Mary J. Blige Loses Role to Zoe Saldana

Remember a few months back when we told you R&B singer Mary J. Blige had landed the starring role of Nina Simone in the upcoming biopic “Nina?” Well word is Mary has been replaced by actress Zoe Saldana.

I first thought it was just a rumor when I read it on this site, but when Shadow & Act basically confirmed that an inside source told them the same thing, I knew there had to be a ring of truth to it.

Blige was reportedly dropped from the role after delaying production so she could shoot “Rock of Ages.”

Granted, not many people were excited at the thought of Blige playing such a complex character, but even fewer are happy about the casting of a Latina actress in a role that clearly calls for a Black actress.

The casting of Latina, multi-cultural and white actresses in roles that traditionally would have gone to a black actress has become a hotbed topic over the last few years, and one that’s not going away anytime soon.The casting of a biracial actress (Jacqueline Fleming) as Harriet Tubman in “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is proof of that.

Neither Blige nor Saldana have confirmed the cast change, but my favorite social spot, Twitter, is already all over this one.

43 Comments

  1. Seriously?! Zoe Saldana IS Black, Sista. She’s a Black Latina. Since when does being black mean you only come in one shade? Zoe has always claimed her Black roots, more so than some of the women you often post about on this site. And I’m as Black as they come — first generation African on both sides of family, and even I find this whole “biracial vs. multicultural vs. not black enough” stuff you frequently post on your website off-putting. Sometimes, it’s warranted, but in this case I don’t think so. The whole world is trying to divide us…why do we as women of color have to help them out?

    Besides…you want to know why MJB wasn’t cast? It’s simple. Because she’s old. It’s the oldest affirmative in the book. Zoe Saldana is younger, slimmer, and seen as more attractive than MJB. That and she is currently a hit with the younger demographic. It’s simple. Sex and age are King and Queen in Hollywood. And I for one think Zoe is black enough to play Nina.

  2. Oh gosh, I am afraid some of you will never get it- never understand what is happening right in front of your eyes. As black women, not biracial or multi-cultural women, we are being all but erased from our own communities. When the role of an obvious black woman is given to women who aren’t black or who do not share the look that contributed to their life experiences, something is wrong. Had Simone looked like Saldana I guarantee you she would have had a different life. The same goes for Harriet Tubman. Simone was a dark black woman who spoke of the pain and abuse she endured being such. That needs to be acknowledged in Hollywood by an actress who looks the part.

    Would Saldana be chosen to play Marilyn Monroe? Would Will Smith be chosen to play Desi Arnaz? Why can’t a black actress play a black woman?

    ELLA UMBRELLA, Black women aren’t wanted in Hollywood, videos, advertisements, nowhere until a whore or maid is needed. Are you okay with that? Are you okay never seeing you? Are you ok being represented by people like Juliette Fairley who take roles for black women while simultaneously complaining about it?

    Just as Fairley wrote a sage about biracial women and wants to see her face and her stories be told, I want the same for everyday black women like myself and my daughter.

    We are not all the same and are not treated the same. Black and brown skin women are given the asses of the world to kiss and are being excluded all for the sake of supposedly selling an extra movie ticket to white folks? You can shut up if you want to but I won’t. Don’t be shocked when you turn on the TV one day and Megan Fox is playing Diana Ross.

  3. I swear I hate these conversations, mostly because black women are supposed to cry Argentina for women who are over represented in our community. The spate of Hispanic actresses being given roles for black actresses is nothing new and something Eve Mendes herself spoke on when she was cast as Will Smith’s love interest in Hitch.

    To cast Saldana, a half Latina who looks nothing like Nina Simone, is an insult to Simone’s memory and people with common sense know this. If Saldana has any integrity she will quit the film and allow a qualified black actress with the right look to take on the role.

    Hollywood seems to think they can cast anyone to play us and we as black women will support it. I know for sure that I will not.

    Sista, I was hoping someone here would write about Fairley’s comments and her claiming biracial actors have been in the shadows of the afros. I almost spit out my tea when she said that.

