All Articles Tagged "Zoe Saldana"

We Need To Stop Policing How Black People Choose To Identify Themselves

March 8th, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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ebony march 2015

You know what has been grinding my gears lately? This obsession some people have with trying to tell individuals who are biracial, of Afro-Latin descent, or any other ethnicity across the diaspora that they’re out here living fraudulently if they don’t solely identify as one thing or another.

I remember first feeling a major tinge of discomfort about this when a series was done in 2012 about Afro-Latino entertainers, including Christina Milian, Laz Alonso, Tatyana Ali (Panamanian and Trinidadian) and Soledad O’Brien. I remember one of the comments I came across read something like, “Everybody wants to be everything but Black. SMH.” At that moment I thought to myself, did they say they weren’t Black?

I’ve noticed these type of comments and conversations are still quite prevalent, and a new debate about it surfaced just this morning.

Gabi “GabiFresh” Gregg, plus-size style blogger and fashion designer, covered EBONY‘s March 2016 issue, which features a “Body Brigade” — full-figured Black women in all their glory, also including actress Danielle Brooks, and singers Chrisette Michele, and Jazmine Sullivan. While many were excited about the cover, someone questioned why GabiFresh would be on the cover of a magazine targeted to the Black community when she allegedly goes out of her way to identify as biracial. She responded with this on Twitter:


I could only think to myself that the fact that one has to proclaim publicly that they love their Blackness (which is never a bad thing) to combat claims that they don’t because they choose to acknowledge who birthed them, or their nationality, is tired. With a capital T.

But, again, it’s an ever-present part of the conversation. Like back before everyone was claiming Zendaya as their “boo,” and were, instead, saying that she wasn’t qualified to play Aaliyah in that awful Aaliyah Lifetime biopic because she’s biracial. And how could one forget all the shade Beyoncé received for the Loreal ad where, while sharing her heritage, she didn’t just say African-American, but also Native American and French. People accused her, because of the ad, the affinity for blond weave, and accusations of bleached skin, of not fully claiming the community she markets herself toward. And then there’s Zoe Saldana.

Many of the critiques I see of Saldana, including in the wake of the Nina Simone biopic controversy, is that not only do her features not match Simone whatsoever, but as a woman who allegedly doesn’t even claim herself as Black, but rather, Latina, she doesn’t need to play the musician and civil rights activist.

You could possibly blame it on the fact that, frustrated with being asked about “what” she is in every interview, Saldana tried to say in 2013 that there is no such thing as “people of color” because nobody is truly White or Black in skin tone. But for the most part, Saldana has always made it clear that she’s Black and proud:

“When I go to the D.R., the press in Santo Domingo always asks, ‘¿Qué te consideras, dominicana o americana?’ (‘What do you consider yourself, Dominican or American?’) I don’t understand it, and it’s the same people asking the same question. So I say, time and time again, ‘Yo soy una mujer negra.’ (‘I am a black woman.’) [They go,] ‘Oh, no, tú eres trigueñita.’ (‘Oh no, you are ‘dark skinned’) I’m like, ‘No! Let’s get it straight, yo soy una mujer negra.’ (‘I am a black woman’).”

But she’s made it clear that she’s also Latina and proud:

“I am proud to be Latina,” Saldana said. “I will not accept [anyone] telling me that I’m less or whatever, because to me, that is just hysterical.”

And yet and still, she is criticized for not going the either or route, which says that you need to identify by what people see you as, and not who you really know you are.

I can’t, but in some ways can imagine how frustrating that is. I deal with my own issues of double consciousness as a Black woman born here in the States with a mother from Texas and a father from Nigeria. Which is half the reason why when people ask “what” I am, I might respond, scared to say the wrong thing, “My dad is Nigerian,” to which many Nigerians will respond, “So, you’re Nigerian.” I have had hesitancy about outright saying I’m Nigerian, because, at times when I have done so, I’ve been met with, “Really? You don’t look Nigerian.” And in conversations about issues affecting Black Americans, I sometimes have to remind people that is what I identify as most. I may have gone to Nigeria a few times, worn traditional clothing, like the music, know how to cook the food and know a little Bini, but at the end of the day, I was born here, relate to the struggles of people living here, and will turn up my face when someone says “I find that Blacks here” as if they’re special and oh so different because they were born elsewhere.

