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Photos Of Zoe Saldana On-Set Of Nina Simone Project Surface (What Can We Learn From Them?)

by Courtney
October 21, 2012 1:10 PM
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Let me just first say that, in all fairness, we don't know what stage of the make-up process she's in here. So the final *look* after all the work is done (which may or may not include prosthetics), might be very different from what we see here. 

So, I wouldn't judge based solely on these pictures. 

However, what we could probably learn from the photos is that Zoe Saldana will likely be made-up to resemble Nina Simone as much as possible, afro and all. That was one of the questions many had, but director Cyntia Mort wasn't really asked by those who were able to get an interview with her (we weren't so lucky) - whether Zoe would play Nina exactly as Zoe looks (the thought being that maybe Mort was taking creative liberties beyond just the story, and would do so with the *look* as well - something similar to what Todd Haynes did with I'm Not There, his Bob Dyan film), or whether they'll use make-up to change Zoe's look, so that she looks more like the real Nina Simone; and if so, how much or how little, and would prosthetics be involved?

We see the afro, and it appears that her skin will be darkened (if you look closely at her face, you'll see some color gradation), from the 2 photos below.

But let's see what the first OFFICIAL image/clip from the film looks like; that'll tell us much of what we need to know.

These photos were submitted by a reader.

As was recently announced, Mike Epps joined the cast, playing Richard Pryor. And David Oyelowo will be Nina's Paris-based manager Clifton Henderson.

The film started filming this past week in Los Angeles, with Mark BurtonBarnaby ThompsonStuart Parr and Ben Latham Jones producing.

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  • Rita | March 20, 2014 12:52 PMReply

    More Shart and Shinola casting. Someone should do an adaptation of a documentary of an adaptation of Hollywood movers and shakers and cast the puppets from "The Muppets Take Manhattan" and name the piece "Sick and Twisted Casting"

  • rita | March 20, 2014 11:48 AMReply

    she looks like she just made toast and scrambled some eggs before she said "Hey the mailman just left. I think my income tax check is coming today" Nina Simone needs to jump out of the cemetery backward and put a mild choke hold on the casting director and the other powers that be who said yes to this.

  • ISE | December 6, 2012 7:54 PMReply


  • rita | March 20, 2014 12:13 PM

    Hey Ise,

    No one here is disputing the lovely Saldana, however NINA SIMONE?? Hell to the no squared. Jill Scott, India Arie, Lauren Hill?? And by the way Jill, India and Lauren were all actors before they were well know for their singing aaand Indie played Nina Simone on TV. How about for that matter Nina Simone's daughter for goodness sake (which is a stretch but at least the woman can act aaaand sing) would have been believable. Saldana looks like the bucktooth wonder.

  • Kenne | November 9, 2012 1:47 AMReply

    I think as people of color we should not criticize the choice. It's wonderful that Queen Nina's story is being told. Has anyone ever thought that maybe Zoe was the best actress? All the other choices definitely look more like Nina; but, maybe the acting was not there. I say give Zoe a chance. Let's not be divisive among each other. It's just unfortunate that we can be the first to tear each other down!

  • yoyo | October 29, 2012 7:45 PMReply


  • Sway | October 28, 2012 3:20 PMReply

    This casting is so ridiculous is sickening, to tarnish the history of Ninas life by casting a woman that is no where close to the torture and abuse that Nina has experienced being a dak skinned african american and being ridiculed for being "ugly" as they called her for the majority of her life, and not cast an obvious choice out of the many dark skinned actressess whose look or image would not have to be played down, India Arie would have been perfect, we want to see the story not pay attention to the pretty actress behind the black face! So disheartining!!!

  • Joia | October 26, 2012 5:51 PMReply

    Nina Simone was a beautiful woman. The images in these pictures are a travesty
    and totally insulting to any black woman with strong African features. Why does
    she have to look as if she's a run-away from an insanc assylum? The hair is ungroomed,
    the house shoes, the buck teeth, the spotted coloration of her skin. What an insult to
    the legacy of a beautiful, race proud, natural black woman with this insulting mockery
    of her legacy. Nina Simone was worldly, sophisticated, proud, educated and elegant.
    This is not what I see in these abominable photos.

    Nina Simone's family should sue the producers if this is the way that Ms. Simone's
    presentation as a woman who was classy, elegant and proud of her natural beauty
    is going to be portrayed. As a black woman, I'm appalled.

