

Of course I’m talking about Zoe Saldana playing Nina Simone in the bio-pic about her life – a casting choice that NO ONE is happy about.

Now singer/actress Jill Scott has weighed in on the controversy, in a recent interview with Hello Beautiful; and according to Scott, she has no problem with Saldana in the role; Well that is if… well you can read what she said for yourself…:

 “Zoe is an incredible actress–I think that she’s a fine actress. I think that there should be some work done, like a prosthetic nose would be helpful and definitely some darker makeup. If Forest Whittaker can become darker in “The Last King Of Scotland” then I believe Nina should be treated with that respect. She was very adamant about her color about her nose about her shape and her self and there needs to be some homage paid to that.”

Now you can say that she was being careful in her answer, and not wanting to upset the powers that be. She might even have been thinking: Hey, one day I might wind up on a project with Saldana and I want her to get along with me“.

But folks, do you agree with her? Do you think that’s all it takes?  A really good makeup job? Personally, I think it’s going to take A LOT more than that, but perhaps you feel differently. Let’s hear what you say.

And in the same interview, when asked what famous person she would love to play in a film, she said singer Phyllis Hyman because…

“… there’s a lot of depth there. Phyllis was tormented and beautiful and violent at times. She was fighting her way through the industry and it wasn’t necessarily working out. You have this character who loves something so tremendously, but hates it at the same time. I find her really interesting.

This Article is related to: News and tagged


BBblack sheep.

We are still having the same discussions about light skin vs. dark skin. That is what is so sad. We still have not made it over this hump. I think that is in part because we collectively refuse to sympathize with the darker skins plight. We also refuse to open our eyes to the possibility that being light skinned may come with its own set of issues. We need to be sensitive and compassionate of each other nurturing and accepting so we can embrace all of the beautiful hues of the diaspora. It is obvious to me this divisive strategy was imposed on people of color to keep us weak and submissive by way of making us feel inferior. This color caste system must be seen for what it is. Instead of spewing hate for each other and criticizing, lets share wisdom in a way that is not reductive of each others viewpoint. Lets try to see where each person is coming com and why they may feel the way they do. Most importantly let's call ourselves out when making sweeping judgements about others- ask ourself why we would be so dimunitive of another culture, so insensitive towards it. In the case of the Proud Latina Who Knows Her History, it seems to me her knowledge of history is used as a means to denigrate a whole culture of people who are still trying to find thier wy. Lets not hit each other while we're down instead of focusing on lifting each other up. To bring it back to the subject matter here in this article. I do not think Zoe Saldana was chosen for the color of her skin- she was chosen because at the time she was the new Hollywood indie "it girl" of color. I think Kerry Washington's star didn't rize until after this was cast- otherwise she would have been considered for sure. I agree with some of what everyone on this page has said… Zoe has brown skin. If we are purely talking skin color there are a lot more black people on this planet than not. Zoe would certainly be one if them if it only came down to color. And there is no question Zoe was probably seen within her own culture as Negra which probably came with a little bit of a "less than" within her community. If she was lucky, maybe not. I'm sure just as within India the darker the skin the lower you are is a feeling that is shared by many cultures. So on that basis, I'm sure Zoe CAN relate to a certain degree. But that des not over ride the fact that Zoe like many light skinned African Americans and Black Anericans and Carribean Americans can get a bit more of a pass than say the Viola Davis hued/ featured sisters who (while still beautiful) are seen not to be so en masse. This is across the globe! This is something Nina felt and stood for. I think it should have been a huge factor in the casting process and it was clearly not a priority for the producers. They are thinking in dollars. I read an article where they defend the choice of Zoe because they say they are fouling on Nina's mental and emotional instability and relationships. Being that the focus is on her love life, they thought Zoe would be best for the role. This raises a question in my mind about the casting of African American women with features like Nina Smone, Viola Davis, Adepero Oduye(Pariah actress and my personal choice to play Nina- if not me Tee hee) and India Arie… That question is why do you rarely- if at all- see women with these features in roles that would make them desirable, seductive, beautiful (in the sense that the world of embraces), and sexy. These women are often cast as strong women, leaders, submissives, women with a struggle and a purpose, women who are marginalized in some way, mothers and always asexual even if there are sex scenes or talk about sex. This sexy desirable woman archetype is reserved for the Zoe Saldana, Halke Berry, Beyonce, Pam Grier types. I want to see a movie where the women with the former features are seen as beautiful, sexy, desirable. Since this movie is focusing on that mostly, and they said that was why they chose Zoe in the end shows how they buy into that belief. Just my opinion.

ann roberts

I do not care dark skin light skin we all black women . I would rather see a black man with a light skin sister then with a blond white women . The black men in show biz seem to me the blacker their skin the whiter they marry as if they need the white women to light up the way so they can be send. I DO NOT THINK THAT BECAUSE WE ARE HONEST ENOUGH TO TALK ABOUT IT WE ARE HATING IT IS A FACT JUNGLE FEVER IN HOLLYWOOD IF YOU IN THE PUBLIC EYE WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO COMMENT .


