Since her debut on the music scene in the early ’90s, Mary J. Blige has expanded her career into the world of TV and movies with roles like her popular character of Monet Tejada on “Power Book II: Ghost.” In 2021, she played jazz singer Dinah Washington in the Aretha Franklin biopic Respect. But there’s another music trailblazer who she’d like to play on screen.
The Super Bowl halftime show performer stopped by “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” on Wednesday (March 29) to talk about her career and her accomplishments, including her new children’s book “Mary Can!” as well as what she’s looking forward to in the future. One hope she has is to portray soul icon Nina Simone in a biopic.
“I always wanted to play Nina Simone,” the Yonkers native said honestly. “I want to learn how to play the piano. I love her songs. They are very dark and moody, and I can always find a place for that. So yeah, I definitely want to play her.” Watch the clip below.
The Queen of Hip Hop Soul has expressed interest in playing the High Priestess of Soul on screen for years. Back in 2006, Billboard reported that Blige had been tapped to play Simone in a biopic. In 2009, she told the publication that the movie was moving forward under her now-defunct Matriarch Entertainment company. And in 2010, she opened up to Vulture about the dream of bringing the “Feeling Good” songstress to life on film. But the movie never came to fruition. Instead, Zoe Saldaña starred in the 2016 biopic Nina — a role the Avatar: The Way of Water star later expressed regret for taking.
When discussing some of the actresses she admires, the “Real Love” singer named Angela Bassett, Taraji P. Henson, Regina King, Regina Hall, and Queen Latifah as inspirations. Latifah, like Blige, made the jump from music to acting early on in her career. In 2017, she became the first Black woman to earn multiple Oscar nominations in the same year, getting nods for Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Song for the film “Mudbound.” For her, playing different people is a cathartic release as she works through some of her emotions via her characters.
“I get to give anger, or I get to give sadness, or strength, or whatever I’m feeling or wherever I can grab it from — my past, from something bad that happened, from something good that happened — and give it to this character and let them live,” she told supermodel Naomi Campbell in 2020. “That’s therapeutic for me because it gets it out of me — the things that I can’t deal with or do anymore, or won’t do, I have to give it to the character.” Check out the honest interview below.