I say all that to say that identity conversations suck. It sucks to try and embrace who you are and have people say or think that you’re making an attempt to deny another part of who you are. And when you don’t speak on it, it also sucks to have people tell you that you never “claim” who you are. There are way too many people out here trying to define Blackness, Whiteness, Africanness and whatever else you can think of, and it’s exhausting. You should be able to proud of every aspect of yourself, and be able to speak openly about how those parts of you impact your existence without someone cringing about it or saying you only talk about that part of you when it’s beneficial. How can someone tell you who you really are?

Skin tones, last names and the like are important parts of who we are; it’s how people label us, figure out where we come from and more. However, they aren’t all we are. All of the women mentioned, and all of you, are complex women of color, a mixed bag of ethnicities and identities, and more, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, Michaela Angela Davis said it best: “What’s so frustrating to me is that I feel like we have this inability to imagine ourselves as being complex and black…having complex stories, and complex complexions and still holding our blackness inside of that. One of the things that makes us so incredible is this amazing bouquet of colors.”


Stop Blaming Zoe Saldana For Your Issues With ‘Nina’

March 6th, 2016 - By Ashley Monaé
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When I first heard that actress Zoe Saldana would be the star of the upcoming biopic Nina, about the late iconic singer and activist Nina Simone, I was a bit confused. Like many, I couldn’t fathom why they’d prefer someone who would have to wear Blackface and prosthetic nose and teeth? Was there no other actresses deserving of such a role that was dark-skinned? But I soon after hearing the controversy over the widely criticized film and its star, I came to notion that Zoe Saldana isn’t the one who people should be side-eyeing or blaming for their issues with the film from the casting to the story itself, which has been said to falsely depict a romantic affair between Simone and her assistant Clifton Henderson, played by David Oyelowo.

Earlier this week, Saldana quoted Simone on Twitter with the singer’s official estate and legacy account replied, “Cool story but please take Nina’s name out of your mouth? For the rest of your life.”

Really, y’all? This is when I realized that the backlash had gone all wrong. While Simone’s brother Sam Waymon thinks Zoe Saldana should have “thought a thousand times” before taking on the role of the singing legend,  Nina’s sister offered kinder words.

“It’s unfortunate that Zoe Saldana is being attacked so viciously when she is someone who is part of a larger picture. 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.”

“The movie is about a relationship between my mother and Clifton (Simone’s manager whom Kelly noted was a gay man) which never took place. They never had an amorous relationship. The project has been tainted from the very beginning. Clearly, it is not the truth about my mother’s life and everyone now knows that. This is not how you want your loved ones remembered.”

It’s certain that maybe Saldana wasn’t the right woman for this role, but I do believe that as a working actress in Hollywood, she did take on this role with the goal of highlighting a cultural icon in the Black community. Regardless of her mixed ethnic heritage (Puerto Rican and Dominican Republic) I believe she shouldn’t have been heavily criticized and attacked — even if people felt that she wasn’t “Black enough” or whatever. I mean, so what would have happened if they would have cast a white woman instead? Of course, I’m still a bit uneasy about the Blackface and fake nose, but it’s not as much of a so-called stretch as the story line.

 “Zoe Saldana delivers an exceptional and mesmerizing tribute to Nina Simone.  She gave her heart and soul to the role and displayed her extraordinary talent,” Robert L. Johnson, better known as Bob Johnson, founder of BET as well as RLJ Entertainment, the company that acquired the rights to distribute Nina last fall, said. “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. Quality entertainment should be measured by the sheer force of creativity and the commitment that an actor or actress brings to the performance.”

I agree and I still plan to see the movie regardless of what people say and the bad taste it has already put in people’s mouth. What about you? What are your thoughts on Saldana’s role as Nina Simone?

“She’s Not Responsible:” Nina Simone’s Daughter Comes To Zoe Saldana’s Defense

March 4th, 2016 - By Brande Victorian
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Nina-posterIn the midst of the Nina Simone biopic controversy, the last person we’d expect to see come to the defense of Zoe Saldana, who’s been heavily criticized for essentially wearing Blackface in the film and dishonoring the singer’s legacy, is Simone’s daughter. But that’s exactly who spoke out against critics of the actress in an interview with TIME magazine yesterday.

