Color Blind

Thandie Newton: There’s No Work for Black Actors in the U.K.

She gave a show-stopping performance as Maeve in ‘Westworld.’ So why does Thandie Newton struggle to be cast back home in the U.K.? Her skin color, she says, in a provocative new interview.

Westworld star Thandie Newton has said that she has struggled to get parts in British dramas because there are no roles for black actors in popular British period dramas like Downton Abbey.

Newton, 44, who plays the part of rebellious android prostitute Maeve in HBO’s hit science-fiction thriller, was speaking to Britain’s Sunday Times after it was announced she had landed a role in an as-yet-untitled Star Wars spinoff about Han Solo and ahead of an appearance in BBC crime drama Line of Duty, in which she plays a senior cop being investigated by an anti-corruption unit.

She told The Sunday Times Magazine: “I love being [in the U.K.], but I can’t work, because I can’t do Downton Abbey, can’t be in Victoria, can’t be in Call the Midwife—well, I could, but I don’t want to play someone who’s being racially abused.

“I’m not interested in that, don’t want to do it... there just seems to be a desire for stuff about the royal family, stuff from the past, which is understandable, but it just makes it slim pickings for people of color.”

She said: “I’m talented at what I do, but I’ve had to struggle against racism and sexism. But I’m glad of it, in a way, that I survived and overcame.”

There has been a simmering row in U.K. thespian circles for some time now about whether or not period dramas should be “color-blind.”

Julian Fellowes, the Downton Abbey creator, recently said his new musical would be sticking with an all-white cast despite criticism because, “We are trying to reproduce [the tiny port village of] Folkestone in 1900, and I think you must produce something that is believable,” he said.

Newton, who has a Zimbabwean mother of the Shona tribe and a British father, has previously told how her family was the target of racist abuse growing up in Cornwall in rural England.

Newton has a record of being an outspoken critic of the film industry—last year she risked the ire of her peers by revealing she was groped by a co-star and warned of a “widespread problem” of sexual abuse in “every single industry.”

The actress has also previously told how a director filmed up her skirt during an audition in her early career and later showed the footage to his friends.