Thandiwe Newton: My Star Wars character wasn’t killed off in the script


A post shared by Thandiwe Newton (@thandiwenewton)

Thandiwe Newton is a force for change in this resurgence of her career. Earlier this year she started using her full birth name, Thandiwe, and she has consistently been outspoken about sexual misconduct and racism in Hollywood. Thandiwe is starring the new psychological thriller on HBO Max, Reminiscence, also starring Hugh Jackman. Thandiwe recently spoke to Inverse Magazine. She talked about her disappointment in her Star Wars character being killed off, being manipulated into doing nude scenes, and opposition to critical race theory. Below are a few more highlights from Inverse:

On Westworld and onscreen nudity
Honestly, I was ready to quit. Happily, joyfully, like, “Oh, I don’t have to keep acting? Fine.” I love being a mother. I love being a human rights activist. I love writing. This was my moment to step away, and not in a fearful way. It just fit. And then I got the call for Westworld. It was my husband, [Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again director Ol Parker,] who said, “Oh, this sounds good,” because of the team involved.

Part of the abuse that I’d suffered in the industry was directors who lied about how my nudity was going to be used and got me naked in ways that were inappropriate. I’ve also been physically sexually abused. And so, they asked me to reveal my body at a time when I wanted to retreat, [especially because] I had a six-month-old baby when I started shooting Westworld.

But when they described what we were going to use it for, it was literally the whole notion of martial arts: use your enemy’s strength against them. That is what the first season of Westworld was, and in it was the liberation of a brown woman. If you want to really understand how cruel and how destructive humanity is, look at the experiences of most brown women in the world. You don’t get lower than that in the pecking order of what’s f-king important. To be able to use that, and literally empower this character through her truth, with everything that I’ve wanted to do with my career. And that was why I wanted to leave the film business, because I felt like I wasn’t able to do that.

On how her character died in Star Wars
I felt disappointed by Star Wars that my character was killed. 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.

That’s what it originally was: that the explosion and she falls out and you don’t know where she’s gone. So I could have come back at some point. But when we came to filming, as far as I was concerned and was aware, when it came to filming that scene, it was too huge a set-piece to create, so they just had me blow up and I’m done. But I remembered at the time thinking, “This is a big, big mistake” — not because of me, not because I wanted to come back. You don’t kill off the first Black woman to ever have a real role in a Star Wars movie. Like, are you f-king joking?

On critical race theory
I am loving what happened with [HBO’s] Watchmen. It’s so profound that they used Tulsa as the origin story for Watchmen. Most Americans didn’t know about the Tulsa massacre. and they’re trying to get rid of critical race theory!

If you get rid of critical race theory, are you going to imprison the people that write Watchmen? The director of 12 Years a Slave? Lisa Joy, for writing about the reevaluation of history? Mind you, she does sci-fi, which is f-king clever, because you can’t touch sci-fi, because it’s postulating a future. Opposition to critical race theory is like Scientology, in that it wants to erase history. But if you erase history, it’s like trauma survivors not dealing with their trauma. If you don’t deal with your trauma, it is going to bite you in the ass, because it’s going to come up in ways that you don’t understand. You have to deal with your trauma. And that is what critical race theory is. That is what a reimagining of history is. That is what we’re starting to see in art. And that is why we have to fight to critique critical race theory because it’s inspiring so many of us artists.

[From Inverse]

Thandiwe has really hit her stride and I always get excited when I see an interview from her. I know that she will say something profound. Thandiwe has been very vocal about her experience with sexual misconduct when she was younger in Hollywood. I feel like her role in Westworld has empowered her to be more outspoken just like Maeve realized her power. I also agree with Thandiwe about her character in Star Wars. It made absolutely no sense to kill the first Black woman character in Star Wars history off so soon in the film. But the creators of the recent Star Wars movies didn’t care. I will never forget what they put John Boyega through so I am not surprised that they did that to Thandiwe’s character.

As for what Thandiwe said about opposition to critical race theory being akin to a survivor not dealing with their trauma, I agree 100%. Erasing history does not get rid of the effects of that trauma. Those who experienced it pass it to their children for generations. To heal trauma, we must confront the issues from a place of truth. We should know and understand the full history. I am glad that Thandiwe didn’t give up on her career and took on the role of Maeve. I plan to watch Reminiscence soon and now I must catch up on season three of Westworld so I am ready for season four. It’s out next May.


A post shared by Thandiwe Newton (@thandiwenewton)


A post shared by Thandiwe Newton (@thandiwenewton)


A post shared by Thandiwe Newton (@thandiwenewton)

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