Asked how she felt watching the trailer for the film which was released Wednesday, Simone’s 53-year-old daughter Simone Kelly said: “I really didn’t feel much of anything except for poor Zoe.”

That response is far different from that of Nina Simone’s official Twitter account which two days ago basically told Saldana to keep the musician’s name out of her mouth.

Kelly said she was unaware of the tweet before TIME brought it to her attention and she doesn’t agree with the slight toward Saldana at all.

“It’s unfortunate that Zoe Saldana is being attacked so viciously when she is someone who is part of a larger picture. 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.

“The movie is about a relationship between my mother and Clifton (Simone’s manager whom Kelly noted was a gay man) which never took place. They never had an amorous relationship. The project has been tainted from the very beginning. Clearly, it is not the truth about my mother’s life and everyone now knows that. This is not how you want your loved ones remembered.”

Kelly stated she and her family hired family friend Aaron Overfield to manage Nina Simone’s official website and Facebook page years ago, but it’s unclear who’s responsible for Tuesday’s tweets. And although Kelly has made it clear she and her family are “not upset with Zoe,” she doesn’t believe Saldana was a “proper choice, appearance-wise.”

“There are many superb actresses of color who could more adequately represent my mother and could bring her to the screen with the proper script, the proper team and a sense of wanting to bring the truth of my mother’s journey to the masses. And Nina, in my opinion, doesn’t do any of that.

“I’m no longer bothered by it because the truth is already out there. I don’t have to justify, define or educate anybody about my mother anymore. It’s a wonderful feeling. I’m free in a way that I have never been before.”

Bob Johnson, Founder of BET, Comes To Zoe Saldana’s Defense Amid Nina Backlash

March 3rd, 2016 - By Veronica Wells
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Founder of BET Comes To Zoe Saldana's Defense feat

It’s very likely that yesterday wasn’t the best day in Zoe Saldana’s professional career. Yesterday, we saw the trailer for Nina, the Nina Simone biopic. And basically, it wasn’t good. The makeup was off, causing her to look, as my friend put it, “muddy.” For a lot of people, it confirmed what many of us feared. That the very features Nina Simone was bold enough to celebrate in herself became a mockery in the film that was meant to honor her.

The backlash was rampant on the internet. But it all came to a head, when the verified Twitter account for Simone’s estate and legacy tweeted this.


This is the very reason I felt so badly writing about the trailer. It is clear that Saldana was not the woman for this role. But I also think she signed up for the project with the intent to honor a Black cultural icon. And now the very people who belong to the same culture that Simone sought to both represent and uplift are dogging her all on social media. That has to be hurtful.

There is one person who is coming to her defense though. And that’s Robert L. Johnson, better known as Bob Johnson, founder of BET as well as RLJ Entertainment. RLJ Entertainment just so happens to be the company that acquired the rights to distribute Nina last fall. After all of the backlash Saldana received, Johnson issued this statement.

 “Zoe Saldana delivers an exceptional and mesmerizing tribute to Nina Simone.  She gave her heart and soul to the role and displayed her extraordinary talent.   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.  Quality entertainment should be measured by the sheer force of creativity and the commitment that an actor or actress brings to the performance.  We are proud to distribute the film headlined by Zoe Saldana and David Oyelowo on April 22, 2016.”

Robert L. Johnson, Founder and Chairman, RLJ Entertainment

Founder, Black Entertainment Television (BET)

What do you think about this statement and Johnson’s general decision to distribute the film?

Watch Zoe Saldana In Action In The Nina Trailer

March 2nd, 2016 - By Veronica Wells
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Source: RHI Entertainment

Source: RLJ Entertainment

I know, I know. We already talked about this biopic earlier this morning, asking whether or not you could get past the blackface and prosthetic nose in Zoe Saldana’s portrayal of Nina Simone. But there’s been a new development. Up until now, we’ve just had pictures. But video always tells a much more well rounded story. And now that there’s a trailer for the biopic we can see whether or not Saldana, moves, speaks and inhabits the essence of Simone. And whether or not the makeup looks better in motion than it has in the still images we’ve seen.

