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I’m pretty sure Nina Simone made that face as she turned over in her grave at this news.

Just putting it out on the table, no one was overly eager about Mary J. Blige playing the legendary Nina Simone in a movie about the singer/songwriter/ pianist/activist’s intriguing life in the first place, but finding out that Zoe Saldana could be taking over her part is just, well, like, WTF?

No official announcement has been made, but Shadow and Act has confirmed the news which was shared by one of their readers with two sources, including a crew member who is supposed to be working on the project. As far as those individual’s are concerned, the part is as good as Zoe’s.

There’s just so much to say about this cast change. On one hand, the directors are going with an actual actress, which 99 percent of the time is a good thing considering how quick the industry is to throw a role to a singer instead of someone who has actually honed the craft of acting. On the other hand, Nina Simone was a jazz singer, this may have been one of those instances where a person who can actually sing should get the part. Maybe. The bigger issue, though, that I’m sure is slapping everyone in the face is a lighter-skinned woman portraying a dark-skinned icon yet again.

People told us to let it slide when Harriet Tubman was turned into a mulatto in that fictitious Abraham Lincoln movie but this is a biopic. If you can’t even be true the woman’s skin tone what else are they going to take creative license with? And why is it never a priority to maintain that element of one’s character, and always a priority to make one lighter than they really are? I know, I know, I already know that complex answer.

I’ll give the team behind this project the benefit of the doubt and assume Viola Davis, Kimberly Elise, Anika Noni Rose, Adepero Oduye, and every other stellar brown-skinned actress who we haven’t seen in a main role in ages and who could take this part and make it amazing was busy the last time they had a brainstorming meeting. With no formal announcement coming out yet, let’s hope they go back to the drawing board and think this through. Right now this sounds like a fail.


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