    Black women need to wake up and start looking out for ourselves or no one else will.

  4. Frankly, I’m just tired of seeing singers cast as actresses. I would love to see Vanessa William (of soul food) or Vancessa Bell Halloway, Regina King to name a few in this role….just saying.

  5. Besides…you want to know why MJB wasn’t cast? It’s simple. Because she’s old. It’s the oldest affirmative in the book. Zoe Saldana is younger, slimmer, and seen as more attractive than MJB. That and she is currently a hit with the younger demographic. It’s simple. Sex and age are King and Queen in Hollywood. And I for one think Zoe is black enough to play Nina.

    Says who? Who says Zoe looks better than Mary? Not I. But as a first generation African with a name like Ella Umbrella I’m not shocked you would co-sign the erasure of the black woman’s image from movies and mass media. You dummies sold your own people into slavery.

    Whenever this issue comes up black women are told to shut up for the sake of unity. What unity? If you see your blacker sister being mistreated you should speak up. But does anyone do that? No. Instead we all are expected to grovel for people who make up less than 1% of our community but get probably 60% of the jobs that call for a black actor or actress.

    Nina Simone looked a certain way and should be portrayed by an actress who has a similar aesthetic. Dorothy Dandridge and Josephine Baker were portrayed accurately in their biopic. Why can’t Simone get the same respect?

  6. =================================
    Frankly, I’m just tired of seeing singers cast as actresses. I would love to see Vanessa William (of soul food) or Vancessa Bell Halloway, Regina King to name a few in this role….just saying.
    ==================================
    Why shouldn’t a singer play a singer? I don’t know if Mary can act but I know she can sing and for that reason alone I have no problem with her being cast as Nina.

    On the other hand, Zoe playing her is wrong on every level and I agree with the author.

    The casting of latinas as blacks or as the girlfriend to black actors is just another way to take work from black people, women mostly, and cut down on what limited opportunities we have.

    I hate how blacks will complain about Beyonce taking roles from actresses but nothing about whites and latinas doing the same. Let’s see if Nia Long says anything about Saldona.

  7. Twitter Reacts to the Casting of Zoe Saldana as Ninaa Simone

    1. @msLAS How do you have a good day after “Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone” is the first thing you see upon waking?

    2. @GeeDee215 inspired casting of Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone other suggestions: Daryl Hannah as Mahalia Jackson, Elmo as Prince, & a croissant as MLK.

    3. @JJ_Bola Zoe Saldana play Nina Simone in a movie. Nina was unapologetically dark skinned, why not get someone to who suits? The media got an agenda.

    4. @KilaBoof She is NOT loved when Zoe Saldana is cast to play her in a movie. I call that total hate. Nina’s look was her struggle; her art.

    5. @ZandiTee Zoe Saldana to play Nina Simone??!!!?? This might be worth marching against.

    6. @IsisPaperzZ because honestly! if Nina Simone had looked like Zoe Saldana… her life would have been different!

    7. @dreamhampton I will riot if a lightskinned woman with “fine” features is hired to play Nina Simone.

    8. @DiggsWayne Imagine Zoe Saldana doing this and you’ll see the absurdity of her playing Nina Simone. —> http://youtu.be/os70A7Vbh6U

  8. I still think India Arie was born to play Nina Simone, but Zoe is a better actress than Mary IMO. I’m just glad it’s being made. I’m intrigued by Nina’s life story and I’m in awe of her music.

  9. Why has no one mentioned the fact that Zoe is a mediocre actress at best. Heather Headley would have been an awesome pic. Vocally she is a powerhouse and is a very accomplished Broadway actress.

  10. I could care less what her background is … She looks nothing like her! Just makes no sense.

  11. Also, a lot of these roles should be going to unknown black actresses. I am tired of singers playing these roles. I like Mary but she can’t act – and I would think a role like this would require a properly trained performer. Too often, films like this become more about the singer playing the part – think Diana Ross in Lady Sings the Blues – than the subject. It needs to be a vehicle for telling the story of the person at the center, not a singer looking to establish herself as an actress. I am not even a fan of Nina Simone, but this should be done right.