I’ll save my judgement, but take a look at the trailer below and let me know what you think.

I really don’t want to bash Zoe Saldana. I think she’s a lovely woman and a real talent. But I really wish she hadn’t taken this role. From these brief two minutes, we can tell that just too many things are off about it. The accent, makeup specifically. Honestly, I didn’t even notice the nose. Which is a plus.

After having watched the brilliant Nina Simone documentary on Netflix, hearing both she, her daughter and her ex husband speak in such depth about her character and life, it’s very difficult to accept this trailer. And more than anything, it serves as yet another reminder that there truly is a need for diversity in Hollywood. Not just, racial diversity, but also the need for actresses of varying, (read darker) skin tones and facial structures.

Will You Look Beyond Zoe Saldana’s Prosthetic Nose & Blackface And See Nina In April?

March 2nd, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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nina simone biopic

Production for the biopic Nina started back in 2012, and ever since photos surfaced of Zoe Saldana wearing dark makeup and both a prosthetic nose and teeth, it’s been a movie plagued by controversy. Simone’s daughter criticized Saldana’s casting, India Arie called Saldana’s transformation “ridiculous,” and the actress went from saying that she couldn’t let her detractors phase her to saying she was quite hurt by all the criticism, and director Cynthia Mort could only implore the skeptical public to see the movie before judging it.

But actually seeing it seemed like something that would never happen. Again, the film started production in 2012–it’s 2016. What happened? As Saldana would go on to say last November,

As Saldana would go on to say last November, the project was severely mismanaged:

“The people behind the project weren’t my cup of tea. The director was fine, but there was a lot of mismanagement, which is why we’re still here three years later. And I’m still trying to fight with everybody to get the movie finished. Nina deserves better.”

Could the fight to get the movie finished and out to the masses finally be over? If this exclusive movie poster delivered to the (digital) doorsteps of Entertainment Weekly is any confirmation, Nina might really get to see the light of day, and sooner than we all thought:



According to EW, the biopic will finally hit theaters and VOD on April 22. Selma star David Oyelowo will co-star in the picture as Clifton Henderson, Simone’s assistant who would go on to become her manager and “love interest.” There’s been some additional controversy over that being the focus of the film because as Lisa Simone put it, “Clifton was gay so he could not have had an affair with my mother, which is what the film implies.”

Perhaps, the critical success of the Academy-Award nominated Netflix documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? may have opened up a lane that this film, thought to be shelved, could finally make its way to the masses through. But the question is, would you actually see Nina?

I mean, damn. We all ripped the movie to shreds years ago. And really, it was doomed to be ripped apart the minute Saldana was pegged as the star, replacing Mary J. Blige. Those who thoroughly appreciated Simone for more than just her music and who acknowledge the fact that she spoke about the impact her looks and being Black, in general, had on her career and life are the ones who have reacted to the film with words like “offended,” “sad,” calling it “a mockery.”  The rest have just been turned so off by how poor this so-called transformation appeared at first glimpse, they don’t know what to think.

But, to be honest, if this film came across the “Recommended for You” section of my Netflix account, I just might give it a chance. I will admit that I’m tempted to see Saldana try to put on her best portrayal of the music legend and Civil Rights icon. Can’t say I would pay for it, though…

Oh yeah, if you were wondering what Saldana had to say about this new information when it comes to the project, she didn’t share the exclusive poster on her social media. However, six days ago, she did share this bit of wisdom from the High Priestess of Soul via her Instagram account:


#NinaSimone #truth #alwayslove

A photo posted by Zoe Saldana (@zoesaldana) on



Nina Simone Does Deserve Better–From Zoe Saldana And Everyone Involved With Nina

November 11th, 2015 - By Nneka Samuel
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RLJ Entertainment

RLJ Entertainment

The adage “all press is good press” couldn’t be further from the truth.  Just ask Zoe Saldana, star of the upcoming biopic Nina, about the late iconic singer and activist Nina Simone. Saldana’s involvement in the film, which over the years has been labeled “doomed,” “troubled” and “controversial,” has been widely criticized. The film has been mired by a petition to remove Saldana, a lawsuit from its director, Cynthia Mort, against the movie’s backers, and according to the actress in a recent interview with Latina, mismanagement.

