After the trailer for Nina Simone's forthcoming biopic hit the internet, there was a major outcry over Zoe Saldana’s heavily altered appearance as Nina, as she darkened her skin and wore a facial prosthetic. But now, the film's distributor is speaking out.

"It’s unfortunate that African Americans are talking about this in a way that hearkens back to how we were treated when we were slaves," says RLJ Entertainment founder and chair Robert L. Johnson, who also founded BET. "The slave masters separated light-skinned blacks from dark-skinned blacks, and some of that social DNA still exists today among many black people."

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he dove deeper into the issue: "That’s where some of this comes from, when you hear people saying that a light-skinned woman can't play a dark-skinned woman when they're both clearly of African descent. To say that if I'm gonna cast a movie, I've gotta hold a brown paper bag up to the actresses and say, 'Oh sorry, you can't play her': Who’s to decide when you’re black enough?"

And he seems to be missing the entire point of the backlash. But RLJ Entertainment will still release Nina on VOD and in select theaters on April 22