A casting director’s job is very important, especially when it comes to films based on the lives of real people. If the actor/actress doesn’t look like the true person even a little bit, it can throw off the realness of the entire film. The most recent I can remember was the controversial casting of Lifetime’s “biopic” based on the life if Aaliyah and white actor Joseph Fiennes cast to play Michael Jackson for a forthcoming British sitcom.
But the latest controversy regards the upcoming Nina Simone biopic, Nina, starring Zoe Saldana as the late singer/songwriter/activist. Many people aren’t happy with the fact Saldana had to use prosthetics and darkened with makeup to look more like Simone, who, ironically, spoke out against colorism and suffered heavy criticism for being a dark-skinned black woman.
India Arie is one artist who’s spoken up about the casting, as it holds a deep place in her heart; Arie was cast as Simone for a 2003 episode of the 1960s-set NBC drama “American Dreams”. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Arie talked about the issues she has with the film’s production.
“I think the best way to say it is that they casted her against type and went too far to make her fit,” she said. “It made me sad. The way she looked in the movie was ugly. Whether or not Nina Simone was beautiful in your eyes, I thought she was beautiful. But in this movie, she just looked weird. Her skin looked weird, and her nose looked weird. It made me wonder, ‘Was that how the filmmakers see her? Did they not think she was beautiful? Were they like, ‘Yeah, we got it! That’s how she looked,’” Arie stated.
Arie holds nothing against Saldana for accepting the role but thinks it was a lost opportunity for an actress who naturally looks like Simone. “When you think about the way that we as human beings can inspire each other by being able to be our authentic selves, to deny someone who looks like Nina Simone the opportunity to play her is sad,” Arie said. “It would have been important and impactful had they made a movie about Nina Simone where the actress really looked like her. It would have changed someone’s life, I think.”
She continued, “In the context of the politics of race in America and the politics of race in the entertainment industry in America, to make a movie about a person like that and cast an actress that has to wear blackface and a prosthetic nose is tone-deaf. To propagate that institutionalized racism that is historical in Hollywood in a movie about her is ironic in the worst possible way.”
The irony here IS palpable. Instead of simply hiring a great actress like Viola Davis or many others, the film’s producers would rather cast a lighter-skinned, more “safe” actress and hire makeup artists to make Saldana look more like a woman who rebelled against colorism for being a dark skinned woman her entire life and career.
Do you agree or disagree with India, Roomies?