Speed Reads

a defense

Distributor defends casting of Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone in Nina biopic

Following the release of the trailer for the controversial Nina Simone biopic Nina Wednesday, the film's distributor has spoken out in defense of the choice to cast Zoe Saldana in the title role.

Despite the fact that Saldana, who is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, reportedly darkened her skin and wore a prosthetic nose for the role, Robert L. Johnson, the head of the film's distributor RLJ Entertainment, asserted that the transformation is not meant to offend.

"[C]reativity or quality of performance should never be judged on the basis of color, or ethnicity, or physical likeness," Johnson said in a statement. "Quality entertainment should be measured by the sheer force of creativity and the commitment that an actor or actress brings to the performance." Johnson added that Saldana's performance is "an exceptional and mesmerizing tribute to Nina Simone."

Simone's estate, however, was less than thrilled. "Hopefully people begin to understand this is painful," Simone's estate said on Twitter of the casting decision. "Gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, nauseating, soul-crushing. It shall pass, but for now..."