India.Arie Weighs in on Nina Controversy: 'They Cast Zoë Saldana Because They Wanted A Big Name'

India.Arie Weighs in on Nina Simone and Zoe Saldana Movie Controversy
India.Arie, (inset) Zoë Saldana as Nina Simone
Raymond Boyd/Getty

03/06/2016 AT 12:45 PM EST

"Video" singer India.Arie is adding her voice to the chorus of those against the casting of Zoë Saldana as Nina Simone in the upcoming biographical film about her life.

The 40-year-old told The Hollywood Reporter (via Billboard) that she was saddened by the choice of Saldana to play the iconic dark-skinned singer.

Arie, who saw an early version of Nina three years ago and has even portrayed Simone onscreen (in a 2003 episode of American Dreams), said, "the way she looked in the movie was ugly."

"I think the best way to say it is that they casted her against type and went too far to make her fit," she explained. "It's not my place to say how Zoe Saldana perceives herself, and I can't say how anybody else perceives her either."



The musician previously bashed the actress' turn as Simone online, writing of Saldana's darkened skin and prosthetics on Nina Simone's dedicated website, "it looks like a person in Black(er) face with a fake nose."

In her THR interview, she said that she referred to the look as "black(er) face" because she "didn't know what to call it."

"[The Nina portrayal] is a caricature," Arie said. "You had to put a whole other face on someone’s face."

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Both Saldana and Nina's distribution company have come on the offensive since the film's trailer was released, with the latter telling PEOPLE in a statement that, "The most important thing is that creativity or quality of performance should never be judged on the basis of color, or ethnicity, or physical likeness."

Saldana said back in 2013 of the controversy, "I don't care who tells me that I am not this and I am not that. I know who I am and I know what Nina Simone means to me. So that is my truth and that set me free."

Noted Arie, "I don't know her and I don't think she did anything wrong," adding, "I think they cast Zoe Saldana because they wanted a big name, but that makes me ask, 'Is the name Nina Simone not big enough to get people to come to the movie?' "

Arie also addressed director Judd Apatow, who responded to the Nina backlash on Twitter, Thursday, writing, "I think all actors should only be allowed to play themselves. It is offensive to pretend to be other people."



"What he's saying doesn't take into account so many things that matter to this story," Arie told THR. "I see why that is his point of view and he has that right. Why would you have the point of view of a black woman when you're a white man? I respect his perspective."
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