Nyack resident Sam Waymon, the brother of legendary singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone, is speaking out against light skinned Latina actress Zoe Saldana playing his dark skinned and “racial conscious” sister in the forthcoming film “Nina.”
“Zoe Saldana is an amazing actress. I like her work but she’s not right for the part,” Waymon said during a phone conversation this morning. “She doesn’t look like Nina, which doesn’t always have to be the case when you are making a movie, but they didn’t even take that into consideration.”
Waymon says he is sure that Simone, who passed away in 2003 at age 70, would have also disapproved of writer/director Cynthia Mort’s casting decision, which has stirred up an online debate since it was reported in August. (A petition at the website Change.org calling for the role to be recast has 7,498 supporters as of today.)
“I really believe in my hearts of hearts that Nina would not have approved,’” he says. “Nina wasn’t a racist but she was racial conscious. She wouldn’t have thought of Zoe as her first choice or any choice…I was with Nina in the early years when she was dealing with the black woman’s image and how black women were perceived…Nina would have said ‘let me choose someone who I think resembles me.’”
Waymon, who is also concerned that Saldana isn’t mature enough to play Simone in her later years, says an actress like Viola Davis would have been a better choice. He says his sister would have chosen Whoopi Goldberg.
“I am not attacking Zoe. She is an actress,” Waymon says. “I don’t know if she knows what she is stepping into with this controversy. If she has any guts about her, she would back out. That would speak highly of her character if he doesn’t want any part of this defamation of my sister.”
Waymon’s objections to the unauthorized film goes further than Mort’s casting decision. He claims the writer/director has written a love story between Simone and her assistant Clifton Henderson—a love affair that didn’t exist.
“Cliff Henderson was gay and it was well known,” Waymon says. “Nina knew it and everybody knew it. It was not a problem. The question was put to Cynthia about why would she write such and a scene and she said because she wanted to see a loving, human side of Nina having a love affair. But it’s a lie! What happens with lies that are told in a film is that they becomes history. This lady is messing with my family’s legacy, Nina’s legacy, and Cliff’s legacy. I won’t stand for that. I won’t put up with that.”
“We can’t stop her from writing this movie but I want the world to know that I am out here,” says the musician, who will be releasing a song titled “A Brother’s Love” on iTunes and Amazon. Waymon says he is also planning a press conference in Nyack to bring attention to the movie controversy.
“Don’t mess with Nina. If you can’t tell the truth, leave her alone,” he says.
Photos: The Journal News and AP