British actress Thandie — or “Thandiwe” — Newton has publicly apologized to darker skinned actresses for her latest role in the indie movie God’s Country, seemingly implying that her light-skinned complexion fails to represent other black actresses.
In an interview with ET Canada to promote the movie, the Emmy-winning star of HBO’s Westworld said she “wanted to apologize every day to darker-skinned actresses” while making the film.
“To say, ‘I’m sorry that I’m the one chosen. My mama looks like you. My mom looks like you’,” she said, tearing up. “It’s been very painful to have women look like my mom feel like I’m not representing them. That I’m taking from them. Taking their men, taking their work, taking their truth. I didn’t mean to.”
Newton told ET Canada she didn’t think her skin was dark enough for her role in God’s Country, in which she plays a professor who confronts two white trespassers on her property. Her character was changed to a black woman from a white man in the original short story by James Lee Burke.
“My internalized prejudice was stopping me from feeling like I could play this role when it’s precisely that prejudice that I’ve received,” she said. “Doesn’t matter that it’s from African-American women more than anyone else, doesn’t matter. I received prejudice. Anyone who’s received oppression and prejudice feels this character.”
God’s Country, which recently played at the Sundance Film Festival, marks the first time Newton is credited with her birth name “Thandiwe,” after going by “Thandie” since the start of her career. She announced the change last year, but mixed up the name’s ethnic origins.
“I got to change it back, which actually is probably more powerful,” she told ET Canada. “So I’m glad that they robbed it for a brief, brief couple of decades.”
Newton was born in England to a mother from Zimbabwe and an English father.