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Image / Living / Culture

Thandiwe Newton turned down a major movie for a damn good reason


by Jennifer McShane
04th Sep 2021
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The actor said playing a thankless supporting role wasn't going to cut it.

Actress Thandiwe Newton is as known for her wide body of work as she is for speaking out against the status quo when it comes to Hollywood. For women in the industry, even post-#MeToo, a lack of diverse roles (particularly when you reach a particular age) is still a problem.

There are still few parts for, as Tina Fey so eloquently put it, “the Meryl Streeps over 60,” and even then, the sparse parts are horribly sexist – from Susan Sarandon playing Melissa McCarthy’s grandmother in Tammy to Streep as a scraggly old witch in Into The Woods. 

Some, like the above, are rooted in stereotypes, in sexism. Sure, we have women like Reese Witherspoon trying to rectify this, but the stakes can remain uneven, if, for example, you are a woman of colour. Newton knows this, and the Westworld star has been outspoken in taking to task those in the industry who need to do more to ensure a variety of roles are offered to women.

For example, Newton is interested in starring in a superhero movie, but not one that casts her as a mother whose primary importance for the story is to die. Such was a role offered recently to the Emmy winner.

She revealed to LAD Bible that she turned down a superhero tentpole because the role being offered to her was “someone’s mum who just dies.” The actress added, “I was like, ‘Meh, no.’ It was more the role, you know what I mean?”

And it isn’t the first time she’s experienced a disappointing character arc.  Newton was cast as the first major Black woman in Star Wars: Solo, but her character was killed off when the script changed during production.

“I felt disappointed by ‘Star Wars’ that my character was killed,” Newton recently told Inverse. “And, actually, in the script, she wasn’t killed. It happened during filming. And it was much more just to do with the time we had to do the scenes. It’s much easier just to have me die than it is to have me fall into a vacuum of space so I can come back sometime,” she said.

“I remember thinking, ‘This is a big, big mistake – not for me, not because I wanted to come back so often. But you’re not going to kill the first black woman to play a real role in a Star Wars movie. Is that a bad joke or something?”

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