Adepero Oduye to Play Nina Simone?

| September 14, 2012

The story of Nina Simone must be told; there’s no doubt about that. She is one of the most elegant black women to ever grace the jazz musical stage. What is casting some doubt, however, is who is black and elegant enough to play her in an upcoming semi-biopic portraying her life. In a New York Times article, Yaba Blay, a scholar of African and diaspora studies and author of the forthcoming book called “(1)ne Drop: Conversations on Skin Color, Race, and Identity,” said casting an actress who does not look like Simone is troubling. “The power of her aesthetics was part of her power,” Dr. Blay said. “This was a woman who prevailed and triumphed despite her aesthetic. Dark-skinned actresses are already erased from the media, especially in the role of the ‘it girl’ or the love interest.”


The uproar over casting for the role of Nina Simone began when the Hollywood Reporter first announced that Zoe Saldana would play Nina Simone. Many disagreed that Zoe was the best pick to portray a dark-skinned black woman whose rise to fame in the 1950s was one laced with prejudice and discrimination based on her skin color.

In contrast to Zoe Saldana, others have suggested that a darker skinned black woman should play the role. Kelly, Nina’s daughter agrees. According to Kelly in an interview with Atlantic Magazine’s Ta-Nehisi Coates, in a piece he accurately captions Bleaching Nina Simone, her “mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark, appearance-wise this is not the best choice,” referring to Zoe Saldana.

I can’t help but agree that Zoe Saldana, despite her stellar acting abilities, is not the right casting choice to play Nina Simone, and no, it’s not a dark-skinned, light-skinned issue in the sense of a prejudiced outlook, but rather of one that’s in keeping with the originality of Nina Simone’s story at a time when racial prejudice based on skin color and the possession of certain facial and bodily features was widely acceptable.


So who should and would play Nina Simone? That remains to be seen, but some are already throwing names out there and among them is Pariah star and rising Nigerian actress Adepero Oduye (Viola Davis as an older Simone is also being passed around).

So what do you think? Do you think critics are right to suggest that a dark-skinned woman play Nina Simone or does it really not matter who plays the part as long as the story gets told? Add your voice below.  

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