  12. I think Zoe is so wrong for the part and so was Mary. Mary is on her way to being a nobody and Mary is ghetto. Something Nina was not. Zoe is to young. The only person that should play this role is Kimberly Elise. I think she is one of the greatest actress in the world no matter what color she is. Kimberly Elise has not gotten the credit she deserves. She is ten times better than half the people acting now. I was so pissed when tyler Perry never had her in another movie. Kimberly Elise needs to play this role and so many others.

  13. unless the movie is 100% singing… THEN A REAL ACTRESS IS NEEDED.

    SINGERS PLEASE HAVE A SEAT, because like Beyonce you can NOT fill the acting gaps inbetween songs AT ALL.

  14. I don’t get Saldana as Nina simone either. Is she the new Halle Berry every black part that comes up has to go her. I’m sorry but this is wack and I won’t support this film. Kimberly Elise would be perfect she has the chops. Saldana is okay but she is by no means good enough to play this part, sorry.

  15. Not to mention part of Nina’s struggle was the fact that she was dark skinned, so what in the hell is the point of casting Saldana?

  16. *waves hancha’ in the air* ^5 to SISTA.

    I like Zoe, I do. But SHE DOESN”T FIT THE ROLE, THE LOOK, THE NOTHING!!! of Nina Simone. NOTHING. She’s even a further stretch than Mary J, IMO, even though Zoe is the better actress.

    Cast Zoe to play Shirley Bass. Oops, the film’s already been done. But Nina? NINA?!?! C’mon!

    Adepero Oduye for NINA SIMONE!!! *stars petition* LOL

  17. Yes…. Zoe is just all wrong for this role!!!

  18. I’m really hurt by this. It sort of reminds me of how Elizabeth Taylor played Cleopatra Jones. I can’t even read any more comments, I’m done….

  19. @Britney Bithces — girl, it’s called a screen name. Trust me, if I posted my real name on here you wouldn’t even be able to pronounce it. And yeah, if you really want to know, one of my not-so-distant cousins got sold into slavery not even 100 years ago. Please laugh about it, or call my family dummies or other hateful names. Because you know, naturally, whatever makes you feel better about yourself doesn’t make me feel a thing.

    I get the hurt and the pain. I’m not trying to say it’s not real or that we should shut up and not speak out because I go through the same crap in a white man profession in a white man state every single day, but to put Zoe down to build Mary up is the WRONG end game. Regardless of our shade, we should all unite and speak out about these issues because we are ALL being affected by it. But just like we all hate it when the dark skinned girl gets kicked to the curb for a light skinned woman, I equally hate it when a light skinned woman gets verbally abused for not being dark enough or having the wrong features to play a REAL black woman. How is it any different? I’m as black as black can be, but I’m not going to play this light vs dark game even if the world is pushing me in that direction. Acting wise, I think Zoe has what it takes — I really do. But that doesn’t mean my money is going into anyone’s pockets.

  20. Zoe is not right for the part. She doesn’t look like Nina Simone at all. I don’t care that she is Black Latina. I was excited about MJB playing Nina Simone because MJB has the singers soul to pull it off. As a light skinned woman I am so tired of this discussion about brown women getting disrespected. We as a race are disrespected. WE..no you not me WE..US…Very few of us are 100% Black so if a Black Latina or whoever wants embrace that side of them I welcome it. Who am I to tell somebody else to deny a part of themselves. I bet right now if our president came out and said I’m not Black the majority would be snappin out. Let people get whatever role they can get. Zoe is not white in case some have not noticed, she is darker than some “full blooded blacks”.

