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Zoe Saldana apologised for playing Nina Simone in an interview with "Pose" creator Steven Canals for Bese. @Bese Instagram/Ian Showell/Getty Images

  • Zoe Saldana, who identifies as Afro-Latina, has apologized for playing African-American singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone in the 2016 biopic "Nina.
  • In an August 3 interview with "Pose" creator Steven Canals on Bese's Instagram account, Saldana said: "I should have never played Nina," and vowed to never make the same mistake again.
  • Saldana continued: "I should have tried everything in my power to cast a Black woman to play an exceptionally perfect Black woman."
  • For the role, Saldana wore a prosthetic nose and had her skin darkened, and many voiced their displeasure with her casting including Simone's daughter Lisa Simone Kelly: "Appearance-wise this is not the best choice."
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Zoe Saldana has formally apologized for playing African-American singer, songwriter, and civil rights activist Nina Simone in the 2016 biopic "Nina."

Saldana, who identifies as Afro-Latina, was speaking to "Pose" creator Steven Canals in an August 3 interview posted to the Instagram account of Bese, a media platform founded by Saldana herself that focuses on topics around culture and identity.

During the 56-minute long chat, Canals asked Saldana about the controversy arose around Saldana's decision to play Simone. Canals said: "There were a lot of questions around blackface, and darkening skin, and prosthetics. And I wonder, what is your relationship with that choice now?"

Saldana was upfront with her answer, and told Canals: "I should have never played Nina. I should have done everything in my power, with the leverage that I had 10 years ago, which was a different leverage but it was leverage nonetheless — I should have tried everything in my power to cast a Black woman to play an exceptionally perfect Black woman."

Zoe Saldana wore a prosthetic nose and had her skin darkened to play Nina Simone in the movie. RLJ Entertainment/Ron Howard/Redferns

Saldana continued: "I thought back then that I had the permission because I was a Black woman. And I am. But it was Nina Simone. And Nina had a life and she had a journey that should have been, and should be, honored to the most specific detail."

Saldana praised Simone as a "specifically detailed individual" and said the activist was "honest" about everything in her life, from her voice and views to her music and art. Saldana said that Simone "deserved better," and apologized for playing the role.

Saldana continued: "I know better today, and I'm never going to do that again. Never. I'm learning. I'm still processing it. I've been processing it for 10 years, and I think it's a conversation that I wanna have. I'm not gonna allow people to violate me, to make me feel less than. But I am going to be open to this conversation, so we can grow from it, and we can give back to ourselves and to each other our identity. For f---'s sake, it's about time."

Watch the interview below:

Zoe Saldana (@zoesaldana) sits down with "Pose" (@poseonfx) creator and executive producer Steven Canals (@stevencanals) to chat about Afro-Latinidad, colorism in the Latinx community, Nina Simone, and more. #AfroLatinx #AfroLatinidad #BESE #ZoeSaldana #StevenCanals #Pose #PoseFX #AfroLatinos #Dominican #PuertoRican

A post shared by BESE (@bese) on Aug 3, 2020 at 6:54pm PDTAug 3, 2020 at 6:54pm PDT

For the role, Saldana wore a prosthetic nose and had her skin darkened, which angered many at the time including Simone's own daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly. Kelly told The New York Times in 2012 when news of Saldana's casting was first breaking: "My 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."

Also, India Arie, who had previously played Simone in a 2003 episode of NBC's "American Dreams," told The Hollywood Reporter in 2016 that "the best way to say it is that they casted her against type and went too far to make her fit."

Arie 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."

Saldana had previously defended playing Simone in a 2017 interview with Allure, in which she told the publication: "There's no one way to be Black."

At the time, Saldana said: "The script probably would still be lying around, going from office to office, agency to agency, and nobody would have done it. Female stories aren't relevant enough, especially a Black female story […] I made a choice. Do I continue passing on the script and hope that the 'right' Black person will do it, or do I say, 'You know what? Whatever consequences this may bring about, my casting is nothing in comparison to the fact that this story must be told.'"

Read more:

The actor who plays Dr Hibbert in 'The Simpsons' questions the show's decision to stop casting white actors as characters of color

Robert Downey Jr. defended his Oscar-nominated blackface role in 'Tropic Thunder': 'I knew where my heart was'

32 times 'Avengers' stars have costarred outside of the Marvel Universe

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Vatican denies Pompeo audience with pope, accuses him of playing politics

The Vatican announced Wednesday that they had denied U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s request to meet with Pope Francis during his visit to Rome this week.

Though Vatican officials said it is customary for a pope to avoid meeting with politicians ahead of elections, they also voiced concerns with Pompeo’s alleged attempts to drag the Catholic Church into American politics by requesting they denounce relations with China.

“Yes, he asked. But the pope had already said clearly that political figures are not received in election periods. That is the reason,” Vatican diplomat Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said, according to Reuters Wednesday.


The Vatican’s decision followed remarks made by Pompeo at a conference at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, where he urged Vatican officials in attendance to join the U.S. in condemning China’s human rights violations and attacks against religious freedom.

Pompeo’s comments coincide with the church’s efforts to renew a two-year-old agreement between the Vatican and China that would allow the pope greater authority over the appointment of bishops in China.

The Vatican believes this agreement will ensure greater security and religious freedoms for Catholics in China, who have increasingly become targets by the Chinese Communist Party, according to the State Department’s 2019 annual report on religious freedom.

But in an essay earlier this month, Pompeo argued the Catholic Church has a responsibility to act as a “moral witness” and reject relations with China, alleging the loyalty of Chinese priests cannot be trusted.

“The Vatican legitimized Chinese priests and bishops whose loyalties remain unclear, confusing Chinese Catholics who had always trusted the Church,” Pompeo said. “Many refuse to worship in state-sanctioned places of worship, for fear that by revealing themselves as faithful Catholics they will suffer the same abuses that they witness other believers suffer.”

Holy See officials have recognized that the agreement is not perfect, but have also argued it is a step in the right direction.


“The question of protecting religious freedom so as to allow the local Catholic Church to exercise its mission remains an indispensable part of the scope and activity of the Holy See,” Vatican diplomat Foreign Minister Archbishop Paul Gallagher said.

Parolin said he was “surprised” by Pompeo’s remarks Wednesday, and noted their meeting later in the week would have been a more appropriate time to voice his concerns regarding the church’s relations with China.

“Normally when you’re preparing these visits between high-level officials, you negotiate the agenda for what you are going to talk about privately, confidentially," Gallagher told Reuters. "It’s one of the rules of diplomacy."


Pompeo has been highly critical of China over the last several months on issues ranging from the coronavirus, the race to 5G, their involvement in revoking Hong Kong autonomy and reported human rights abuses against the Uighurs, an ethnic minority group located in Northwestern China.

“Nowhere is religious freedom under assault more than in China,” Pompeo said during Wednesday’s conference, accusing China of working “day and night to snuff out the lamp of freedom, especially religious freedom, on a horrifying scale.”

The Associated  Press contributed to this report. 

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