It's hard to know how to feel about the news that Mary J. Blige will be playing Nina Simone in an upcoming biopic. It's truly perplexing. Not because Mary doesn't have the chops, singing or acting. (I think.) But because it seems like bizarre casting a la Ms. Knowles as Etta James. Her broader appeal may sell more tickets, but the film is so niche to begin with that it may not have that much impact. Plus, there are plenty of trained actors who could really get into this role. Viola Davis, perhaps? Or if singing ability is what's key here, why not India.Arie, who may have an easier time adapting to such a low, husky and jazzy style?
While contemporary pop and R&B singers have their merits, casting a singer with such a flowery vocal style to sing (and I'm assuming Mary will cover the songs) in a style that is much more subdued and straightforward can be a problem. Beyoncé, for example, sang "At Last" very well in Cadillac Records, but she sounded nothing like Etta James. She couldn't. There were 40 years of stylistic differences muddying the vocal waters between her and Etta. The same goes for Mary, whose genre is equally as removed from Nina's.
Is outright mimicry like Jamie Foxx played Ray Charles the solution? It's hard to say. What are your thoughts, SoulBouncers?