Thandiwe Newton Issues Emotional Apology to 'Dark-Skinned Actresses': 'I'm Sorry I'm the One Chosen'
By Miguel A. Melendez
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Thandiwe Newton broke down in tears and apologized to "darker-skinned actresses" while discussing colorism and the prejudices that come with it in Hollywood.
The Westworld star opened up about the plight she's faced as a fair-skinned Black actress during an interview with The Associated Press to promote her latest film, God's Country. In the film, which premiered at Sundance, Newton plays the role of a grieving professor who is thrust into an intense showdown after two white hunters set foot on her property. The film is based on the short story from James Lee Burke, whose protagonist is an older white man.
That the opportunity for the role ended up on her lap is something in and of itself Newton said she struggled with.
"I now realize that 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 to the AP. "It doesn't matter that it's from African American women more than anyone else. I received prejudice. Anyone who's received oppression and prejudice feels this character."
That being said, Newton is also cognizant of the inroads she's made in Hollywood as a Black woman precisely because of the color of her skin.
Thandiwe Newton plays a woman confronting white hunters in the Sundance film "God's Country." She says she's struggled with a different type of prejudice in the U.S. as a light-skinned Black British actor. pic.twitter.com/mAccJ9rA5s
"I've wanted so desperately to apologize every day to darker-skinned actresses," said Newton as she struggled to hold back tears. "To say, 'I'm sorry that I'm the one chosen.' My mama looks like you." Newton's mother, Nyasha Newton, is a princess from the Shona tribe in Zimbabwe.
"It's been very painful to have women look like my mom feel like I'm not representing them," she added. "That I'm taking from them. Taking their men, taking their work, taking their truth."
In the end, Newton, the first Black woman to have a prominent role in a Star Wars film in 2018's Solo, says she's thankful to have made a meaningful impact in the industry for women of color.
"I do think that any women of color who, whether they are pale, or whatever, who have managed to help other actors, get into this business, we matter,” Newton said. "Whenever they say that Black women have watched the movie, and it’s really, really, really mattered to them, I just thank God that my light skin didn’t stop that from happening -- that it didn’t cause more pain."
It's not the first time Newton has discussed colorism in Hollywood. During an interview with British Vogue last May, Newton claimed Flirting director John Duigan asked her to "be darker by Monday" during her audition for the role in the 1991 film that would launch her acting career.
"Colorism has just been the funniest," she said at the time. "I've been too Black, not Black enough. I'm always Black. I'm just like, whadda you people want!"