Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone?

Singer extraordinaire Nina Simone on a Tel Aviv beach in 1978. Inset: Zoe Saldana, who has reportedly been tapped to play Simone. / Photos: AP; Anthony Behar/Sipa USA

By// Kelley L. Carter

There’s a bit of a controversy brewing with the recently announced casting changes for the Nina Simone biopic.

Slated to play the now-deceased soul singer is 34-year-old actress Zoe Saldana, something that folks on the internet haven’t taken too kindly to. Previously cast in the lead role was singer Mary J. Blige, but she dropped the project because of funding issues. According to the Hollywood Reporter, those issues are no longer and production will begin Oct. 16 in Los Angeles. Actor David Oyelowo will star as her manager, Clifton Henderson.

So what’s the internet scuttlebutt? It’s largely centered around whether or not the afro-Latina actress can pull off such a meaty, dramatic role about the singer and Civil Rights activist. And about the fact that she’s afro-Latina. caught up with actor Michael Ealy who co-starred as a love interest of Saldana’s in 2010’s Takers. He shrugged off any such casting controversy, saying “knowing Zoe like I do, and the actress that she is,” he has faith that she’ll pull it off. “I don’t look like Joe Bradford,” he said of his character in the forthcoming Unconditional, which also is based on a true story. His film Unconditional, hit theaters September 21.

The Simone story – she died in France in 2003 – is written and directed by Cynthia Mort.//