‘Nina’ Distributor Thinks Insinuating Racism Will Make Us Hop On His Sinking Ship Of a Movie

This movie has been plagued from the start, but the first trailer for the ‘Nina’ movie starring Zoe Saldana has people up in arms. It’s hard to understand why they cast a light-skinned black woman to play Nina Simone and put her in (laughable) prosthetics and dark skin makeup instead of casting a different actress altogether, particularly since Nina Simone herself built a great deal of her artistic career around her blackness.

You can’t blame us for being woke enough to point out the absurdity of the casting, but someone is certainly going to try! Head distributor Robert L. Johnson is defending the casting choice to the Hollywood Reporter by saying the backlash reminds him of slavery.

“It’s unfortunate that African-Americans are talking about this in a way that hearkens back to how we were treated when we were slaves,” says RLJ Entertainment founder and chair Robert L. Johnson, who also founded BET. “The slave masters separated light-skinned blacks from dark-skinned blacks, and some of that social DNA still exists today among many black people.”

Oh, we have to take it back to slavery to understand this tone deaf casting? He keeps going:

“As an African-American, I will gladly engage anyone on this question of should we be talking about how light or how dark you should be to play a role,” he says. “Many people who are talking about it don’t even realize what they’re getting into. Imagine if I were to do a biopic about Lena Horne, who’s obviously light-skinned, or Dorothy Dandridge. Would it be fair if I put up a sign that said ‘No black women apply’? That would be ridiculous. Black Americans should know better than to have this discussion over a creative project. We’re not talking about white against black. We’re talking about black against black.”

I think the discussion isn’t that various actors can’t play different shades of blackness, but that you literally put an actress in blackface to make this specific movie. Talent notwithstanding, that’s a weird choice.