In the telling interview, Saldana stated that “Nina deserves better,” and revealed that she hasn’t been able to listen to the singer’s music since working on the project.  But here’s where I get a little confused: “I’ll be able to listen to her and not feel so heartbroken,” said Saldana, “once I either finish this movie and release it, knowing that we did the best we could, or this movie goes away.”  Then in the next breath, Saldana claims that she’s still fighting for the film.

Color me confused.

Granted, a lot of factors about the movie and its release are completely out of Saldana’s control, but this take it or leave it stance seems oddly…familiar.

In fact, it’s the same stance she took when considering the role in the first place.  Saldana publicly admitted that she didn’t think she was the right actress to portray Simone.  She actually turned down the role for a year before changing her mind.  Then, when Simone fans and critics voiced their opinions on her casting, claiming the film’s producers should find a more authentic representation of Simone’s physical likeness, considering how much that informed the music she created and indeed the life she lived, Saldana was quick to brush off naysayers and defend her decision. Now she wouldn’t feel any type of way if the film were to “go away”?

Now, I am not the Blackness police, nor am I a believer in the tired my-Black-is-blacker-than-your-Black debate.  But I do understand the concern initially raised regarding Saldana’s involvement.  Why cast her when there are so many capable actresses who more closely resemble Simone’s likeness, and don’t need makeup or a prosthetic nose to achieve the look?  To me, the uproar spoke more to Hollywood’s penchant for casting Black actresses with fairer skin tones, and not Saldana’s actual acting ability.  Yet there was also a part of me that considered Saldana’s decision to play such an iconic woman brave.  To tackle a challenge you’re not sure you can handle because of your love for a figure, and with so many judging eyes on you, is rather commendable.  That doesn’t negate, however, my concern regarding Saldana’s integrity that, along with many other factors, seems to have compromised the movie. And that’s what’s actually important here.

Was Saldana allowed to change her mind and to take on the role of Nina Simone?  Absolutely.  And I don’t doubt that she put her all into her performance.  But the back and forth in this saga, this never-ending story about the film’s production that has overshadowed what it supposedly intends to do, is troubling to Simone’s legacy.  This is an opportunity to introduce Simone and her music to those unaware of her tremendous contributions to our musical, political and social landscape.  It couldn’t be more timely. That’s why I believe Saldana was right in saying that Simone deserves better.  That’s exactly why Lisa Simone Kelly, the singer’s daughter, fully supported the documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone? She was an executive producer on the film and felt it authentically represented her mother’s life.  And unlike Nina, which utilized a composite character based on Simone’s manager Clifton Henderson and a former nurse, the documentary is factually-based.  Plus, it had Kelly’s full support and made use of her personal knowledge of her late mother.

I wonder if there would have been such an uproar if Mary J. Blige, who was initially attached to play Simone, was in the film.  Blige is an actual singer but one with little acting experience.  People probably would have questioned her ability to play such an iconic, troubling, rebel figure, and that could have rubbed fans the wrong way.  But the fact remains that Nina, which is supposed to be released in December, has already put a bad taste in the mouths of future viewers and made a name for itself that does Simone a disservice.  The only way to truly gauge its worth is to watch it for ourselves.  If Nina sees the light of day, I hope, for Simone’s legacy, it’s well worth the wait.

“Nina Deserves Better” Zoe Saldana Explains Why The Nina Simone Biopic Hasn’t Come Out Yet

November 5th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Image Source: Ealing Studios

Image Source: Ealing Studios

Have you been wondering what happened with the Nina Simone biopic, starring Zoe Saldana? We haven’t either. But in a recent interview with Latina, Saldana explained why it’s taken so long to get the project off the ground.

First, she explained how she prepared for the role of Simone:

“I read as much as I could and spoke to as many people who knew her, who interviewed her. I listened to her voice, to her tone. She was angry, and rightfully so. She was a black woman born ahead of her time. Her soul, her spirit was never able to accept or adapt to the heartbreaks that life was giving her. Those are means for insanity. She was bipolar, and at that time, very little was known about bipolar disorder. A lot of people were self-medicating through substances, and she was doing it with alcohol. I wanted to understand all those things, and see what that was going to bring out of me. I never wanted to judge her.”