    Certainly the beautiful Lauren Hill or Jill Scott would have been a better choice; or
    even a new comer with undiscovered talent, but this is an insult to all black women
    who self love themselves enough to appreciate the beauty that God gave them versus
    the extreme assimilation of others; and I'm totally peed off about this ugly prosthesis
    portrayal which in no way resembles the beautiful Nina Simone.

    Ms. Simone's hair never looked like that. She wore Goddess braids, short cropped
    Afro, etc. and was always elegant and classy in her presentations. I'm appalled at this!

  • Anjie | October 26, 2012 1:37 AMReply

    Even Kim Kardashian is blacker than this bad and very insulting choice.

  • Gina | October 25, 2012 11:11 AMReply

    At least spend a few extra bucks to get a wig that doesn't look so darned cheap. Geez...

  • Logan Cooper | October 24, 2012 8:27 PMReply

    This has got to be a joke. Someone say "punked". Now.

  • YB | October 24, 2012 4:30 AMReply

    Aunjanue Ellis would have been a great choice to play Queen Nina.

  • Margaret Thatcher's Purse | October 23, 2012 7:57 PMReply

    Excuse my unladylike language but WHAT THE ACTUAL F*CK IS THIS SHIT?????

  • Dell | October 23, 2012 10:46 AMReply

    Adepero Oduye would have been best for the role.

  • mantan | October 23, 2012 12:08 AMReply


  • WiseMocha | October 22, 2012 7:16 PMReply

    A complete catastrophe... I just can't.

  • constance | October 22, 2012 6:21 PMReply

    no matter what..sad casting

  • G-Ladi | October 22, 2012 5:22 PMReply

    This is an insult to Nina's memory. The hair and makeup is ridiculous. Nina Simone appeared to be a very passionate person and this girl is not going to pull that off. She is a mediocre actress at best and I'm sure they could have found someone much more suitable. These folks stay messing up our stories.

  • Donella | October 22, 2012 2:54 PMReply

    This is not a good idea.

  • jay | October 22, 2012 12:21 PMReply

    nothing against zoe but i'd rather see a muppet playing nina simone. too bad there's absolutely no dark skinned actresses in hollywood or new york or chicago. not one in existence. that has to be the only explanation for such a farcical casting decision.

  • constance | October 22, 2012 6:23 PM

    there are many a dark actresses who could have played Nina...this is a typical result of dark skinned actresses not getting work because of their color...this is an explanation of playing it safe for Hollywood to produce the film.

  • Turner | October 22, 2012 12:12 PMReply

    Too many on this site haven't graduated from Hater High School. It's pathetic.

  • constance | October 22, 2012 6:25 PM

    I do not think it is being a hater Turner-it is being sensible and respectable to the memory of what is Nina Simone..Zoe is talented at what she does...the casting is in obviousness bad..that is real not at all hating on an actress of who verbally says she does not view herself as a black woman-well Nina most certainly did and was very verbal about it.

  • Dizzle | October 22, 2012 1:07 AMReply

    Why won't you guys just relax and wait until some official photos are released? We have no idea if this was taken en route to a different stage of make up or while taking a break. We all have our ideas on who could've been great from the role, but you can't just pick people known for wearing fros at some stage in their lives. That would be just as bad to imply that Nina Simone was all about her fro. Zoe Saldana may not be the most "accomplished" actress out there, but she's a pretty good actress who's got a lotta range. She's believable as a action figure, a romantic lead, even in smaller independent or low budget films. So let's give her credit for taking on this role. I bet she'd shock a lotta folks. And for the record, I also wouldn't have picked her for this role, but I think she would actually pull it off.

  • Steven | October 21, 2012 10:54 PMReply

    I would have went with Danai Gurira. Nuff said.

  • jacetoon | October 21, 2012 9:53 PMReply

    She kinda looks like Lon Chaney in London After Midnight.

  • Micah | October 21, 2012 10:53 PM

    Werewolves of London!

  • Ava | October 21, 2012 9:13 PMReply

    How I wish I hadn't taken a look at this. Just. Sigh.
    People make fun of Lauryn Hill but you know what? She would have been a great choice to play this role (irrespective of the tax evasion aspect-- which by the way, Nina Simone was at one time ordered to pay back taxes, I believe).
    I like Zoe Saldana but she's not the most accomplished actress, I just can't take this seriously. Then again from what I know about the script (unless they change it), it all fits perfect-- into the Never Never Land of Make Believe, where one need not get the nuance nor the intricate details of a persons life.
    I hope Nina Simone's daughter doesn't take this too seriously either but something tells me that she will feel hurt by this.

