Being a humanitarian and activist, Thandie Newton was concerned about the violence and nudity of women that came along with her role of playing a sentient android in HBO’s lavish $100m adaptation of Michael Crichton’s science fiction–thriller Westworld. It was only after having a conversation with the show’s co-creators, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, that Newton saw what Westworld was trying to achieve and how its female leads were at the center of the story.
Before Westworld, acting and activism never went hand in hand. “[In previous roles] I didn’t feel I was advancing my life as a human-rights activist in any way,” Newton tells Screen Daily. “I would go to work and simply do the best I could. With Westworld, I felt like I was tackling those very issues. I’ve been affected by violence against women, and it felt like there was an amazing catharsis that went with saying a lot of the dialogue playing Maeve.”
Newton grew up in Cornwall in the southwest corner of England. She received scholarships and moved to Tring Park School for the Performing Arts where she was the only black student. She studied anthropology at Cambridge University which she now uses to understand the characters she plays.
“Because you’re studying humanity, you’re studying how people work. What better way to study as an actor?”
Evidently, Newton loves to dig into the psyche her characters.
On Maeve’s Accent
While preparing for her role in Westworld, Newton came up with the idea of using a certain British accent to strike at people’s conscience.
“I thought a haughty, aristocratic English accent would be the best because it’s absolutely not expected that a woman of color would speak like that,” Newton say.
Her role as Madam Maeve Millay in Westworld has earned her a Critics’ Choice Award, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations. Surprised at the resurgence of her career, Newton feels that she needs to live in the moment. “It just seems bizarre. I keep waiting for somebody to come in and say, ‘Um, Thandie, you’re actually not supposed to be here at all!'” she said.
Newton also stars in the hit BBC drama Line Of Duty and she has been signed up for an unnamed Han Solo Star Wars film.