Saturday, September 15, 2012

Petition Generated To Fire Zoe Saldana Because She Is Not Black Enough



The New York Times is reporting that there is a petition with over 3,000 signatures that is trying to get Zoe Saldana fired from a movie where she is going to play jazz legend Nina Simone. The reason? They say that Zoe is not black enough to play the role and that Hollywood is trying to whitewash Nina Simone. The site, Coffee Rhetoric, was the first to bring up the topic and generated the petition. The owner of the site says,"Hollywood and the media have a tendency to whitewash and lightwash a lot of stories, particularly when black actresses are concerned. When is it going to be OK to not be the delicate looking ideal of what the media considers blackness to be?"

I don't think this is a whitewashing issue. Maybe the producers thought that Zoe was the best for the part. Jennifer Hudson is darker than Zoe Saldana, and I'm sure she was considered and is probably just as big of a box office draw. Do I think Hollywood can be racist? Absolutely. 100%. Why do you think the whole Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey and Randy Jackson thing feel through on Idol? There is racism, but I think today, a lot of it is thinking that other people are racist rather than Hollywood itself being racist. I think in the past, Hollywood has whitewashed things, but I think Spike Lee and especially Tyler Perry have changed that. Think about how many times Tyler Perry movies have led the box office and how much money his movies make. His television shows? Equally as popular. People criticized the casting of Jennifer Lawrence for Hunger Games because they thought she was not skinny enough and did not look hungry enough.


106 comments:

pdxbellarocks said...

Seriously? You're using Tyler Perry as in example in the same sentence as Spike Lee?

I'm a HUGE Nina fan.. And this is a serious casting mistake !!!

pdxbellarocks said...

As an* example

MISCH said...

While I love Nina Simone's music it's no secret that she was a racist, she absolutely hated white people.
So in truth she would probably agree with this.

Barton Fink said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Coriander Shea said...
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g.strathmore said...

Viola Davis would be much better in this role than Zoe Saldana. I love both Zoe and Viola, but I think Viola would knock this one out of the park.

Barton Fink said...

The old Enty wouldn't have trolled for butthurt white people's indignation like this.

Sarah said...

Look at the photos.
Zoe actually resembles her, the eyebrows, eyes, and shape of the nose are similar. The mouth is a bit different, but I have a feeling she will look like her on film.
I get the point, though.

Chris said...

Sorry, this is absolutely a problem in Hollywood. There is example after example of roles being whitewashed. Johnny Depp as Tonto, Tom Hardy as Bane, the entire Last Airbender controversy. It's a valid issue but one that most white people won't be able to understand.

Jeneral said...

I think it's equally racist to say someone isn't "black" enough. This focus on pigmentation is ignorant.

g.strathmore said...

On a side note, it is annoying how Hollywood "whitewashes" everything. The movie, 21, should have been completely or almost completely Asian and Asian-American, but they changed the major characters to white. In that stupid movie Prince of Persia, they got Gemma Atherson(sp?) to play a Persian princess. Really? With all the hot middle eastern or Indian or central Asian actresses out there, they got a pale English woman and gave her a spray tan and a dye job. It just happens constantly and it's really annoying.

Kat said...

Sorry, but I've seen more than a few Tyler Perry films, and not a single one seemed worth my time. Amateurish and sophomoric, they came across, to me, more like an 'attempt' at film-making than anything else. His personal trials aside, because he seems like a decent guy, his films are not very good, and his race should not be a reason to put him in the same category as Lee who has stronger chops and tells a better story.

hollywood dime said...

I think there is a certain amount of depth of soul the zoe, who I adore, just doesnt have just yet as an actress. that is more of the issue than skin tone. she is just as wrong for this part as gabrielle union would be to play lena horne.

pdxbellarocks said...

Considering white people are now the minority in this country, statistically assuming that the commenters on this site are mostly white would be incorrect.

Illyria said...

Well, it's not just an issue of pigmentation. Zoe isn't black at all. She's half Dominican and half Puerto-Rican. She's not even the same race as Nina Simone. I am also a dark skinned Latina and I wouldn't feel comfortable portraying such an iconic black woman.

FrenchGirl said...

it's the same logic that a gay can't play a straight,a welsh can't play an american or a beautiful guy can't play an ugly character or Hathaway can't play Catwoman!

InfinitiDream said...

The issue here is not just because she's of a lighter hue, its also because she's not black. Frankly, I believe the subject matter would be difficult for Zoe to pull off. My thought was India Arie, Kimberly Elise or an unknown who can pull this off like Jamie Foxx pulled off Ray Charles.

alliwholovessomuch said...

oh please what is the meaning of actor? I think zoe is a pretty good one too.

InfinitiDream said...

Sorry Illyria, I guess we were writing the same thoughts at the same time.

hollywood dime said...

@illyria i'm also a black hispanic like zoe. and if thats the case she should stop taking most of her acting jobs because in most of them she portrays black women not hispanic.

lazyday603 said...

I still don't think Emma Stone was white enough to play Olive Pendergast in easy A, but nobody asked me when they caster her.

Illyria said...

