Nina Simone’s only daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, spoke with Time this week about the furor over Zoe Saldana’s casting in upcoming Nina Simone biopic Nina. Simone Kelly, a singer herself, who, along with her family, has disavowed the movie since 2006, defended Saldana even as she criticized the rest of the project. “It’s unfortunate that Zoe Saldana is being attacked so viciously when she is someone who is part of a larger picture,” Simone Kelly said of the actress, who wears a prosthetic nose and has noticeably darkened skin in the film. “It’s clear she brought her best to this project, but unfortunately she’s being attacked when she’s not responsible for any of the writing or the lies.” Simone Kelly also said that she was unaware of the verified Twitter account representing her mother’s estate, which posted a critical tweet of Zoe Saldana after the actress shared a Nina Simone quote earlier this week, as the Simone family gave over control to the singer’s online presence to a family friend.
Among other complaints, Simone Kelly targeted the film’s portrayal of a romantic relationship between Simone and Clifton Henderson (David Oyelowo), which, according to Simone Kelly, “never took place,” since Henderson was a gay man. Here and elsewhere, Simone Kelly attributes the film’s failings to director Cynthia Mort. “There are many superb actresses of color who could more adequately represent my mother and could bring her to the screen with the proper script, the proper team and a sense of wanting to bring the truth of my mother’s journey to the masses,” Simone Kelly said. “And Nina, in my opinion, doesn’t do any of that.”