BET Founder Robert Johnson Defends Zoe Saldana Casting In ‘Nina’

Movies & TV

The studio behind the Nina Simone biopic has released a statement defending the decision to cast Zoe Saldana as the iconic entertainer, despite the major backlash over her appearance in the film’s trailer.

READ The Trailer For ‘Nina’ Starring Zoe Saldana Has Arrived

According to Indiewire, RLJ Entertainment Chairman and founder Robert Johnson said the actress should be judged by her work in the film, not her look.

On Wednesday, (March 2) the trailer to Nina was released with the Afro-Latina actress in darker makeup and prosthetic nose. The debate about the film’s casting has boiled for years after the Simone estate essentially shamed the casting of Saldana as the worldly entertainer. Johnson, who is also the founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), added “The most important thing is that creativity or quality of performance should never be judged on the basis of color, or ethnicity, or physical likeness. Quality entertainment should be measured by the sheer force of creativity and the commitment that an actor or actress brings to the performance.”

READ Zoe Saldana Responds To ‘Nina’ Backlash, Nina Simone’s Estate Swiftly Claps Back

Saldana attempted to calm the backlash this week with a quote by Nina herself on Twitter. The move didn’t work as the estate for the singer responded in a not-so-friendly way.

Time will only predict the critical reception of the film. So far, there have been three biopics on Black icons presented this year. The Jesse Ownes film Race is currently in theaters, Nate Parker’s The Birth of A Nation on Nat Turner will be released October 7 and Nina will land in theaters April 22.