In the span of a month, Zendaya Coleman nabbed the role of Aaliyah in the Lifetime biopic, Aaliyah: Princess of R&B, defended herself against a heavy dose of online criticism, and then bowed out of the project this past weekend. While there is only speculation that the family’s strong opposition to the project might have had something to do with her decision to hit the exit, one can’t help but wonder if it was also the discouragement of many Aaliyah fans and those in the general public that would make the 17-year-old want to bail on a film that could have been major for her career.
Someone else who has had to deal with backlash from the public when it comes to being cast in a biopic is Zoe Saldana. For the past year and a half, Saldana has been given the side-eye from Nina Simone fans, many of which, thought that her complexion was too light to play the chanteuse and pianist in the biopic, Nina, including Simone’s own daughter and singer India Arie. She tried to keep her head high despite the attacks, and said that the film was made out of love. But now that the film’s release has been put on hold due to a lawsuit from director Cynthia Mort, Saldana told Monarch Magazine that in reality, all of the comments about her, made in opposition to her casting as Simone, really did irk her, but that she tried not to let people’s criticisms keep her from doing a film she really wanted to:
Nina was a true genius and an iconic artist. It was a dream job for me.
I did a lot of research to prepare for Nina. I took piano lessons, voice lessons, worked with a dialect coach, and I really invested months of just doing research about Nina – her background, her story, her life. My research ranged from reading books about Nina, listening to her music, watching footage of her.
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 woman.
Whenever this movie finally gets released to see the light of day, personally, I’ll be interested in seeing what kind of work Saldana was able to do. But what about you?