Zoe Saldana has tearfully apologised for an acting role she previously defended – admitting she "should have never" taken it on.

The actress played Nina Simone in a widely criticised 2016 biopic, darkening her skin and wearing a prosthetic nose for the role.

"I should have never played Nina," Saldana admitted during an interview with Pose creator Steven Canals on Instagram Live this week.

"I should have done everything in my power to cast a black woman to play an exceptionally perfect black woman."

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Saldana, who is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, previously defended her decision to play the late singer and civil rights activist.

"There's no one way to be black. I'm black the way I know how to be. You have no idea who I am. I am black. I'm raising black men. Don't you ever think you can look at me and address me with such disdain," she said during an interview with Allure in 2016 .

Her interview prompted the singer's estate to respond scathingly, "Cool story but please take Nina's name out of your mouth. For the rest of your life."

"I thought back then that I had the permission (to play her) because I was a black woman," Saldana admitted this week.

"And I am. But it was Nina Simone. And Nina had a life and she had a journey that should have been – and should be – honoured to the most specific detail because she was a specifically detailed individual."