It is a shame when a dark skinned female icon is being protrayed in black faced. There are many talented and beautiful dark skinned actresses that are not working because of discrimination that is prevalent in Hollywood. When was the last time Hollywood casted an actress of dark ebony hue as a leading actress in a role of such historical significance? Nina deserves better and so do we!
She was fighting against this form of prejudice.


After reading most of these comments, I hope Zoe blows this role out of the park! She's an artist that was offered a job, if she felt she could not do it justice she would have turned it down. People are making judgements without having seen the finished product. Bring a sister up (Black, Columbian, Dominican or otherwise) because we have so many trying to pull is apart!!


Jill Scott as usual is a class act! Hats off to you Ms. Scott for not tearing down another woman of color. This is the exact divisive mentality that holds us back. India Arie's comments about Zoe were hurtful and very cruel. Sometimes, it's better to just keep some things to yourself!

George Geder

A large part, indeed huge, of what makes Nina Simone 'Nina Simone' is her voice, her look, and her world view. As we are discussing her look, it would be smart to consider the look of the women in her ancestry, and her DNA. Then, go find a person that closest resembles that image.

Someone mentioned Diana Ross portraying Billie Holiday. That film was more about pairing Ms. Ross with Billy D. Williams. The agenda was different.

Perhaps we need to determine what the agenda is for this film about Nina Simone.


I think its so weird to read Zoe being called light skin. Zoe is dark skin Latina (were both brown Dominican – American women, her mother is my mom's niece) and I hear from friends in the industry this is why Hollywood cast her in black roles. But what they fail to realize is that just because in Latino culture we say were "mujer negra" (black) we mean in sense of race not culture. Zoe is taken advantage of their ignorance and hence she gets offered all these parts. She was not good in Colombiana and that role could've went to an actual Colombian actress not Dominican. All this to say there's actual African American women who resemble the part and are good actresses that should get the role. Like prior posts mentioned Lauren Hill would've been a good choice. But Hollywood continues to have whites play Latinos (Ben Affleck in Argo, Pacino is Scarface + other movies), Latino playing Italians (Andy Garcia in Godfather III, Jlo in numerous films), and Latinos playing black. How about giving minority parts to the designated race and if necessary developing new talent? I won't be seeing this movie.


This would be a PERFECT OPPORTUNITY to put a darker skinned actress in a leading role. Already we have light-skinned woman representing everywhere. What is the point of putting on a prosthetic nose????!!!! We have actual people who are more in the range of Ms. Simones color, at this rate why even try to make her look like someone she is not. If you are going to cast a white woman, a mixed woman or a japanese woman let them keep their actual features and not make a mockery of the people they are supposed to be portraying. I guess blackface is in, again. Thanks tropic thunder and people who think imitation is better than the real thing.


Out of homage and respect to Ms. Simone's work and memory, I will not be going to see this film. I had the distinct pleasure of photographing Ms. Simone up close and personal, and Zoe Saldana is no Nina Simone!!! And as far as Jill Scott wanting to play Phyllis Hyman, she better put on some Height! Ms. Hyman was A Statuesque and Physical Presence!!

julius hollingsworth

i agree with Jill Scott .If Zoe is willing to do all the makeup and try and get inside what it's like to be a dark skin sister's body with full lips and nose and what society puts on deep chocolate sisters I say do you your thing. That's called acting do your thing Mama.I just can't wait for India Arie's chance to play hmmm…Beyonce.I still say Nina should be played by Ms.Hill.But that is the magic of entertainment .If it's done well I don't care.Diana Ross was wonderful in Lady Sings The Blues she didn't look like Billie Holliday but she was still wonderful.She was Diana Sands but she was wonderful.Edward Albee wanted Bette Davis for Whose Afraid of Virginia Wolf.But he got Elizabeth Taylor go figure.


I won't be seeing this movie. The selection of a light-skinned Afro-Latina playing Nina Simone. It reflects the opinions of the directors, producers, etc. in Hollywood's color based 'racist' culture that shows the melanin terror (phobia) of this United States & the world as a whole. Although, I like Zoe as an actress & think she's very pretty, I hope it fails in the box office. This is just as ridiculous as what happened several yrs. ago when Sidney Poitier played Thurgood Marshall in the bio. of the late judge. Black is not just one shade!


Wow Ms scott, so we are promoting blackface now.

Just get another actress already, you know one who resembles Nina Simone very much, isnt what acting is all about, we have to believe they are actually the person/character they are, they are a lot of people who resemble her who will jump at this opportunity and audition. As much as I love Zoe, not every damn black female role needs to go to her, even the ones that dont fit her casting just because she is the black female hollywood sweetheart right now, lots of other black actress need the roles. Zoe doesn't really need this role, lots of dark skinned black female actors desperately do because Hollywood looks down on dark skin, they will do whatever it takes to not have anyone who looks too "black",. You would expect a few roles like this to help some of the dark skinned struggling actors. You can tell this is a work of "light skin" privilege and also the privilege of being a beloved POC celebrity, she does not fit this role.

