Question This

At the end of 2012, Black people were all up in arms about Zoe Saldana playing Nina Simone in her biopic.  (Read this, and this, and this.)  I think I even broached this topic with a few people on Facebook.  While researching a few things this week, I became aware of a few other things that have occurred in Hollywood, and I was wondering why people didn’t question them-at least to the extent that was done with Zoe.

I was trying to decide if I wanted to purchase the movie, “W”, Oliver Stone’s flick about (his perception of) President George W. Bush.  I was also interested in the movie because a childhood friend that was murdered the same year the movie was released has a small role in it.  When I looked at the cast, I was stunned and surprised to see that Thandie Newton was playing Condoleezza Rice.  I was even MORE stunned when I saw stills from the film that showed Thandie “dressed” as Condi, complete with wig AND make-up to make her appear more like the US National Security Adviser.  (For the record, she played Rice before she was appointed to Secretary of State). In my opinion, I think this is the same situation regarding Zoe and Nina…yet I don’t recall anyone making a big deal about this.  Why is that?  While Thandie is an amazing actress, I don’t see her playing Condoleezza.  There’s nothing about these two ladies that remind me of the other.  And let’s not talk about Jeffrey Wright playing Secretary of State Colin Powell.  Maybe a big stink wasn’t made because the film wasn’t about Rice; it was about the President.  Either way, I think this was a GROSS mis-casting, if that’s even a word.

There was also something else I came across that caught my eye and made me wonder why it wasn’t heard about on a larger scale, but of course I can’t remember what it was.  In any case, what do think about Zoe Saldana playing Nina Simone?  If you’re a fan of the singer, do you still plan on seeing the film?  And what about Thandie playing Condoleezza?  If you saw the film, did she do a good job?  Or did you just focus on these two women being vastly different?  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city!


  1. 1. With all due respect, Southern Girl, your argument is one of false equivalence. The fact that Thandie Newton is not “like” Dr. Rice is irrelevant.

    2. I love it when (usually on twitter) something of note takes place and people have a strong reaction to it. It is almost ALWAYS followed by a handful of folks tweeting “why come yall weren’t this upset when this earlier thing happened?” Mind you, the earlier thing may or may not be related to the thing that everyone is upset about now. It is an attempt to silence people’s criticism.

    3. Maybe nobody was mad about Thandie because no one really cared about “W”, the film. While I’ve seen it, I don’t remember it being one of the films that captured the attention of the black blogosphere. Or maybe its because while her political career is a remarkable one that includes many “firsts”, Condoleeza doesnt occupy the same space in the hearts of black people. She is not a beloved civil rights and musical heroine who used her voice to tell fierce tales of the beauty of black people. black skin. As they say in our beloved South, “just because you’re my color, don’t mean you’re my kind”. See also: Clarence Thomas, Herman Cain, Uncle Ruckus

    4. And lastly, the Thandie-Condoleeza transition doesnt require a shitload of prosthetics and negro skin paint… And unlike the Zoe-Nina transition, it isnt reminiscent of a time in film making history when white folks in blackface was the only way “black faces” appeared in film.

    5. Jeffrey Wright as Colin was a brilliant choice. I can’t think of a better actor to play him. I can, however, think of a few talented actresses/singers to play Nina.

    • Thank you, Afropolitan, for your response! 🙂 I’ll start backwards-I’m sure Wright did an outstanding job, because he’s a brilliant actor. But I’m honestly trying to figure out why people are upset about Zoe playing Nina. Is she (Zoe) that great of an actress? Do they not favor aesthetically? Are we, as Black people, shallow that all we’re looking at is skin color? When Angela played Tina, no one said anything (and yes, I realize that was during a different era.) But let’s be real, Angela and Tina don’t favor. Neither did Laurence and Ike.

      But I digress. And trust, I’m not trying to silence anyone. I’m just thinking what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. I actually don’t think Zoe should be playing Nina…but that’s just me. And it’s interesting to me that you remember Wright’s performance more than Newton’s, which kinda goes to the point that I was making-she probably should not have been cast for that role. Point #3-no words needed.

      • Did you read the comments Zoe made about Black actresses in Hollywood? Given her absolutely ridiculous comments about the plight of Black actresses in Hollywood, why should Black people support her as she plays one of the most revered women in African-American history? I think she is a great actress, but her stance on on Black actresses on Hollywood should have automatically excluded her from playing Nina Simone.

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