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.