Photo: blackfilm.com

Zoe Saldana Deserves to be Nina Simone, Because That’s Her Job

When we heard Zoe Saldana would be embodying the iconic singer Nina Simone in an upcoming biopic, most of us were stunned at the choice of a woman who bears absolutely no resemblance to the legendary activist.

Why her? How did it happen that the one role that should be assigned to a black actress that actually looks black without the regaled hints of “exoticism” that is forthrightly demanded — goes to a woman who is quite gorgeous and very talented but would ideally have an easier time portraying Lena Horne rather than Nina Simone.

Lets be clear, anyone who is fundamentally familiar with the life and times of the woman who was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, must be aware that the prospect of stepping into such formidable territory would be a daunting task for any actress — regardless of skin tone.

Nina Simone was a genius, with all the solvent complexities that accompany such a description. People who fall into this category are usually saddled with the issue of being organically wired as they wrestle with bouts of realism that can simultaneously dampen the soul and enhance their vision.

It sounds incredibly delicious for any actress who is dying for the opportunity to publicly exercise her range. But in real life, being an often times tormented artist with acute sensibilities isn’t an easy disposition to manage.

But when the cameras start rolling — there is nothing that compares to that feeling of accomplishment.

The crazier the scenes — the deeper you go and the more you convince yourself and those watching — that you are in fact — Nina.

Imagine, what it feels like to be in a position that allows you to extend yourself in ways that could possibly change your life. You get to effortlessly validate the reasons why you do what you love to do. Not many of us are afforded that privilege that’s why when it is bestowed — you are required to revel in it.

Zoe Saldana is doing just that. She has every right to make her dream role come true, because she’s earned it. The plethora of black actresses that have been shuttled about as evidence of the blasphemous decision to cast a woman, who is too light and therefore woefully inadequate for the job, would all be great choices too. Some are questionable, but the point is that they look part — enough to convince you that they would be perfect.

And it’s likely that they will have the chance to make up for the horror that has descended on us due to a glitch in the system. But that system works for the benefit of those who answer the call.

We have an actress who answered it— and she’s already scored a failing grade based on her ethnicity. She’s been disqualified by those who understand too well the frustration that comes with being punished for the way you look.

Or being judged for not fitting the tightly formed bubble that uses authenticy as a cover for snobbery.

The skill of acting can’t be neatly summed up because it’s a never-ending process that should pleasantly surprise you at every turn — if you’re doing it right.

There is no such thing as “perfecting your craft”. In this world, you worst fall could end up being the moment of breakthrough.

The actor has to develop his body. The actor has to work on his voice. But the most important thing the actor has to work on is his mind — Stella Adler

Mind over matter. The ability to allow your senses to roam with ease and without prejudice. The seduction of letting the faucets overflow with streams of the fantastical with no restraints. To disappear in a world that you don’t belong in but you have permission to invade because you can.

You’re an actress. You have the power to be anything, to believe what you see as truth. You can bend the rules or re-arrange the itinerary. People, things, places, atoms, matter are all ready to comply.

That place exists. Where anything, literally anything is possible.

I’ve been there, and it was divine, powerful and memorable. I didn’t have the courage to stay but that’s why people are born with the specific capability of being able to suspend themselves for as long as it takes.

These are the true artists and they deserve to enjoy, manipulate and conquer the projects that call to them.

They should never have to apologize for daring to explore their craft. They should never be chastised for pursuing a goal that aligns with all the hard work that led them to their present.

Zoe Saldana is Nina Simone. It may not look right but she is doing exactly what any actress would do. Her job.

It’s not about the body. It’s the spirit.


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