  21. Look at Nina…look at Zoe…look at Nina…look at Zoe…look at Nina…got it? Good.

  22. if blacks don’t petition, make it known that there will be boycotts of this film than they will make this film,and for people to accept this , really have no idea of who or what nina simone stood for. simone discussed her dark skin and her struggles, she was a in your face , black edge that was symbolic for the time. the production company want to romanticize her life and create a movie that is paltable for the young white teeny boppers and white people who can’t look beyond their vision of the dumbin down of reality. this won’t be a reality biopic but a fantasy of events like the vampire slayer movie starring lincoln. nina simone is probably rolling in her grave. this woman was black- african black , how can you rewrite a woman’s life who talk about black men telling her she wa pretty but too dark. nina simone daughter needs to protest.

  23. please contact nina simone daughter and estate at ninasimone.com, and let the estate and her daughter that this is about little black girls, darkskin black girls, black women , and blackwomen in general having our national heroes depicted with honesty and truth, and respect. thank you. i love zoe sadano but , this is disrespectful to the essence of nina simone.

  24. i’d like to throw a suggestion as to who i could see playing nina simone. the actress Nicki Micheaux. they have a similar look. look her up if you don’t know her. she was in soul food and lincoln heights.

  25. it’s just likejohnny Depp saying he wants to play michael jackson. hmm, he maynot be white,but he isn’t vlack. mj was black with a disease. this casting is hollywood,and white people thinking that anytime a black person is a genius, than they have to be multiracial or nonblack. black hollywood should protest, but then again when mj was calling out the industry for being racistand stealing our culture,black entertainers didn’t support him.

  26. it’s just likejohnny Depp saying he wants to play michael jackson. hmm, he maynot be white,but he isn’t vlack. mj was black with a disease. this casting is hollywood,and white people thinking that anytime a black person is a genius, than they have to be multiracial or nonblack. black hollywood should protest, but then again when mj was calling out the industry for being racistand stealing our culture,black entertainers didn’t support him.

  27. i got thi information from kola boof twitter page.

    This is contact information

    Producer Jimmy Iovine los angeles office is 310 865-1000.

    The screenwriter is Cynthia Mort.

  28. i got thi information from kola boof twitter page.

    This is contact information

    Producer Jimmy Iovine los angeles office is 310 865-1000.

    The screenwriter is Cynthia Mort.

  29. I could believe Jimmy Lovine would in this mix of Zoe playing Nina…it’s sad! The industry is all pimped out, now television is pimped out to reality tv programming or very bad acting with “Single Ladies”…now they want to take film and taint it, along with the history, image and perception of one of the most black and iconic musical artists of all time…shameful! I love Zoe as an actress, but this isn’t the role for her. Even with an afro wig and no makeup and exquisite acting, she doesn’t tell the story as Kimberly Elise, Heather Headley, Viola Davis, Regina King, India Arie or Audra McDonald would!

    I felt this way when they used Jennifer Lopez to play Selena, there’s a huge difference in being Mexican and Puerto Rican and their music! I understand the angst of South African actresses not getting to play Winnie Mandela (Love JHUD, but…) or Winnie not being consulted. I watch the African Channel and feel their pain, so few of them get US or international exposure. I’m glad Mary’s not doing it because I don’t think she’s that caliber of actress for the role, Mary’s great, a legend and will never be washed up, but all singers don’t make solid, good or great actresses!

    If they go with Zoe and they might for the controversy, it won’t be the real Nina Simone story, regardless if the film is critically acclaimed! It’ll be a lie and a dishonor to everything she stood for within the realms of her music that was about love, racism, sexism, activism, pain, discrimination and an incomparable legacy!

  30. they want to paint a non threatening nina, and dumb her down so little surburban white kids can feel connected to something black. this will be a made for mtv movie.

  31. they want to paint a non threatening nina, and dumb her down so little surburban white kids can feel connected to something black. this will be a made for mtv movie.

  32. let’s cut the debate now, please read nina simone interview on the lauyrn hill talk website, in the forum , there is an article in which she explains her feelings, such as her love for lauryn hill, her love for michael jackson, her disappointment in his family, quincy jones, to interracial relationships, to her hatred of rap , trust and believe the queen would not be happy with this. she was one of our last true soldiers.