@hollywood dime Yes, I know. I've seen her work too but that is why I made the distinction of an ICONIC black woman. It's not a matter of whether she can do it or not. After all, that is what actors are paid to do; portray people and characters no matter how removed the role is from themselves. The point is respecting black people and the people that made a difference in African-American culture. Because as much as we would like to believe that there are no racial issues or divides in our country, there are and we have to respect each others' differences.

babo said...

Good actors can play everything, right. This petition is not against Zoe Saldana.

But whitewashing as a whole is enough for me too. I am having enough of seeing the main characters always good-looking, super-slim, wrinkle-free, no grey hair, top-notch Pilates body, light complexion (when they are not Caucasian), whatever the characters they are supposed to represent.

When I watch movies from the 70s or 80s, I am always surprised to see how much casting criteria have changed. And not in a good way for real actors.

Brenda L said...

Where can I lodge my complaint about dumbass casting of iconic Hollywood people (Lohan)

tara17 said...

Wow, just watched Nina Simone performing Ain't Got No...I've Got Life on YT. Shivers. Didn't know about her, but what a discovery.

Jemtastic said...

I think the real issue is that Zoe is VERY quick to point out that she is not Black but Latina. The arguments have been made several times before about how she shys away from the Black identity but rushes to play a Black character for a paycheck.

And please, let's not talk about Tyler Perry. His plays/movies/shows don't do the Black community any favors, either.

tara17 said...

Re: Zoe Saldana, she has very waspish facial features and does not look at all like Nina Simone, imo. Nothing similar in the face. Completely unsuited for the part, too skinny, too tall, too dainty.

FlirtyChick74 said...

LOL! Just because Whoopi Goldberg tells you her skin color is light green are you really going to believe her? Really? Sorry to be harsh but use your eyes and look at the demographics in PR and the DR. Look at the rest of Zoe's family too.

That being said, the title to this post was unnecessarily attention grabbing. The issue is that there are many dark skinned talented actresses that can portray Nina Simone just as well. They can deliver award winning performances. Nina Simone is a dark skinned woman with round features. Zoe is not. The idea is that Zoe was cast to appease (however crudely) white audiences. It happens a lot.

auntliddy said...

Im interested in meeting this arbitor of color- who has the correct amount for what purpose. Completely asine.

Lalaay said...

This is bad casting! She cannot act her way out of a box! I doubt she'll do Nina Justice! But as far as saying she is not black enough, that is as racists as the Hollywood they are condemning. Zoe is a minority in Hollywood, who i'm sure has enough of a problem getting movie roles because she of her skin color, wanting the girl to lose out on a role because of her skin color is perpetuating racist ideologies. This is the kettle/ pot situation!

Layna Day said...

Saldana is also on record saying black actresses should stop whining about the roles they don't get in Hollywood and used President Obama's election as a criteria for that. I'm sorry, I didn't realize we live in a post-racial world now. *sarcasm*

Finally, a good role comes around for a black woman. But it's going to not only someone who isn't black, but to someone who doesn't understands or cares about the struggles of many black actresses.

I could care less about Zoe's complexion. I don't want her to get the role because I think she's an unenlightend hag who's got her preying mantis head stuck up her skinny ass.

Sandy said...

OK, I love Zoe Saldana, and I think this is an attractiveness issue more than a color issue. Beyonce is about a thousand times better looking than Etta James and no one complained about that casting. Reese Witherspoon is a lot prettier than the real June Carter Cash; hell, Meryl Streep, even in heavy makeup, is twenty times better looking than both Julia Child and Margaret Thatcher. In fact, the only person doing a biopic now who is as pretty as the real subject is Naomi Watts as Diana.

Hollywood tends to "pretty up" non-fictional characters (even male ones; I'm sure Brad Pitt is a lot more gorgeous than the real guy in Moneyball). Maybe someone like Viola Davis would have been a better and more accurate choice for Simone, but she's a character actress, which in Hollywood translates as "not that attractive." Unfortunately Angela Bassett is too old for the role now, and Rhianna is a unproven actress and also an unreliable nutjob. Yeah, they could have gone with an unknown actress, but they want to make money. It's Hollywood.

g.strathmore said...

Before things get way off course here, I must point out that Zoe IS black. She is a black Latina, meaning a latina woman of African ancestry, as opposed to a latina woman of European or Amerindian ancestry. She is no less black than Halle Berry. She just happens to have been born in a Spanish speaking country. She is also proud of her ancestry, both that she is latina and that she is black. That said, I would still love to see Viola Davis play this role.

Tru Leigh said...

At least they stopped short of calling her "high yeller".

S.joy said...

My problem with Zoe being cast as the amazing Nina is that she can neither sing nor act. Just my opinion. Also, Zoe does not identify with being black and does not like being viewed as a black woman.

Illyria said...

@g.strathmore

I'm sorry but you're just wrong. Zoe was born in New Jersey and she is full-fledged Latina; one parent is Puerto-Rican, the other Dominican. Maybe she does have some African ancestry but you could almost say that about every Hispanic person. Just because she is dark does not make her black. I'm dark and I'm not black.

@Lalaay You clearly have not been paying attention to the conversation thus far. It's not an issue of color, it's an issue of background and culture. We need to respect African-American culture and have African-American people portrayed by African-Americans.

Oh, and one of Halle Berry's parents was black so you can't equate her with Zoe.

