The oft-delayed Nina Simon biopic is set to begin shooting this week and has added Mike Epps to the cast. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the actor-comedian will play Richard Pryor alongside Zoe Saldana, who will play the legendary singer and activist.
Saldana’s casting has been the subject of controversy in recent months amid claims that both her appearance and perspective are counter to that of Simone’s. Before Saldana joined Nina, the role had originally been given to Mary J. Blige. As for Epps, he had long wanted to play the iconic comedian and was close to in a separate biopic although that role was ultimately awarded to Marlon Wayans. That project, too, has faced several years of delays.
As for Epps’ function in the upcoming, Nina, THR reports:
In a supporting role, Epps will play Pryor, who opened for the singer when they two were starting out in the early 1960s. Pryor had terrible stage fright and Simone, in her autobiography, recalled how she regularly rocked him into calmness.
Mark Burton, Barnaby Thompson, Stuart Parr and Ben Latham Jones are producing the movie, which starts shooting this week in Los Angeles. Ealing Studios is behind the movie and handling foreign sales.