Panel - "Nina" Casting Controversy

March 3, 2016 - Mitt Romney vs. Donald Trump & "Nina" Debate 03/03/2016 Views: 406

Michael K. Williams, Robin Thede and Franchesca Ramsey discuss the racially charged controversy surrounding Zoe Saldana's role as Nina Simone in the biopic "Nina." (6:02)

Welcome back.I'm here with my panel.

First up, Nightly Show contributor Robin Thede.

(cheering and applause)

And Nightly Show contributorFranchesca Ramsey.

(cheering and applause)

And he starred in The Wire and Boardwalk Empire,

uh, his new series Hap and Leonard premiered last night

and airs Wednesday at 10:00 p.m.on Sundance TV,

actor Michael K. Williams,everybody.

-(cheering and applause)-Yeah.

And for everyone at home,join our conversation right now

on Twitter, @NightlyShow,using the hashtag, #Tonightly.

-Okay. This is a very...(chuckles) -Oh, we are ready.

-Let's do it! -I know. These...I know you guys can't wait

to talk about this. So,recently in the news, I'm sure

you guys know, um, uh, actressZoe Saldana, who's an American

of, I think, Dominicanand Puerto Rican descent--

some people know wherewe're going... Okay. I know.

This is kind of unfortunate.She's come under fire

for wearing, like, a prostheticnose and darkened skin tone

in her portrayal of Nina Simone.There's Nina Simone

in the middle. Okay, there's Zoeon one side and then Zoe

-in the makeup onthe other side, uh, to be -Oh.

Nina Simone. So most of thebacklash seems to be centered

on the fact that there area lot of darker skinned

black actress-- actresseswho people could've played Nina.

Is that the real issue hereor is it something that...

You know, um, to-to...

Just to-to speak as a thespian,you know,

-as a person of colorin Hollywood, you know, -Yes.

I-I respect, um,Zoe's craft a lot.

-You know, she's-she's a...she's a beast. -Absolutely.

And, um, you know, for-for womenof color in Hollywood,

there's not a lot of rolesthat-that women of her caliber

can-- as-as we say in thebusiness-- sink our teeth into.

You know, um... And...But do I think that maybe, um,

someone in her camp mighthave... should have advised her

to maybe pass on this role?I-I agree.

I think that... I don't thinkHollywood searched really...

I-I don't think they spent...I don't think they looked

-outside of maybe the roomor-or... -Yes. -Yes. Yes.

Exactly. "Can't find any blackpeople in here to play her!"

-"Zoe! Let's get her!" -"Youwere just in a movie." -Yeah.

-How they think in Hollywood.-Well, that's the problem.

And I think at the time...This was cast, I think,

three or four years ago. Atthe time, she had just finished

-doing Star Trek and Avatar. -Yeah. She was hot.

-Yeah, she was real hot at thetime... -They could've kept her

-in her Avatar... -Well, that'sthe thing. She looked better

-in blueface than in blackface.-Oh. She...

-she also was in Guardians of the Galaxy. -I mean...

And I'm actually gonna givethe vote to greenface,

-when she was in Guardians... -Oh, but that was after this.

-But, yes, it was good. -But, Imean, it looked good, you know?

She's phenomenal. I thinkshe is a phenomenal actress.

Is it only the makeup or isit the manner of opportunities?

Does it feel like it's...

-WILLIAMS: I thinkit's both for me. -THEDE: Yeah.

You know, uh, you know, NinaSimone reminds me of my mom.


You know, a full-figured,dark-skinned black woman.

-RAMSEY: Right.-WILMORE: Right.

And, you know, Zoe does notremind me of my mom in no...

-(laughter) -WILMORE: I know, at all.

And, you know, but,you know, so, I...

Which is not necessarilya bad thing.

-No, not a bad thing, or...-Yeah.

-You know, it is what it is.-Right.

You know, but I have a problemwith the prosthetic nose

-and the makeup.-Yeah. -WILMORE: Yeah.

-She was such a striking artist.-WILLIAMS: Yeah.

I mean, this woman...

I remember as a kid

hearing "To Be Young,Gifted and black..."

-THEDE: Yeah. -RAMSEY: Right.-...and what that means.

It wasn't "To Be Young, Giftedand Blackface," right?

-RAMSEY: Yeah, exactly. -THEDE:And listen, I'm sitting here

-in all my yellow skin.Like, I get it. -Yeah.