And though she felt she had prepared herself for this complex character, there were many people who took issue with Saldana being cast as the darker complected Simone, particularly when she took great pains fighting for representation of Black women and Black people in society. Nina Simone’s daughter, who goes by the name Simone, even told Ebony, that she was sure issues of colorism stayed with her mother throughout her life, as she was told she was “too dark” and her nose was “too wide.” All of this makes the casting tragically ironic, particularly when the shots of Saldana in makeup are absolutely distracting.

In addition to the criticism, according to Salana, there are some behind the scenes issues that have kept the film from being released.

“I needed to walk her path. As a woman, it wasn’t difficult to empathize with another woman. But I needed to be very isolated. I moved out of my house for three months. I wasn’t really talking to anybody that I knew. I just needed to be all things Nina. It was so intense, and everything happened really fast. The people behind the project weren’t my cup of tea. The director was fine, but there was a lot of mismanagement, which is why we’re still here three years later. And I’m still trying to fight with everybody to get the movie finished. Nina deserves better.”

A part of me feels sorry for Saldana. It seems like she was surrounded by a large number of people who were, and apparently, still are unequipped to tell this story. And from the looks of things, it seems like the universe doesn’t even want this film to come out. In that regard, Nina Simone certainly does deserve better.

What do you think about the upcoming biopic? Do Saldana’s comments surprise you?

Nina Simone Biopic Slated For December Release

September 10th, 2015 - By Jazmine Denise Rogers
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Zoe Saldana

Michael Wright/WENN


The Nina Simone biopic starring Zoe Saldana will be released in theaters this year.

According to Variety, BET Founder Robert L. Johnson’s RLJ Entertainment announced Thursday that they have acquired the North American rights to Nina.

Award-winning actor, David Oyelowo, has been cast to play Simone’s manager, Clifton Henderson. As previously reported, the film was written and directed by Cynthia Mort.

“I had the special privilege early in my career of working with Ms. Simone while coordinating a performance for former D.C. Delegate Walter E. Fauntroy, and knowing first-hand of her major contribution to the soul and emotion of the Civil Rights Movement,” Johnson said at the Toronto Film Festival. “I look forward as I am sure many others will, to her story and legacy being made available by RLJ Entertainment to consumers on various media platforms in the coming months.”

Nina has been in the making for years, and the project has been at the center of controversy since it was announced that Saldana would be playing the singer. Many felt that casting directors made a huge mistake when giving the mother of two the role primarily because she looks nothing like Simone, and expressed that it was offensive for them to cast Saldana instead of simply seeking out a darker skinned actress. For a more convincing presentation, makeup artists had to darken Saldana’s skin. According to some reports, she was also given a prosthetic nose and false teeth.

The firm is planning for a December 2015 release.

Zoe Saldana Speaks Out Against Sexism In Hollywood

July 11th, 2015 - By Rich
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Zoe Saldana is speaking out against sexism in Hollywood. The talented beauty is married to Marco Perego and they welcomed their twins named Bowie and Cy in December. According to an interview she did with  when she was promoting her movie Infinitely Polar Bear she said:

“A producer once told me he hired me for the way I held a gun while wearing panties, not for my opinions. I wish I’d recorded it, so I could play it for every girl in elementary school and tell them never to let anybody treat them that way.”

She went on and talked about how bad she wanted the role: “Most of the time when you’re not right for a part, it’s for some specific reason out of your control and you’re not bothered by it. But I wanted this so badly. It resonated with me. It sang to me. It was very precious to me.”

The 37-year-old also talked to USA Today about the reaction she got after she found out she was having twins.

“Let me tell you something, it will never be the right time for anybody in your life that you get pregnant,” Saldana explained, adding that in 2014, “the productions I was slated to work on sort of had a panic. I heard through the grapevine there was even a conversation of me being written off of one of the projects.”

“I was like, ‘Oh, my God, are you kidding me? It’s this bad?’ Right when I just feel super-duper happy, is that inconvenient for you?’ That me, as a woman in my thirties, I finally am in love and I am finally starting my life? And it’s [screwing] your schedule up? Really?”