‘Nina’ Distributor and BET Founder Defends Zoe Saldana’s Casting

Zoe_Saldana_as_Nina_SimoneFans and celebrities alike have been very vocal about their feelings concerning the casting of Zoe Saldana as legendary singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone, but the star now has a new ally in the form of Robert L. Johnson, founder of BET and RLJ Entertainment.

Johnson, whose RLJ Entertainment will distribute Nina in April, came forward to defend Saldana’s casting. While many have been coming down on the star, who is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, for allowing herself to be put into “blackface” for the film, Johnson feels that the black community needs to stop being its own worst enemy.

“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,” Johnson told The Hollywood Reporter during a recent interview. “The slave masters separated light-skinned blacks from dark-skinned blacks, and some of that social DNA still exists today among many black people.”

“That’s where some of this comes from, when you hear people saying that a light-skinned woman can’t play a dark-skinned woman when they’re both clearly of African descent,” he continued. “To say that if I’m gonna cast a movie, I’ve gotta hold a brown paper bag up to the actresses and say, ‘Oh sorry, you can’t play her.’ Who’s to decide when you’re black enough?”

Stars that have come out in support of Saldana’s casting include Paula Patton and Queen Latifah, while others like India Arie and the representatives of Nina Simone’s estate feel that the actress was completely miscast.

(Photo Credit: RLJ Entertainment)