-Like, we come in all shades.-WILMORE: Yeah.

But, you know,I think I would...

WILMORE: If she wasn'tin the dark makeup,

would it make a difference?

-Like, if it was same actress...-RAMSEY: Yeah.

...but they didn't try to doall the bad makeup, you know?

-I think... -Yeah. -I would haverespected that more,

-actually, me personally.-Right.

-Because that makes...that makes it, like... -I know.

It's like, what are you tryingto...? 'Cause the black makeup

and the prosthetic nosemakes me think that you think

you could notfind someone that...

with the skills to pull thatoff. -RAMSEY: Right. Exactly.

THEDE: That's...and there are plenty.

-I would have rather her justKept it 100. -WILMORE: Right.

-You know what I mean? -RAMSEY:Yes! -THEDE: That's right.

-(applause and cheering)-And just, you know...

I don't thinkthat you have to look

like the personyou're portraying, you know?

-WILMORE: Right. -You don't haveto look exactly like them.

-It is still acting.-WILMORE: I agree with you.

WILLIAMS: It's nota look-alike contest. Exactly.

-THEDE: Right.-Exactly.

But at the same time,Nina Simone's music

and her career wasabout her difficulties

as a dark-skinned black woman

and the erasureof dark black women.

So now you're gonna erase herin her biopic?

-WILLIAMS: Yeah. -Like, I mean,that doesn't make any sense.

-I mean... -I would say, ifyou had to look like the part,

I mean, good luck casting The Elephant Man.

I mean, that would havebeen impossible.

-(laughter and groaning) -Youknow, it's like, "I'm sorry.

We're gonna haveto see someone else."

THEDE:Well, I think... I think

Zoe thought this was gonna be...

Or someone convinced her

that this was gonna be herOscar moment, you know? Like,

in Hollywood,Nina Simone was seen

-as a non-traditional beauty,right? -WILMORE: Uh-huh.

Like, and so, she thought

if she could put on the makeupand look different--

translate Hollywood pretty girllooking ugly--

which I thinkis the offensive part here.

I think they triedto make her look less than,

and Nina Simonewas a beautiful woman!

-Ooh, yes! -WILLIAMS:Amen to that. Amen to that.

-You know? And like... yeah.-(applause and cheering)

-Amen to that.-THEDE: And, like, you can't...

This isn't gonna beyour Monster

-like Charlize Theron.-WILMORE: Oh, my God.

Like, this is not gonna be your Monster. You know what I mean?

I think that that'swhat she thought, too.

-Like, don't make fun of itlike that. -WILMORE: Uh-huh.

Yeah, there's so much moreto that story.

What do you thinkare the boundaries

for pretending in acting?

Because some people say,"Man, but you're actors.

Shouldn't you pretendto be something else?" You know?

WILLIAMS:Well, you know,

-I believe in stretchingthe envelope... -Mm-hmm. faras the mind will go, but,

at some point, the rubber bandwill snap and break.

-WILMORE: Yeah. -THEDE: Right.-RAMSEY: Mm-hmm.

You know, I... you know,like, for instance, um, I...

A few years back, I was cast

to play Ol' Dirty Bastard fromWu-Tang, right? -RAMSEY: Mm-hmm.

And, um, it's been a few years

we trying to movethis rock up the hill.

But, you know, I am nowa man of a certain age,

and we all know that, you know,

-Rusty died in his young 30s.-RAMSEY: Right.

You know,there's gonna come a point

where I'm notgonna feel comfortable

-playing that role anymore.-WILMORE: Right. Yeah.

-I'm an old-ass man!-(laughter)

But it's Ol' Dirty Bastard.

-You know what I mean? You know.-Right.

WILMORE: What do you think'smore important--

the racial factoror the music factor?

Ooh, that's really hard.

I would sayif this was gonna be a...

But do you think we'reforgetting about her music?

Listen, I think thatwhen you look at Nina Simone,

if I was gonna make a Venndiagram, it would be music here,

race here, and right in themiddle would be Nina Simone.

-WILLIAMS: Mm. -Becauseher music was influenced

-by her race and her identity.She... -WILMORE: Yes.

The civil rights movementwas a big part of her career.

-WILLIAMS: It was.-So you can't separate the two.

-WILLIAMS: No. -WILMORE: Mm-hmm.She was a genius.

We'll be right backright after this.

(applause and cheering)

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