The Guardian Speaks To Thandie Newton

Thandie Newton — from navigating the industry as a black British woman, to ‘brainwashing’, the journey there wasn’t always easy. Read what she said to British newspaper The Guardian….

Thandie Newton is, by her own admission, “having quite a good run at the moment”. Over the past 18 months, she has earned a Golden Globe nomination for her role as Maeve Millay, a robot madam in the HBO series Westworld, and a TV Bafta nomination for playing DCI Roz Huntley in the BBC One drama Line of Duty. On Thursday, she will be inducted into one of the biggest film franchises of them all, with the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story, in which she plays Val. She’ll probably get her own figurine. Not bad for a woman who admits that she wasn’t really into sci-fi and westerns, or even that keen on doing television.

“I just didn’t see television as being reflective of stories I was interested in,” she says. “But I wanted to be home more, and TV was changing, and my agent said: ‘If you want to work in British TV, this is it – Line of Duty.’”

Her desire to be home more is a major motivation, albeit one she is still struggling to fulfil. We meet, initially, in a hotel in Los Angeles, but so jet-lagged is Newton, off the back of appearances at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, that we agree to speak instead when she’s back home in north-west London. On the day we Skype – me from New York, her from her kitchen – it’s just a few weeks later, but she has already been across the Atlantic and back again, and is about to set off for Miami, LA again and then Cannes.

She has previously described her time in the police drama as “a career highlight”, but today seems unsure. “I have had a funny relationship with Line of Duty,” she says, as she fiddles with her necklace. “I am very proud of it, partly because it is so unlike me, so it was a real performance. But so many people stop me in the street and say: ‘Roz is such a bitch.’ It hurts me every time, because I felt real compassion for her.”

Her character – who was even hailed by the show’s creators as their “most devious character ever” – went to extraordinary lengths, even committing murder, to secure a conviction in a case and protect her own position, in the fourth series of the show.

“I was distraught at some of her betrayals,” admits Newton. “But she is a person who has been so oppressed by her environment, by the sexism and harassment, which she uses in the end to try to liberate herself. She’s had to sacrifice so much in fighting her way to the top, and that can twist your psyche.”

She likens Huntley to Winnie Mandela: “Everything she went through when her husband was in prison – how she was tortured and abused – and the crimes that she then committed herself, reprehensible things. I think of Roz as a woman who has been similarly, psychically, devastated by oppression.

“Women can be the most dangerous allies to the patriarchal system,” she continues. “Because of what they have to deal with to get into positions of authority. And, just as a side note, I don’t believe that the patriarchal system has been built by men; it’s been built by fear. It’s not gendered.”

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