Rogue said...

Thanks @g.strathmore. @illyria and @infinitidream I'm not sure who you are or your background, but there is such a thing as black latino/a people. Just like there are black English people and black Welsh people. My dad is South American and he's black so please do some research before making ignorant statements.

S.joy said...

Interesting point, I can definitely see that being the case. It's pretty sad though.

Illyria said...

@Rogue

I never once said there was no such thing so please don't put words into my mouth. The problem is that @g.strathmore (and maybe you?) are assuming that Zoe is a black latina just because of the way she looks. g.strathmore even incorrectly insinuated that the only reason people think of her as a latina is b/c she was born in a Spanish-speaking, a fact I have since debunked. She is Latina and there is no evidence that she is black. All you have said is that there is such a thing as black latina/o which, again, I have not disputed.

g.strathmore said...

I kind of hate talking about race, because to a large degree it is merely a social construct. However, in so far as society defines white as European ancestry, black as African ancestry, Asian as East, Southeast, or South Asia ancestry, and Amerindian as ancestry of indigenous people of N and S America, then Zoe is black. Puerto Rico is a territory of the US. Puerto Rican is not a race. The Dominican Republic is a Caribbean country. Dominican is not a race. By the way, the Dominican Republic shares its island with Haiti and the people of the DR and Haiti are largely interchangeable looks-wise. You certainly would not say someone of Haitian ancestry, like Garcelle Beauvais, is not black. Why would you say someone of Dominican ancestry is not black?

Illyria said...

Spanish-speaking country*

Illyria said...

@g.strathmore

I never called Puerto-Rican or Dominican a race because as a Latina myself, I know that we are an ethnicity.

But you're right. I concede on the point that if she's Dominican, she's probably (almost definitely) of African descent. As a Mexican-American, I categorize myself under the White/Caucasian race and I forget that the other Hispanic/Latino ethnicities are different.

But I still think the larger point is that there is a cultural divide between African-Americans and Latinos of African descent. There is a cultural barrier there that should be respected.

Sherry said...

Without adressing the issue of race even though that is obviously the point of the post somewhat, I will add to the casting of Viola Davis as a better choice. This is why I want to be a casting director although I fear I'd just be thwarted in my attempts to bring "real" casting to fruition. They chose someone cute and light and who can say if favors were secured for said role. Face it, we're all fed up with this unrealistic crap.

Mango said...

@ g.strathmore - OMG, Viola Davis would be a WONDERFUL choice. I've been a fan of hers since her L&O days, when I didn't even know here name. She might surprise us but I just don't seen Zoe as having the acting chops yet to pull this off.

Jiara Joshua said...

I agree 100%

Lalaay said...

Illyria, thanks for assuming I don't understand! This IS about her color, as is this post! Zoe identifies herself as a BLACK WOMAN, so for anyone else to describe her as not black enough or more Latina than black is ridiculous! So how is that not unfair to her? FYI describing someone as not black enough is describing someone's color.

Amy said...

Well, somebody better get all over the BET for her nominations two years running for best actress, and maybe call up the Black Reel awards too to raise hell.

Irma said...

The issue is that for an artist for whom race/appearance prejudice is a major theme in her work (just look at the lyrics of "Four Women") and avoided the mainstream, it is a huge slap in the face to cast someone who is very light skinned/fine featured/model-looking. It misses the point of what she was talking about.

Personally I don't think Nina Simone would have wanted a movie of her life made, regardless of casting. But if a movie is inevitable, Viola Davis, in terms of acting ability, presence, and appearance is a much better choice.

Dee Lurker said...


Super interesting comments! Did not know all this about Zoe-no wonder she seems so...false to me-I don't get in like for this chic-she should do emma stone/katherin Heigl roles-that I could see.

What about Yaya Johnson (ANTM, etc)-I knew her back in the day-don't think she can act wonderfully, but she has amazing grace and has that "black power" thing on lock down. She would embody Nina's soul, looks aside. And she's rising well in Hwood.

MrWolf said...

I never realized Zoe was black at all until reading the comments for this. I always thought she was a Latina.

I'm stunned that there's a Nina Simone biopic and Zoe got it. I'd figure Beyonce or someone would use their sway to snag the role. Nina's an icon after all.

Sugar said...

I would just like to commend everyone today for proving it's possible to disagree while still showing respect for others opinions. Nice work, everybody!!!

Tiff J said...

Hi, I'm Tiff J, the creator of Coffee Rhetoric. This post was just brought to my attention via Facebook, and I wanted to lend some clarity to a few things.

First and most important re: "The site, Coffee Rhetoric, was the first to bring up the topic and generated the petition."
--I actually was not the *first* person to bring up this topic. The Black independent film website, Shadow and Act was the first to present this information to the public. The site's creator, Tambay A. Obenson initially made mention of the project in April, and he's been keeping tabs on the Nina Simone biopic since then, announcing and *confirming* in August that Zoe, was indeed, slated to play the title role. With that confirmation intact, I merely contributed my two cents (via my blog) about the matter.