Give dark skinned people roles of dark skinned people, thats the least they can do, since they are very few roles created for dark skinned people already . So sick of hollywood casting light skinned /biracial people as black characters, and we are made to believe "see now we are not racist, we have a token minority with half white DNA or have has European features". Nothing wrong with light skinned people getting roles, I totally love a lot of light skinned actors, but its BS when all the "black roles" are given to light skinned black people, so whats left for dark skinned black people.


Bottom line- Zoe cannot convince anyone that she's Nina Simone. She doesn't look like her, she doesn't sound like her, she isn't shaped like her. AND, Zoe CAN'T ACT. To believe her acting you must suspend belief in all reality, the only reason she managed to make it worked in Avatar. Hollywood has hyped her up without legitimate cause. Worst casting decision ever.


Why not Viola Davis, Kim Elise, Macy Gray or some new undiscovered talent? Zoe? Like her, but this ain't for you Baby.


No Miss Jill, Phyllis Hyman needs to be played by Jazmine Sullivan. The look. The voice. The talent. Jill should put her bid in for Aretha.


Look Jill Scott can be politically correct all she wants but critics have a right to point out the reasons why Zoe Saldana is wrong for the Nina Simone biopic.

Saldana has light skin, white features, extremely thin build, and long black wavy hair. Saldana is high profile now in Hollywood because Halle's getting old so they need a new A list black actress in her 30s. So Saldana is the one Hollywood has chosen.

I also want to point out, I think Kerry Washington would also be a bad choice as well. Kerry is a good actress but I don't think she could do justice to Nina Simone either.

Nina Simone sang passionately about the racism and discrimination she experienced as a dark skinned black woman in America. Saldana is a decent actress but this movie calls for an actress that looks similar to Nina Simone. Also, Saldana only got the part because Hollywood has placed her on the pedestal she's the new Halle Berry. Even Halle Berry turned down the Aretha Franklin biopic because she knew she couldn't do it justice. I wish Saldana would follow Berry's example and drop out of the project and give another black actress a shot at glory.


That's the only way I would be able to stomach it. She will have to undergo some serious, Rick Baker, Nutty Professor type transformation. Anything less, I will NOT see this movie and I suggest everyone who has a problem with Zoe playing the role will do the same.

blunt talker

blunt talker-This movie project is a trumped-up story using Nina's legacy. People involved are really disgusting and disrespectful towards the Simone family. Making a movie on false information according to Nina's family members is awful with evil intent to do harm to Nina's family. Zoe has made past statements about black actresses being lazy. Her mother told her she was not black. The culture she identifies and relates to is the Latin culture. She has shown some harshness towards the black community based on past interviews 2010-2011. Black people have a right to be upset with this casting choice for more than one reason. They are not allowing Nina's family any say so in this movie project. This shows disregard and unprofessionalism on everyone associated with this movie. I pray the Simone family can fight this assault on Nina's legacy by all means necessary.


Prosthetics and make up? No way, just hire an actress that favors Nina Simone! This whole thing is shameful! Forrest Whitaker was playing a psychotic dictator, and his features were close other than the complexion. Nina Simone is a Black icon who exuded what it was to be Black and proud, and you can't find a quality actress that looks like her? Whatever man!


Re: Last King of Scotland, Forest Whitaker's makeup was Horrible. It looked like cheap black shoe polish from the dollar store spread by hand. Whenever he sweated, you could see the makeup staining his shirt collar. I went ahead and suspended belief so I could get through the movie.


Zoe cannot sing. She cannot play Nina Simone. What happened to Mary J. Blige? I am extremely disappointed in the selection of Zoe Saldana. No way. Nina is 100% black and Zoe is mixed. Can't be done.


I admire and respect Jill Scott because she's classy. And she found a classy way to basically say that such an atrocious amount of work would need to be done in order for Zoe Saldana to work playing Nina Simone. Miss Scott did not need to puncture her cool over an issue that doesn't directly pertain to her either. What would she look like talking trash about a project she's not even on or for which she was ever considered? She made a pro move.


I wince !


Jill doesn't have the same nose or body type as Hyman. She should not pursue this role.


Who knows whether this is her true opinion or just a Hollywood answer. Two things may be playing into this answer: 1. "Steel Magnolias" is about to be released, so she wants all publicity/attention to be positive 2. She caused quite a stir with her stance on interracial marriages between African American men and women of other races. She may be trying to avoid controversy this time. When people give their honest opinions they are often accused of hating or being jealous, whether it's true or not. When people are attached they often will stop giving you their honest opinion and will begin giving a prepared politically correct answer. I would love to see Jill tackle Phyllis Hyman's deep life story.

sexy lesbians

Yes! Finally something about sexy latina.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *