Now that Deadline has confirmed that Lenny Kravitz will play Marvin Gaye in an upcoming biopic, will the questions of whether he's dark-skinned enough for the role return, too? The news stirs the pot of a debate that's been on going since Zoe Saldana was cast as Nina Simone in a biopic of that legendary singer.
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The Kravitz controversy is, at this point, on a far lesser scale than that surrounding Saldana, which has been documented in a New York Times story and protested in a Change.org petition. But last month the debate flared up again as photos were released of Saldana shooting the project wearing dark makeup and prosthetics. Tanzina Vega at the Times explained that "the proposed choice of Ms. Saldana to play Simone has reignited the conversation of colorism — Alice Walker’s term for discrimination based on gradations of skin color."
As the Kravitz rumors began, similar questions followed them. Last week Charing Ball wondered at Madame Noire: "Okay so let’s get to the heart of the issue: they couldn’t cast an actor/singer with a similar hue and physical features to carry the role of Gaye?" At Your Black World a blog post explained:
To many observers, this shows that Hollywood is perpetuating white supremacy by preferring lighter skinned actresses and actors to darker skinned actors, even if the actual person the actor is portraying was darker skinned.
That said, the post adds: "Kravitz is a talented singer, though, so one could argue that he brings much more to the table than Saldana." Hip Hop Wired asked readers to weigh in, and comments on an Indiewire article announcing the confirmation included:
Per Deadline, the movie will focus on Gaye's time in Europe in the 1980s. Other Gaye projects have also been long in the works, including one starring Law & Order's Jesse L. Martin. The Kravitz version, though, at least has its "music rights issues" cleared up, according to Deadline.