"I don't think this is a whitewashing issue. Maybe the producers thought that Zoe was the best for the part. Jennifer Hudson is darker than Zoe Saldana, and I'm sure she was considered and is probably just as big of a box office draw."
-- It *is* a white/light-washing issue. And it's a systemic problem that's been rampant in Hollywood for years. Those politics recently presented themselves in the form of Thandie Newton (who's biracial)being cast as an Igbo woman in a movie based on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's book, "Half of a Yellow Sun" (the character was dark in the book), when another biracial actress was cast to play Harriet Tubman in the Abraham Lincoln Vampire flick, and when director, Lee Daniels (a Black *male* who admitted to having grappled with perpetuating intra-racial discrimination himself) cast actress Paula Patton to play the teacher in "Precious". In "Push" (the book it was adapted from) the teacher had dark skin and dreadlocks...

Tiff J said...

... Colorism/Shadeism (Google it), is a complicated and painful issue that's been rife within communities of color, and is a system of White Supremacy (one doesn't have to be White to perpetuate the tenets of White supremacy) that continues to plague people of color, esp within the Diaspora. Media and entertainment machines like the music and film making industries continuously feed images of what *they* consider to be palatable Black beauty to folks, and they need to be held accountable for it, because it's destructive.

Much of Nina's advocacy and life was spent challenging those systems that told her, that her Afrocentric features, skin, and hair weren't good enough or beautiful enough. To lead with "Zoe Saldana isn't Black enough" derails from the crux of the matter. If you read my blog post, you'd see that I never challenged Zoe's race and acknowledged she was undoubtedly part of the Diaspora. But Zoe (who is Dominican and Puerto-Rican) does not share Nina's phenotype, and neither did Mary J. Blige (who was orig. tapped to play the role). There are a number of other very capable actresses (Jennifer Hudson not being amongst them, as you suggested), who do and could've evoked Nina's legacy, but they went with the palatable choice.

Actresses of color have a difficult enough time navigating the film industry, trying to get parts, but when actresses with darker-skin are pitted against the likes of Halle Berry and Paula Patton, or whatever other racially ambiguous actress who can "pass" as Black, they often lose plum roles and continue to be cast in those ones that tell negative narratives about Black female pathology (maids, the sassy invisible Black friend to the desired other actress, ghetto queen, or mule). Viola Davis touched on this issue during the Newsweek's Oscar roundtable discussion (but was dismissed, as Black women telling their stories often are): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOOS77gowlg

The obvious reasons why Zoe Saldana was cast coupled with the filmmakers taking creative license w/ Nina's story via an inaccurate narrative does not honor the singer's life at all. This is definitely not cool for the generation of young Black woman who grapple with similar issues, have never heard of Nina's story or body of work, and would benefit from it. Zoe Saldana as their point of reference just doesn't fly. Nina Simone wasn't a fictitious character... she was a very REAL person who dealt with very intense problems... racism and colorism amongst them.

--Tiff

luckylass said...

I can certainly see by people that identify themselves as biracial often say have a difficult time feeling accepted by any racial group.

justducky said...

@ Tiff J

Thanks for your comments. I am off to check out your blog.

Actually thanks to everyone for your comments. You guys are the best part of my week.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend!

Himmmm said...

One name =
Three words:

Lauryn Yespossiblybatshit Hill

She could sing it.
But the acting chops to pull that off? Depends on how it is written.
I know I couldn't work with her (but maybe some can).

As a long-time "Sinnerman" myself and disciple of Nina The High Priestess, there's no one really who could nail all of her. If I were directing/producing this I'd test every candidate just like this:

I'd throw the auditioning actress into an old recording studio with five of the REAL jazz/blues/soul greats who knew/played with Nina. Roll tape. Let them play, sing, interact. Nina was a tyrant in the studio and on stage (you can hear and see it even today) - which is why her sidemen loved her, hated her, feared her, adored her - all at once even.

I'd do this over and over with every auditioning actress, despite skin shade (them-thar talking pictures these days can use that newfangled makeup stuff if the lady were otherwise right for the role minus shading ;-)

Any actresses with the best "tape" would then have to read. The finalists of that exercise would then HAVE TO tell me what it would mean to her, to be raised a child in the Southeast US to church parents in that era.

Not what it would mean to the actress, but if she WERE Nina, what would it mean to her? Who cares about historical accuracy? It is the ability to project that soul/faith foundation which would tell you if this actress can "go deep" inside herself and make the camera believe she had LIVED IT (even if the script didn't mention it). The audience would know, just as the camera would.

De Niro once shared a tip: "Talk to the actor. About anything. About the first time their character masturbated; or lost a pet; or anything defining. See if they can convince you they ARE that character. That they lived that life. If you're not buying it in a room, and they seem full of shit? The camera and audience won't buy it either. It'll seem hollow and fake".

Back to casting:
If any actress can make it through all those hurdles, then have them sing "I Put A Spell On You" at the piano - and let David Bowie cast his vote too (he was a pal of Nina's for years).

If ANY actress...ANY actress(of ANY color or origin) can then pass all of those tests? She'll deserve the Oscar, Grammy, and everything else she'll certainly win.

Which is probably a good idea I'm not making this film, and why my better half is far superior in these types of decisions.

Whomever the actress is that gets the role? Good luck. 'Tis not only a role - 'tis a legend.

tamarind said...

love nina simone

sabrina said...

