Zoe Saldana endured a rough couple of months since casting for a Nina Simone biopic revealed that she would take on the lead role. Since then she’s received tough criticism, citing her light complexion and ethnicity as problems for playing a dark-skinned African American woman. Although many comments have been cut-throat, Mike Epps is stepping forward in Saldana’s defense after viewing the movie ahead of its release.
According to Epps, Zoe “did a good job” portraying the revered vocalist. Epps, who played Richard Pyror in a recent biopic, admitted that it’s hard to portray a famous figure when one generation considers them to be a staple of culture during that period and the other isn’t familiar with them at all.
“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,” Epps told People.
The comedian also attributed Saldana’s criticism to the biopic’s timeliness. “With Zoe’s situation, they put a documentary out about Nina Simone that was really hot and familiar, so I think it made it hard for her to come back and do that movie,” he said. “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.”
The acclaimed Netflix documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone? was nominated for an Oscar last year. So that may mean Saldana has some big shoes to fill. Nina will premiere on April 22.