  • constance | October 22, 2012 6:27 PM

    perfectly said Ava...and of course you are right about Nina's daughter, Simone she has was recently interviewed by Essence Magazine and gives her opinion on the film-she is hurt, sad, and disappointed.

  • DEE | October 22, 2012 12:16 PM

    @AVA...hey you make a good point...never thought of Lauryn Hill...but she would be perfect for the role. She would have been a believable Nina Simone...but I don't think this will be anything special.

  • Stacie | October 22, 2012 6:42 AM

    From what I hear, Nina's daughter is not happy at all.

  • what? | October 21, 2012 7:22 PMReply

    PLEASE tell me those aren't fake teeth in her mouth… just slap us fans in the face for this horrible idea.

  • G-ladi | October 22, 2012 5:26 PM

    Yes they are fake teeth. Ridiculous!

  • Charli | October 22, 2012 12:00 AM

    Ummm, thats EXACTLY what it looks like. I also thought they'd have some frontal facial photos to give us the real "feel" of Zoe as Nina.

    This is going to be very interesting...

  • lauren | October 21, 2012 6:03 PMReply

    Geeze! No one knows what stage this make up is at... and people be buggin'

  • Yo | October 21, 2012 5:58 PMReply

    At least shes sexy!!!!! (Not in this though, LOLLL)

  • Shiiiiz | October 21, 2012 5:57 PMReply

    They shouldn't have put all the fake crap on Zoe's face. LOL. They should've just given her an afro instead of the fake nose and $ this is really gonna be laughable! I do hope for the best for her though; I have enjoyed some of her past films (avatar, the losers, star trek, etc.)

  • AO | October 21, 2012 5:54 PMReply

    Obviously, there is more to Nina and her legacy than a really bad looking afro wig, some skin darkening make-up and what appears to be an awful, to the point of laughable, one-size-fits-all facial prosthetic. If the director/producer hasn't cared to get the "Look" right, you have to question whether she has the sensitivity to tell a story that even begins to include what it is that makes Nina Simone an icon.

    Hopefully, this is some type of experimental look that does not represent whatever the final make-up will be. If this is the final, it is really sad. I, for one, will not pay one penny to see a culturally debasing farce and will use my resources to encourage other folks not to support such nonsense.

    I'm not asking anybody to go up against dogs and firehoses. I'm just saying, keep your wallets closed.

  • Charles Brown | October 21, 2012 5:51 PMReply

    As much as I love Zoe.....this looks a bit horrific. But ima give her a chance as Nina, who knows! Maybe she'll do a great job! I wish her the best....hope yall can all do the same for her.

  • Ew | October 21, 2012 5:48 PMReply

    This is disgusting. I hope everything about this film and everyone involved fails miserably. Imo, it's blackface, even if you're black. Classless move Saldana and co.

  • Jessica | October 26, 2012 12:20 PM

    This really is racist. Look at the makeup. If a white actress did this we all would be outraged.

  • Marc | October 22, 2012 10:56 AM

    How the hell is wearing an afro and using false teeth blackface? Do you even know what Saldana's natural hair texture is? Do you know if she doesn't use Dark & Lovely to straighten her hair?

  • Orville | October 21, 2012 5:26 PMReply

    I really have no respect for Zoe Saldana this is a woman who said that black actors complain too much about not getting high profile roles. Saldana places the same race card as Halle Berry it is easy for these mixed race women to cross racial boundaries and acquire roles not meant for them. Saldana basically read the Halle Berry blueprint.

  • Untitled1972 | October 21, 2012 5:23 PMReply

    This is absolutely ridiculous. Epps as richard pryor zoe as nina of sensitive and disconnected from the community in which it is potraying shame on them both...

  • Deborah | October 21, 2012 5:19 PMReply

    Viola Davis! I heartily agree. Zoe Saldana...uhh...not so much. Caligirl and NothingButAMan, India.Are would be an interesting choice or maybe even British actress, Marianne-Jean Baptiste.

  • PRISS | October 21, 2012 5:13 PMReply

    I really like and respected Zoe, but this decision didn't taste right from the start. Now this? Yeah no. Not feeling this wig, the prosthetics around her mouth, the skin coloration. How can she look in the mirror and think this is going to be okay? Respect dwindling rapidly.