@Tiff J thank you for so gracefully articulating the heart of the issue here. This was never about Zoe specifically, but the idea of a "palatable" black representation (read: non-threatening and white friendly) being presented to the mainstream audience to the detriment of a healthy representation of a black woman with darker skin and more traditionally "african features" as being beautiful

sabrina said...

@Himmm much love to you, but I hope you were joking in suggesting "shading" for those who wouldn't be dark enough. There's a word for that and a good reason why we try not to do that anymore

Himmmm said...

@TIFF:

THANK YOU for joining in and explaining your position and feelings. I respect that you feel that way, although I myself may not agree with all of your points from my perspective after approx. 40 yrs. in this insane biz. (Just as I'm sure you may not agree with mine). Thank you for sharing it with us just the same.

Although I only speak for myself, I want to welcome you and hope you return to our little dysfunctional family circus here. We're really quite sweet and kind (as long as we're not fed after dark or gotten wet!). And we only argue with one another on days that end in "Y".
;-)

Himmmm said...

Yes, sabrina - that's my reflective sarcasm. Besides, no one would EVER use shading in this modern era anyway (like Jolson). (But I DO hear that some actors have used radical surgery to alter their skin color to perform satire in a comedy. *COUGH* or so I've heard)!

Yes dear, it was only satire. But in all seriousness? I'm shocked that these days there are so few who have ever heard of Paul Robeson (or his talent or struggles). THE greatest entertainer to ever live. Period.

FlirtyChick74 said...

@Tiff: Thank you for summarizing this issue so succinctly. I'm off to look at your site! :-)

Brenda L said...

It's just sad that it's 2012 and race is still such an issue. I used to think "oh it will get better as the older generation dies off" but it's not...seems like things are getting WORSE.

feraltart said...

I hope a great little Aussie movie called The Sapphires does really well overseas so people can see you can have beautiful dark skinned women address themes of racism in a really well-structured, entertaining, thought-provoking film. Can you tell I saw it yesterday and loved it? Also, Viola Davis is a magnificent actress whom I had the pleasure of seeing in the play Fences. I also agree that the lack of representation of all races and shapes in movies makes for a lesser experience for the movie going public.

Sherry said...

Well as an NC girl I am certainly aware of Paul Robeson. The theatre at UNC-CH is named for him for a damn good reason although we are keenly aware of how he found much more fame in Europe. Now THERE would be an excellent biopic and there are certainly wonderful AA opera singers who could do him justice. Ah my dream of correct casting continues.

Thank you Tiff for your insightful post. You have done us a great honor.

Right now off to make a dish from the ancient history of white people. That's right folks. Tuna Noodle Casserole.

warmislandsun said...

What about Anika Noni Rose? She's a great actress and singer. Maybe too young looking? No one is going to look just like Nina and be able to sound like her, too.

As for Zoe - I always thought she and Vanessa Hudgens could be the same person, they look so alike to me.

g.strathmore said...

The more I think about this, the more I want Viola to do it! This would be such a juicy role for her. She completely immerses herself in her characters no matter how small. She has said that she writes pages and pages about the life of her characters imagining every little detail. They can get someone else to dub over the singing parts if they have to - not ideal I know. But it's hard to think of a better movie for Viola to shine.

S.joy said...

Thank you so much for your explanation! You really got to the point of the matter and expressed it beautifully.

Jayne Birkin said...

I don't have a problem with Zoe Saldana, there are Latinas all over the Americas who descended from slaves. But she will have to gain some weight to play Nina Simone. Nina wasn't a beanpole and she was proud of her curves. I assume they will dub Nina's distinctive voice for the movie, just as JLo was dubbed with Selena's voice.

SugarCoatedBitch said...

Viola Davis.

Zoe is lovely. She made a great alien. She doesn't have the chops to pull this off. Unless she s an amazing mimic like Jamie Foxx, she won't do this role justice.

If Zoe was an award winning actress, who had proven she could sing like Simone (remember, Jamie was an aspiring singer, not an actor), then people might be inclined to accept her. But all we see is a pretty face with no depth.

Hell, as a Black woman and Nina Simone fan, I'd rather see Meryl Streep play the role than Zoe!

So, give Tito the woman the great Streep heaved praise on when she won the Golden Globe. The woman she insinuated should've been on the stage instead of her:

Viola Davis.

SugarCoatedBitch said...

*...give IT TO the woman

All about Eve said...

So are African Americans the only black people in this world?? I'm with you on the casting, but not because she's not black, clearly she is black!! That's her skin color! That's her race, her ethnicity is Latino but she is black. With that being said, an African American would be better suited and it should be someone who can sing and do justice to this incredible woman.

All about Eve said...

I completely agree! Nina is not a made up character, she was a real person that deserves to be portrayed accurately.

All about Eve said...

Viola Davis would be amazing in this role. I've seen her in so many movies and completely different characters and she always does a great job. She really disappears into her roles.

fancyscreenname said...

U r so funny. ;-)

Barton Fink said...

As usual, this has been a thoughtful and classy discussion board! And, as usual, I'm the most vulgar person here. But still, this is an important thing and I'm glad we all could discuss this.

Tuxedo Cat said...

I think Alicia Keys would do well.

zeldafitzgerald said...

