*Mary J. Blige finally arrives in theaters today as a sassy, singing club owner in the 80s-themed musical “Rock of Ages.”
But, a huge change of pace is on the horizon for the Queen of Hip Hop Soul, whose will also belt tunes in her next big screen gig as the High Priestess of Soul …a.k.a. famed jazz, blues and folk chanteuse Nina Simone.
Although the biopic isn’t moving as fast as the singer would like, Blige says she’s looking forward to the different energy that comes with Simone’s singing style in comparison to the high-energy, glam rock attitude of her current “Rock of Ages” character Justice Charlier.
“When we can get ‘Nina Simone’ off the page and at least into rehearsals, it’s going to be great because her songs are slower,” Blige told us. “It’s more emotion with her, and more passion. [‘Rock of Ages’] is more fun and energetic, but [Simone]is probably going to be hard because you have to draw those sad songs from places. You have to draw those blue moments from places.”
Simone, whose music famously defied standard definitions, was also a leading voice of the civil rights movement. She wrote one of her most famous songs, “Mississippi Goddam,” in response to the 1963 assassination of Medgar Evers and the Birmingham church bombing that killed four young African-American girls. Simone died in France in 2003.
The thought of portraying this complex singer and activist would seem daunting for any actress, but Blige says there’s a way to avoid being overwhelmed. Listen below.
Watch Nina Simone perform live at the 1976 Montreaux Jazz Festival below.