  33. laurn hill:: general assembly:: has the interview, after reading this, hopefully people understand the uproar and anger.this woman was a revolutionary, this woman’s life isn’t about an actress known as glamourous to morph into an unglamorous woman for recognition and an award like charlize theron did, nina simon was our black amazon who spoke to us as black women.

  34. If hollywood would come up with a biopic of JENIFFER lopez, zoey is a perfect choice

  35. I’ve been thinking, we are complaining and doing alot of protesting, what is nina simone daugther doing? it’s her mother’s legacy, if she isn’t upset, i guess, i don’t want to further my rage.

  36. The daughter said via Facebook she will give her opinion soon. She will probably co-sign the casting and making of the movie because when all is said and done it will bring in money. That to me still doesn’t take away from the agenda that is behind the casting of this film. Shadow and Act wrote a bit more about that today on their website.

  37. Here is the official statement from Nina’s daughter.
    Greetings Nina Simone Lovers, Simone here.

    I have read many of the comments am happy you all took the time to share your thoughts and feelings.

    Here’s mine:

    When the announcement initially hit the press with MJ Blige cast as Nina (about 6 yrs ago) I heard it along with everyone else. The story was written as a love story between my mother and her former nurse, Clifton Henderson and primarily takes place during the last 8 years of her life.

    Please note, this project is unauthorized. The Nina Simone Estate was never asked permission nor invited to participate.

    I have seen many names regarding who you think should play the role of Nina. Remember Angela Bassett as Tina Turner? SHE NAILED IT! Angela Bassett is an ACTRESS! And, we all know she lip synced along with Tina and did an amazing job. Personally, I prefer an actress to a singer. Just because a person is great at one does not mean they will be great at the other. If written, funded and CAST PROPERLY a movie about my mother will make an lasting imprint.

    My vision of a movie about my mother includes SO many pivotal moments that are monumentally important towards relaying the journey of a woman whose journey began as a child prodigy born in North Carolina in the 1930’s…too many to list here but, trust when I say the tale will inspire through the sheer sharing of HOW Eunice Waymon became Nina Simone, The High Priestess Of Soul renowned worldwide. How many of you know my mother’s FIRST love was classical music? Do you know the hours she practiced preparing to audition for the Curtis Institute of Music only to be rejected because of the color of her skin? **After my mother made her transition I accepted a diploma from that very same institute with a speech she began writing but was unable to finish prior to her death.** As a child, my mother was told her nose was too big and she was too dark yet she graduated valedictorian of her high school class – The Allen School for Girls – AND, skipped two grades. Nina was one of the most outspoken, prolifically gifted artists using the stage to speak out against racism during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s. Her friends included Betty Shabazz, Lorraine Hansberry (my godmother), Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Miriam Makeba, Stokely Carmichael, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Kings and Queens worldwide. Had she become a classical pianist, which was her dream….shattered, I doubt she would have found her true destiny. Nina Simone was a voice for her people and she spoke out HONESTLY, sang to us FROM HER SOUL, shared her joy, pain, anger and intelligence poetically in a style all her own. My mother stood up for justice, by any means necessary hahahaha YES, she was a revolutionary til the day she died. From Tragedy to Transcendence – MY VISION. The whole arc of her life which is inspirational, educational, entertaining and downright shocking at times is what needs to be told THE RIGHT WAY.

    By the way:

    Clifton Henderson was gay. He was not attracted to women. So, the truth is…Nina Simone and Clifton Henderson NEVER had a relationship other than a business one.

    Please correct me, but isn’t a biopic the story of one’s life?

    I have faith things will work out the right way and my mother’s real story will be told. For all she endured while here and all of the lives she has touched, she DESERVES to be remembered for who she truly was; not some made up love story from a former nurse/manager (now deceased) who sold his life rights because of his relationship to Nina Simone.

    Ciao Y’All….Simone

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