Can't we get someone good? I don't care if she's blue, but can't we get someone good?

CG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CG said...

It's well known that Zoe Saldana disregards Black people and will not admit she's black. (And fuck you with that "she's mostly Latina/Hispanic bullshit - She's Black)

She feels she's too good to identify with who she is unless she's getting paid to do it so fuck her. Why would any self-respecting Black person want to pay watch someone Black, who dislikes Blacks, play a Black person who was a beloved member of the Black community.

And yes, fuck you again if you:

A. Try to bring up some stupid-ass "reverse racism" asinine reasoning

B. Try to say "it's just about the acting" - because you and I both know that is bullshit

C. FUCK Zoe Saldana's self-hating ass.

Ari said...

They're trying to give Zoe an Oscar nod

auntliddy said...

Yeah, i dont get depp as tonto. Not saying he wont do usual great job, but he isnt native american. Now when people say tonto wasnt treated right in movies and tv shiw , i dint get that. I watched as little girl. Tonoto was the cool one. He saved the rangers life, he knows all cool survival tools., ranger usually defers to his judgement, and almost every episode has tonto riding in at 11th hour to rescue ranger. Tonto was the man!!!!!!!

g.strathmore said...

@auntliddy, I agree. As much respect as Johnny Depp says he has for the character, it really should be a native american playing it, particularly because it's so hard for them to find roles in the first place. Plus, for the last several years, I feel like Depp has basically been playing the same character over and over in different costumes. It's just various versions of his Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas character. If his Tonto ends up being a weird guy a little high on peyote, I'm going to be really annoyed.

Benita said...

Black people from Puerto Rico and The Dominican Republic are also descended from the same African slaves who were brought to the Americas. They are not indigenous to those islands or to South America, so Zoe does refer to herself as "negrita" or black and she has every right to do so.

Benita said...

People also criticized Jennifer Lawrence's casting in THG because Katniss is described as having olive skin.

MrWolf said...

@Tiff - Thanks for coming in to give us a real insight into your point.

I definitely think you raise alot of interesting and important issues.

@Himmmm - Lauryn Hill would be an awesome choice and I'm pretty sure she's a huge nina simone fan (she referenced her in a few of her songs), but I think her legal problems with the taxman might disqualify her.

Now that Tiff mentions it, it's pretty hard for me to think of a dark skinned actress. Actors, yes, but actresses? There don't seem to be alot, except for Viola Davis.

Tiff J said...

@Himmmm: I appreciate the welcome. I haven't read all of the comments as I only came to clear up some things regarding the post, and have only scanned a few, but from what I've gleaned, this seems like a decent enough crowd, with a lot of insightful things to offer.
I def appreciate the fact that you're a showbiz veteran. I admittedly, am not "in the know" as it were, as far as the mechanics of the Hollywood machine. I'm a freelance writer and Blogger and have been a brown-skinned Black-American woman my entire life, and so have a clear understanding about the politics of Colorism... even when the system carries itself out covertly, as it does in the entertainment industry and media in general. I've written about image as it relates to women of the Diaspora. We *def* recognize the signs and feel the pangs, when these things are being perpetrated against us. :-) .

@All about Eve: "So are African Americans the only black people in this world?? "
--Clearly, we're aware that we aren't. Trust me, we *know* that the Diaspora spans the spectrum. Once again, this is not an affront to Zoe's race or acting fortitude. It's about the erasure of Nina Simone's *Afrocentric* aesthetic and the dishonoring of her legacy.

Everyone else: I think casting a relative unknown would be a great start... possibly Adepero Oduye, who did an amazing job in "Pariah". Not only does she favor Nina a great deal, she's proven that she has the acting chops. Lauryn Hill would also be an amazing choice.
However, considering Cynthia Mort has opted to tell a distorted and inaccurate re-telling of an aspect of Nina Simone's life (and willfully opted not to consult with Nina's daughter Simone or reach out to Nina's estate), I'll go a step further and say I'd like to see Adepero and Lauryn play Nina, under the direction of someone else entirely... acting from a completely different script written by someone else.

--Tiff

Tiff J said...
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Tiff J said...

P.S., This is why it's important for Black filmmakers and artists (*other than* Tyler Perry) to continue to work steadily and pool their resources towards building its own infrastructure, so these sorts of narratives can be told with integrity, instead of *needing* to rely on Hollywood executives and the conditional terms that come with their financial resources... particularly as they relate to casting Black actresses.

While production qualities aren't always good, I admire the fact that the Nigerian film industry (aka Nollywood) took film making matters into their own hands, and created their own industry (the SECOND largest in the world), to tell THEIR stories, creating stars and Director icons, in the process. And this is why it's important for Black *film goers*, to support the efforts of movements like AFFRM (http://www.affrm.com/), which was spearheaded by Ava DuVernay, who was the first Black Female director to win a Best Director award at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

This would would be a welcome start towards progress, but it certainly shouldn't let the film making industry off the hook with how they disregard Black actresses with dark skin.

Chismosa Street said...

I think Indie Arie would be perfect for the role. I'm just not sure if she could act.

dizzyeggs said...

i don't care either way, but i would like to see more normal/interesting looking people cast in everything. tired of ken/barbie's with their plastic bits

Himmmm said...

