Since the first poster of the Nina Simone biopic was released featuring Afro-Latina actress Zoe Saldana in the lead role, everyone involved with the film has received very harsh criticism. The poster displays Saldana wearing a prosthetic nose and skin-darkening makeup to look more like Simone. However, critics say she looks nothing like the talented singer and civil rights activist; and with so much of Simone’s legacy tied to her breaking ground as a dark-skinned black woman, longtime fans are very upset.
But comedian, and Nina castmate, Mike Epps has a different opinion and came to Saldana’s defense in a recent interview with PEOPLE.
The Meet The Blacks actor attributes the cut throat perspectives to generational differences and timeliness. Although he still believes Saldana did a ‘good job’ portraying Miss Simone.
“I think she did a good job,” Epps explained. “The thing about doing biopics is that the younger generation doesn’t really know who they’re coming to see; like when Jamie [Foxx] did Ray Charles I’m pretty sure there was a big percentage of the fans who didn’t really know who Ray Charles was – really the younger audience – so they were really just coming to watch Jamie Foxx perform.”
He continued, “I think with the Nina movie, once they put that documentary out with the real Nina Simone, it kind of made it hard for Zoe to come back and do the movie about Nina because people saw the real Nina in that Netflix documentary. So whatever it does, people are going to criticize it one way or another anyway.”
However, Jeff L. Liebeman, the director of The Amazing Nina Simone (the documentary Epps was referring to was actually the Liz Garbus-directed What Happened, Miss Simone?, both were released in 2015) was very displeased with the selection of Saldana, regardless of her acting talents.
Lieberman wrote in a piece for The Hollywood Reporter, “I am saddened by the ugly and inaccurate portrayal contained in the script and trailer for Nina.”
Nina will premiere later next month, April 22nd.