Protecting Our Legacy on Film Is Still Important

Ebony contributor Marc Lamont Hill weighs in on the casting of Zoe Saldana to play Nina Simone in the upcoming biopic.


Marc Lamont Hill weighs in on Ebony on the ramifications of casting actress Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone in the upcoming biopic and what it says about Hollywood’s casting culture.

But even if Saldana manages to look like Simone, it still leaves another question: Why not just hire a dark-skinned actress? Surely, this is what Simone would have wanted. Before her death in 2003 at age 70, the singer herself said that she wanted Oscar-winner Whoopi Goldberg to play her in the movie. This wasn’t just because of Goldberg’s talent, but because she actually had features similar to Simone’s. In addition to Goldberg, an entirely new generation of artists such as Tony Award- winning- and Oscar-nominated actress Viola Davis, actress Adepero Oduye, or singers Lauryn Hill or India.Arie could have played Simone. There is no greater evidence of how tragic things are for dark-skinned women in Hollywood than the fact that they can’t even get hired to play dark-skinned women.

This is not a slight against Saldana, an incredibly beautiful and gifted actress in her own right …

This is about defending the character of Simone’s story and the integrity of her memory. This is about holding Hollywood accountable for the stories it tells and holding ourselves accountable for the stories we allow to be told.

Read Marc Lamont Hill’s entire piece at Ebony.

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