@TIFF: you are welcome, and I can see your position vividly. (And do not discount being a film critic/analyst - most philosophers did similar work in their eras).

@auntliddy & g.strathmore:
For the record Johnny is part Native American. Cherokee and/or Seminole (from my understanding). I'm sure there's beaucoups references online saying this, and I've not personally heard him explain it to me, but I recall it being fairly accepted fact. As for the % and so forth - and who qualifies for what terms? Not my expertise. Obviously he's not Iron Eyes Cody...but it won't be like Larry David playing Sitting Bull either.

For those who elect to say "It is not about the acting"?
From YOUR seat it may not be, but if the chops are absent you'll know it rapidly. Remember my friends, it is ALWAYS about "the acting". These are films/TV/stage - not virtual reality impersonators trying to BE Nina Simone forever. So yes, in the end, it boils down to the acting. Now as to whether their similarity "traits" make their acting more or less accepted by an audience? It ALSO does matter very much indeed.

If not? ANY Julia Child impersonator could have done what Streep had done. Ditto for ANY mimic vs. actor in any biopic role. You CAN have a "similar looking" actor/actress do a great job and own the role. But you can also have a "dead ringer" in looks/sound/manners who cannot act well enough to sell it and it comes off "fake".

It really is interesting to me to see how others hold varied ideas of what constitutes various benchmarks to "qualify" for a category. Even the Census does this. I find it a tad ironic that in this modern world, with humanity supposedly evolving into the global "melting pot" - that the more we "melt", the more it seems racial/cultural/ethnic identity becomes an issue. But from those staking claims to their racial/ethnic ID instead of disavowing it.

It is almost as if the greater the generic homogenization and assimilation, the more often it seems that people WANT (or even NEED) to identify with a group, class, race, culture, etc. in order to belong to an ordered group. Maybe this is a coping skill for modern survival? Pack mentality for self-perpetuation?

From an observational standpoint it IS interesting to notice. Perhaps this is what we need - not to "fit in" somewhere - but to stake a claim that we are NOT willing to melt into the vast generic lemming pot. Maybe it is a way to say:" I am SPECIAL or DIFFERENT!".

I recall when my eldest son decided he wanted to "rebel", he got so frustrated trying to find some way to prove to me that he was NOT like all the other tatted, Vans-wearing, McPunk-Mall-Skaters rebelling against his Dad & Mom.

I recall the conversation going something like this:
Damnit Dad! I AM a rebel! I swear to it - I AM A NONCONFORMIST!!

Yes, son. You sure are a Non-conformist. Just like all the others.


The fact is - it seems we ALL want to belong somewhere. In the church of choice, a book club, S&M club, ethnic group, or union. Sorry Tiff - and others - but I still could not begin to quantify definitions for inclusions based on % or skin tones, or other factors. I'm not qualified to judge in that regards.

Still, it seems as if all humanity wants to "fit in" somewhere. Well, except for maybe Enty.
Just the lone Enty...and the Unabomber. They're their own group for sure! :-)

g.strathmore said...

@Himmmm, Iron Eyes Cody wasn't native american. He was a white guy who made a living playing native americans.

g.strathmore said...

@Himmmm, this is from Depp's wikipedia page:

Nick Barratt, a researcher for the BBC genealogical TV program Who Do You Think You Are?, stated in 2011 he had traced Depp's family name, Deppes, to 14th-century French Huguenots living in England. Depp has surmised that he is part Native American, saying in 2011, "I guess I have some Native American [in me] somewhere down the line. My great-grandmother was quite a bit of Native American, she grew up Cherokee or maybe Creek Indian. Makes sense in terms of coming from Kentucky, which is rife with Cherokee and Creek."

I don't mean to sound cynical, but that doesn't sound too native american to me.

Coriander Shea said...

...perhaps the Native American was on his mother's side?

g.strathmore said...

@Coriander Shea, LOL! His mother was born Betty Sue Wells, but I suppose it's possible.

I was more trying to point out 1)that Depp is not even sure what Indian nation he belongs to and 2)the ubiquitous Cherokee great grandmother. I wish I had a dollar for ever odd bird that showed up to a military memorial event claiming to have a Cherokee great grandmother. (Side note: there is a weird overlap of patriotism and native american fetishism in America. Someone should write a paper.)

I also supposedly have a Cherokee or part-Cherokee great grandmother. No joke. It's in my family lore, too. But I think it would be disingenuous for either me or Johnny Depp to call himself native american.

Coriander Shea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Call me yndy... said...

Litmus test: would Zoe Saldana be cast as Janis Joplin? No? Because she looks nothing like her and can't sing the part?

When casting for someone who is real and visually notable, trying to get both talent and a similar enough look that you aren't being distracted by the striking differences makes sense,

I love Zoe. Loved Liz Taylor, too. Cleopatra shouldn't have been a pale white Gal. Even as a Hellenic Egyptian? So far from belivable it was just Elizabeth Taylor in bad wig.

It's okay to "tweak" a fictional character - but would you rather see Daniel Day Lewis as Lincon, or Brad Pitt? Because they can both act, but one is good casting...

g.strathmore said...

