BET founder Bob Johnson has stepped forward to defend Zoe Saldana’s role in the forthcoming biopic, Nina. Johnson company, RLJ Entertainment will release the film, and he’s encourages fans to see the finished product before passing judgement.
Johnson’s feelings could be a bit biased given the possible financial motivation. Still, he attempts to convince fans that Saldana’s prosthetic nose and caked on makeup shouldn’t detract from an “exceptional and mesmerizing tribute.”
“She gave her heart and soul to the role and displayed her extraordinary talent,” Johnson said in a statement Thursday (March 3). “The most important thing is that creativity or quality of performance should never be judged on the basis of color, or ethnicity, or physical likeness.”
As The Grio reports, many feel that Nina Simone’s complexion and distinct features were as much apart of her story as the music for which she is known. Per Miriam J. Petty, an assistant professor at Northwestern University, if skin color wasn’t an issue “Then why put Zoe Saldana in brown-face makeup?”
Also, the response to the first trailer from Nina doesn’t fit with Johnson’s praise of Saldana’s acting performance. Some would argue that the clip looked more like a half-hearted impersonation, versus Saldana actually becoming the character.
If here’s any positive note it’s that fans may be able to look past the bad make-up job, less than powerful singing, and Saldana’s interpretation of Simone’s voice, to judge the movie as a whole (David Oyelowo is likely to giving a good performance as Simone’s assistant, Clifton Henderson).
Simone’s daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, has empathizes with Saldana. “It’s unfortunate that Zoe Saldana is being attacked so viciously when she is someone who is part of a larger picture,” she said. “It’s clear she brought her best to this project, but unfortunately she’s being attacked when she’s not responsible for any of the writing or the lies.”
Nina will be released April 22, in theaters and through video on demand.