Zoe Saldana covers this month Monarch magazine and is opening up about her portrayal of Nina Simone in the biopic Nina. The film premiered at this years Cannes Film Festival, on the heels of  lawsuit filed by director Cynthia Mort claiming its British production company has hijacked the film. In Saladan’s interview with Monarch, she discusses why she wanted the role, as well as addressing her critics.

Here are some highlights:

Playing the late, great Nina Simone, what inspired you to do a project like this?

Zoe Saldana: Nina was a true genius and an iconic artist. It was a dream job for me. It’s one of the scariest projects I’ve ever been involved with because it was about an iconic figure, and there were so many political [issues] around it from the beginning; but I really wanted it to be a love song to Nina Simone and I wanted it to just come from a place of absolute love. I loved the complexity of Nina and her beauty that she expressed with her music. I wanted to do right by her and knew it would be challenging. I feel so blessed to have such an amazing opportunity to play a true legend.


How did the controversy about you playing Nina affect you?

ZS: The Nina Simone story needed to be told, and I’m really blessed that I did it. I’m human. I wish I was made of steel and so certain things wouldn’t affect me. So it did affect me but I couldn’t let that deter me from doing what I needed to do. Just like everybody else I feel very strongly about Nina Simone, and that [this] was a story that needed to be told. I do believe that if everybody had more information about how this all came to be, it might help; but then again, I’m not here to get the acceptance of everyone – I’m here to be an artist first. Hopefully people will enjoy the film and I helped shed some light on this amazing iconic.

Do you feel like your heritage and ethnicity is always questioned?

ZS: I find it uncomfortable to have to speak about my identity all of the time, when in reality it’s not something that drives me or wakes me up out of bed every day. I didn’t grow up in a household where I was categorized by my mother. I was just Zoe and I could have and be anything that I ever wanted to do … and every human being is the same as you. So to all of a sudden leave your household and have people always ask you, “What are you? What are you?” is the most uncomfortable question sometimes and it’s literally the most repetitive question. Because I can’t wait to be in a world where people are sized by their soul and how much they can contribute as individuals and not what they look like … I feel like as a race, that’s a minute problem against the problems we face just as women versus men, in a world that’s more geared and designed to cater towards the male species.

The full interview can be read here.

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  • smiles

    so sad…

  • Cyndi

    So the gender problem is a greater problem for her than being black? Her publicist really needs to help her in interviews. Second problem: Nina’s race DID drive her out of bed in the morning and drove her to write great songs. Zoe says that is not the case with her. Proof she is the wrong woman to play Nina.

  • Secret87

    Black face I wouldn’t ever do….this is awful.

    Blacks now have to make sure in their wills that if someone is to play their part…

    1) That who ever plays them don’t require black face and fake noses
    2) If the person is a actual black that a black person should play them as well
    3) Family must be part of the movie making and have the final say
    4) Make sure you have all rights to any poems,songs, ect and transfer them to family

    They don’t really do this to black men. When famous black men are played no one is calling up Sinbad with some black paint and afro wig.

    Zoe played a alien really well, but playing someones life….a big no no.

    • Dema

      Actually, Spike Lee did it with Malcolm X. Denzel is nowhere near the same complexion. And the fact that Malcolm was light-skinned (or really had white blood) was a huge issue for his mother and to a lesser extent him.

  • vintage3000

    The best thing to come out of this farce is that there is a feature length documentary in the works about Nina Simone’s life. Nina Simone’s daughter and Radical Media are working together to tell her mother’s story accurately.

    Zoe has taken a page from the white feminist’s manual; to pretend racism does not exist and cry ‘we’re all women in this together’ when she needs backup. This is the SAME woman who defiantly stated how we are in a post-racial America, and her exact quote “how the f— can anyone say there is racism in this country when my president is a Black man?” She probably will never have an interview with any Black media re: this garbage she calls a movie.

  • dtshowme

    She looks like a complete fool in that pic.