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