Actress Zoe Saldana has obviously sat in reflection about her choice to play the High Priestess of Soul Nina Simone.
On Monday Saldana did an Instagram Live interview with Steven Canals, the co-creator and executive producer of the critically acclaimed FX series Pose. The two talked about their journey’s as Afro-Latino’s in the entertainment industry, and also hit on complicated subjects like colorism within their community for the outlet, Bese.
But the conversation steered to the much-needed topic of Saldana’s portrayal of Simone in the 2016 biopic Nina, which was notoriously championed against by Simone’s fans and family members. It was one of the first times where the social media age and issues regarding Black portrayals in Hollywood collided, providing important discussion around the erasure of dark-skinned Black women in media and how their legacies are often whitewashed and downplayed. In the movie, Saldana wore blackface, a wig that reflected a kinkier hair texture, and wore prosthetics and fake teeth in order to change her appearance to look more like Simone.
In the discussion, Canals asked Saldana if she had any revelations regarding her thought process in playing Simone, now that time has passed since self-reflection plays a large role in her life.
“I should have never played Nina. I should have done everything in my power with the leverage that I had ten years ago, which was a different leverage, but it was leverage nonetheless. I should have tried everything in my power to cast a Black woman to play an exceptionally perfect Black woman,” she said.
It’s a completely different tone than the one Saldana, who is Afro-Latino, had during the promotion of the film where she once scoffed at the criticism in a 2016 interview with Allure. “I’m black the way I know how to be,” she continued. “You have no idea who I am. I am black. I’m raising black men. Don’t you ever think you can look at me and address me with such disdain.”
“That—you’re growing. It’s painful. I thought back then that I had the permission because I was a Black woman. And I am,” she continued in the interview with Canals. “But It was Nina Simone and Nina had a life and she had a journey that should have been and should be honored to the most specific detail because she was a specifically detailed individual. ”
Saldana went on to say because of her honesty and her vulnerability in her real life, Nina “deserved better” and hopes to open more discussion about appropriation and the global impact of Nina’s music and activism.
“With that said I’m sorry. I’m so sorry because I love her music,” she continued, getting emotional. She also encouraged other creatives to step up to tell her story in the way it deserves to be told.
“I know better today and I’m never going to do that again. Never,” she said.
You can watch the whole interview between Saldana and Canals below.