In Conversation: Thandie Newton

After decades onscreen, nothing surprises the Westworld actress, though what she’s ready to share will surprise you.

As outspoken as Thandie Newton has been throughout her career, there are still stories she’s been holding off on telling. Not because she’s shy, but because she’s waiting for the right moment. “So careful what you do, everybody,” she says. “Because you might find yourself fucking over a little brown girl at the beginning of a career, when no one knows who she is and no one gives a fuck. She might turn out to be Thandie Newton.”

At 47, Newton feels she’s more powerful than ever, which manifests in our Zoom conversations as a kind of stunning vulnerability. It’s rare for an actress whose 30-plus-year career has ranged from odd art-house films with Bernardo Bertolucci to blockbusters like Mission: Impossible 2 to, well, Norbit to speak so plainly. She’s unsparing about her own career choices and yet maintains the wisdom and compassion to forgive herself. “We got to press on, haven’t we, my love?”

Are you in your bedroom right now?
I am. It’s very hard to find a quiet spot. We currently have my family in isolation. My son, who’s 6, my 15-year-old daughter, and my 19-year-old daughter, whose girlfriend is living with us too.

What were you doing when lockdown first started?
I was in Montana doing a movie, God’s Country. It’s one of the most inspiring projects. I was loving it, but also willing its end because it was that demanding. And I’d come off 12 months of pretty intense work with Westworld.

In Westworld, your performance is so poignant, both ferocious and beautiful. Do you have conversations with the showrunners around the arc of the season or where you would like your character to go?
I like to stay sane about my position, which is that I am being employed to tell someone else’s story. Where I do have a degree of choice is in taking the role, but once I’m in, I’m a team player. I do have frustrations with Maeve, but that’s part of her story line.

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