Thandie Newton is addressing the lack of roles for people of color in the UK. The London-born actress, who stars in HBO’s Westworld, said that due to British television focusing on period dramas, she can’t work in her native country.
“I love being [in the UK], but I can’t work, because I can’t do Downton Abbey, can’t be in Victoria, can’t be in Call the Midwife,” Newton, who lives in Los Angeles, told Sunday Times Magazine. “Well, I could, but I don’t want to play someone who’s being racially abused.”
“I’m not interested in that, don’t want to do it,” she added. Despite a career that spans decades, Newton explained how it’s “slim picking” for non-white actors when many series focus on events from the past.
“There just seems to be a desire for stuff about the royal family, stuff from the past, which is understandable, but it just makes it slim pickings for people of color,” she explained, adding that she’s had to overcome many other obstacles during her career. “I’m talented at what I do, but I’ve had to struggle against racism and sexism. But I’m glad of it, in a way, that I survived and overcame.”
Newton currently stars in the BBC drama Line of Duty and will return for Season 2 of Westworld. She’s also slated to appear in the Star Wars Han Solo movie.
The actress’ remarks come weeks after Samuel L. Jackson questioned the casting of British actors in African-American roles and specifically calling out Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya.
Kaluuya responded to Jackson’s comments by stating that he shouldn’t have to prove he’s black. “When I’m around black people, I’m made to feel ‘other’ because I’m dark-skinned. I’ve had to wrestle with that, with people going, ‘You’re too black.’ Then I come to America, and they say, ‘You’re not black enough.’ I go to Uganda, I can’t speak the language. In India, I’m black. In the black community, I’m dark-skinned. In America, I’m British. Bro!” he expressed.
“This is the frustrating thing, bro — in order to prove that I can play this role, I have to open up about the trauma that I’ve experienced as a black person.”