Robert L. Johnson
Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Hollywood Reporter

Robert L. Johson's company RLJ Entertainment is the distributor for Nina, the controversial upcoming Nina Simone biopic starring Zoe Saldana. Johnson, who is also the founder of BET, had a few words about the controversy in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter.

The film has caught flak mainly because Saldana was cast as the lead. Many people, after seeing layers of makeup and a prosthetic nose on the actress in scenes from the upcoming film, felt that Simone's legacy deserved better. Many people also think that instead of putting Saldana in a ton of makeup, the filmmakers should have cast someone else


But Johnson doesn't feel that way.

“They're both clearly of African descent," Johnson said in the interview. "To say that if I'm gonna cast a movie, I've gotta hold a brown paper bag up to the actresses and say, 'Oh, sorry, you can't play her': Who's to decide when you're black enough?

"It's unfortunate that African Americans are talking about this in a way that harkens back to how we were treated when we were slaves," Johnson continued. "The slave masters separated light-skinned blacks from dark-skinned blacks, and some of that social DNA still exists today among many black people."

Johnson also said that people shouldn't rush to judgment before watching the film.


"Make the judgment on the talent of the actors, make the judgment on the writing, but don't make it on whether or not Zoe Saldana is as black as Nina," Johnson said.

Like so many others who find nothing wrong with the casting, Johnson seems to miss the point of why people have an issue. 

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