I know I keep going with the Depp/Tonto thing. Coriander, I think you're right that Depp could probably sort of pull off LOOKING native american, but I just know he's going to do the same spacey, kooky character he's been doing since 1998 and I'm going to be pissed. Tonto should be a badass with gravitas. I don't think Depp can pull that off. I actually think someone like Danny Trejo would be cool. They'd have to makeup over his tats, but I think he could do it.

Jennifer H. said...

There's no way Nina's skintone wasn't an important part of how she was seen, treated, and judged. The experiences she had shaped her, the same way everyone else's experiences matter to them. To cast someone with a significantly lighter skintone and more European facial features does the story of Nina Simone's life a disservice.

What's next? Maybe Beyonce can play Harriet Tubman? If they were to make a movie about Zoe Saldana's life ten years from now, perhaps they should cast Dakota Fanning?

Gwyneth Paltrow should play Dolly Parton. With no "enhancements."

Ariel said...

Well said. Thank you for your clear and powerful words.

ayomi imoya said...

Singer Ledisi would be an inspired casting choice.
Period. The End.

Iwinjen said...

Obama is NOT the first black president because he is not black enough.

Newborn said...

@Iwinjen: Bill Clinton was the first black president. (Burn!)

Anyway, it would seem to me that when the facial features and body shape of the individual completely "colored" her upbringing and informed her life choices and struggles, these identifiers shouldn't be dismissed in casting. Her appearance was integral to her legacy. (And I definitely don't want to see anyone wearing prosthetic anything in order to "look" the part.)

Tiff J makes a good point, that she isn't on board with the production anyway, because the director has chosen to "distort?" some piece of Simone's life and didn't consult her daughter as to its accuracy. Tiff J and many others are likely going to ignore this film for this reason and not go see it. The problem with this is that "Hollywood" can then use that once again as confirmation that films for/about black people don't perform well and that their funding/production choices are merely a function of economics--they won't fund the films because they don't make money. It's a fallacy that's been perpetuated since, well, since they had to find an excuse as to why they didn't make films about/starring black folk. So there's your Catch-22: support a film you object to in order to compel Hollywood to keep making films starring people of color (whether or not the end product is good or dough-worthy), or ignore the film on principal because it lacks credibility and only serves to perpetuate the very issues you're fighting against (and, ironically, the issues the subject herself fought against).

I also agree with Himmmm, however, that if the person on screen doesn't have the acting chops (proven or raw talent) to embody the historical figure and inhabit her life convincingly, the end result will not satisfy audiences, regardless of her hue.

On that other topic: My mother got her DNA tested, partly to "confirm" her Cherokee heritage and quiet the non-believers (because, as someone said above, everyone has a Native American ancestor, right?). It's so funny, the phenotypes people associate with Native Americans. For the most part, they've been Anglicized/Westernized as well. I have high cheekbones and people say it's the Cherokee in me. But seriously, folks. Look at the historical photographs of the Cherokee. You're going to have to find the reason for your protruding cheekbones elsewhere.

Sometimes I feel as though this melting pot has turned to sludge. But maybe that's just when I'm in a dour mood.

Tatyana said...

@Jennifer H. said...
"There's no way Nina's skintone wasn't an important part of how she was seen, treated, and judged. The experiences she had shaped her, the same way everyone else's experiences matter to them. To cast someone with a significantly lighter skintone and more European facial features does the story of Nina Simone's life a disservice."

That's a very powerful argument, for gay men never ever being cast as straight romantic leads, or for outlawing all historic movies.

Robin the Mad Photographer said...

Damn, I should I should have checked back on this thread again yesterday...

Anyway, Nick Barratt & the BBC are either talking out of their collective ass, or don't know what they were talking about, because while it was quite possible to be French and living in England during the 14th century, it was NOT possible to be a French Huguenot at that time...because Huguenots were Protestants, and the Reformation didn't even get started until the 15th century, and didn't really take off until the 16th! Either the century or the religion is off, which makes me wonder just how accurate their research on the rest of JD's family tree--not to mention all the other celebrities they've done--really is.

FWIW, my family does have some Native American blood on my mother's side that we know about: a native woman from Maine who was married to one Day ancestor (not sure about her tribe, but I think I can safely say it wasn't Cherokee...) in the late 18th/early 19th century, and some alleged eastern MA/RI Wampanoag that we can't prove (short of a DNA test, which I'd love to do if I had the money), but which has been a family legend for 300+ years. My great-grandfather Guy Day was born only a few generations apart from the native woman (I hate to keep saying that, but the records don't even include her name; she's just listed as "Indian"), and you can definitely see his ancestry in his photos; he was very dark olive-skinned w/black hair and dark eyes, and was, God help us, as a young man in lily-white upstate NH, nicknamed "N______ Day" as a result. (My grandmother & mom both favor(ed) him greatly looks-wise; when my mom was young, people who didn't know her actually thought she might be a war bride, since with her olive skin, high cheekbones and very sharp dark eyes, she looked more "exotic" than what was usually seen in those parts.) Still, though, while we do have the ancestry, it's far enough back and diluted enough w/the rest of my generic British Isles mongrel background that I wouldn't presume any kind of tribal privilege, and I look way too much like my English/Irish dad to even think about trying to pass. All just my $.02 worth...