  • JMac | October 21, 2012 4:29 PMReply


  • Sniffy | October 21, 2012 4:09 PMReply

    Finally a sequel to White Chicks...'Black Chicks'! I hate to judge prematurely, but whenever they have to use prosthetics to create ethnic features, it always looks rather horrific to me, like horror movie makeup.

    I love Zoe Saldana, and I think she has the acting chops, I just am so skeptical about the makeup. Here's hoping it looks better in the final cut, and not like the movie Leprechaun.

  • WOW | October 21, 2012 3:37 PMReply


  • Mia | October 21, 2012 3:33 PMReply

    Zoe has officially replaced Halle as Hollywood's goto Negress

  • critical acclaim | October 21, 2012 2:35 PMReply

    Zoe why? David why? This just makes me angry.

  • Phetogo | October 21, 2012 1:52 PMReply

    I am #TeamZoe all the way. Can't wait to see this.

  • BECCAQ | October 21, 2012 1:43 PMReply

    One word: Shameful. Okay two: Laughable.

  • starry118 | October 21, 2012 3:45 PM

    Funny and true.

  • B | October 21, 2012 3:30 PM

    Lol. I agree.

  • tmack | October 21, 2012 1:41 PMReply

    I recall this same kind of frustration when Diana Ross was cast to play Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues. No way Ross resembled the curvaceous Holiday but still she managed to give a good performance in a good film. I was also a bit taken aback when Angela Bassett was cast to play Tina Turner. But you gotta admit--she absolutely killed it. I'm still upset she wasn't given the Oscar for that performance.

    I don't know why Zoe Saldana was chosen. Nina Simone was a regal, dark woman whose looks were often made fun of. I see Viola Davis in that role for sure. In any case, she has large shoes to fill. She won't be able to rely on her beauty and coquettishness for this one.

  • Charli | October 22, 2012 12:39 AM

    Over the years Biopics have been controversial, but one thing I can say regarding those films about the lives of Billie Holiday, Tina Turner, Ray Charles, and even Dorothy Dandridge is that the actors' features didn't have to be dramatically altered to resemble these icons. IMO, there were plenty of really talented black actresses they could've sought out for this role(Viola Davis was a good choice). But this here with Zoe just seems a bit over the top....especially after seeing her makeup. This Biopic about Nina Simone is a serious movie, but based on all this make-up that Zoe has to wear it feels like the film is more about Nina's appearance, opposed to the life she lived.JMO

  • QUENTIN | October 21, 2012 3:48 PM

    So, Angela Bassett should have won the Oscar over Holly Hunter in "The Piano", right? I don't think so.

  • zeus | October 21, 2012 1:36 PMReply

    Viola Davis should have played Nina!

  • tmack | October 21, 2012 4:33 PM

    I don't think I'd seen The Piano when those awards were given. I agree, it's an exceptional film and Hunter's performance is magnificent. It's almost impossible to compare these two films in the same category, they are so different. I thought Angela Bassett was incredible and could have very easily won Best Actress for that role.

  • Ellie | October 21, 2012 1:32 PMReply

    Hot mess.

  • Young | October 21, 2012 1:28 PMReply

    Prosthetics, skin darkening and that ridiculous wig wouldn't be necessary had they chosen an actress that more closely resembled Ms. Nina's beauty and talent. Bless Zoe, though. I hope she brings it.

  • Kandy Kizzez | October 21, 2012 1:24 PMReply

    SMH I'm not supporting the whitening out of black women. Baby Bye!

  • caligirl | October 21, 2012 1:23 PMReply

    had any of these hollywood-producer-film-industry folks ever heard of INDIA ARIE??? this should have been a no-brainer. but they were of course going for a box office slam-dunk. i don't see this happening.

  • Jules | October 22, 2012 12:27 PM

    Lauryn Hill, Danai Guirra, Naturi Naughton...depending on age of Ms. Simone in the film, Viola Davis would have been a knockout.

  • Wilson | October 21, 2012 5:07 PM

    Laurynn Hill for the win folks.

  • tmack | October 21, 2012 1:43 PM

    Even Eryka Badu would have been a better choice.

  • NothingButAMan | October 21, 2012 1:37 PM

    YES, I've always thought India would've been the perfect one to play her...

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