Queen Latifah and Paula Patton have defended Zoe Saldana against claims that she performed in “blackface” to star as Nina Simone in the forthcoming biopic of the singer.
The release last week of a new trailer and poster for Cynthia Mort’s film, titled Nina, which showed Saladana wearing dark makeup and a prosthetic nose, has reignited debate over whether producers were right to cast Saldana, an American of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent. Simone’s estate have since waded into the row, telling Saldana on Twitter: “Please take Nina’s name out your mouth. For the rest of your life.”
Speaking at a premiere of the romantic comedy The Perfect Match, of which she is an executive producer, Latifah said she saw no reason why Saldana should not play the soul icon.
“I think Zoe Saldana is a great actress, so I am looking forward to it,” Latifah said. “She is of African descent – I don’t see why she shouldn’t play the role. I just want to see it. Get rid of the hype and let’s go watch a movie.”
Patton, who plays a supporting role in The Perfect Match, added: “I’m not into negativity like that. It’s a horrible thing to put on somebody … Imagine being in her shoes and enduring that. It’s not cool, and it’s not right.
“Clearly, someone thought she was perfect for it – she’s an amazing actress, she’s beautiful – and you haven’t even given her a chance and you haven’t seen it yet,” she added. “I think we have to be in a place where we celebrate each other and are kind to one another, and say, ‘There’s alternate versions of a story. Give her a shot, try to enjoy it and stop judging’.”
Simone’s daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, who has previouslydescribed the decision to cast Saldana as “appearance-wise … not the best choice”, said last week that she did not condone the actor herself being vilified.
“It’s unfortunate that Zoe Saldana is being attacked so viciously when she is someone who is part of a larger picture,” Kelly told Time magazine. “It’s clear she brought her best to this project, but unfortunately she’s being attacked when she’s not responsible for any of the writing or the lies.
“The project has been tainted from the very beginning,” added Kelly, who has taken issue with Mort’s decision to present a romantic relationship between Simone and her late personal assistant, Clifton Henderson. She says Henderson, who will be played by David Oyelowo, was gay.
“The movie is about a relationship between my mother and Clifton which never took place. They never had an amorous relationship,” said Kelly, adding that she did not know who had posted the scathing Twitter attack on Saldana. “Clearly, [the film] is not the truth about my mother’s life, and everyone now knows that. This is not how you want your loved ones remembered.”
By Ben Child