Thandiwe Newton has been credited as Thandie Newton over three decades, but not anymore. As part of her British Vogue cover story, Newton announced she is reclaiming the original spelling of her name, Thandiwe, in Hollywood and will be credited as such in all of her future film and television projects. Thandiwe means “beloved” in Shona. The only reason Thandiwe got switched to Thandie in the first place is because the “W” was “carelessly missed out from her first credit.” Newton said of name reclamation, “That’s my name. It’s always been my name. I’m taking back what’s mine.”
Elsewhere in the British Vogue cover story, Newton reflected on the Australian director John Duigan making her darken her skin while she was auditioning for her debut role in “Flirting” opposite Nicole Kidman. Newton remembered Duigan asking her, “Can you be a bit darker? Be darker by Monday,” and thus she “spent the weekend covered in coconut oil and frantically bronzing.”
“Got the role,” Newton said. “Colorism has just been the funniest. I’ve been too Black, not Black enough. I’m always Black. I’m just like, whadda you people want!”
Newton has often discussed the sexual abuse she faced at the hands of Duigan, starting when she was only 16 years old. Prior to the #MeToo movement normalizing discussions of sexual abuse in Hollywood, Newton was criticized for speaking out on such matters and even had to terminate a contract with a publicist who pleaded with her to remain silent on her history of sexual abuse because it was “not good for your reputation.”
“There’s a moment where the ghost of me changed, you know, and it was then, it was 16,” Newton said. “He derailed me from myself utterly. I was traumatized. It was a kind of PTSD for sure. I was so distraught and appalled that a director had abused a young actress, and that it was happening elsewhere, minors getting abused and how fucked up it was. I was basically waiting for someone to come along and say, ‘Well, what shall we do about this?’’’
Newton would later fight for equal pay to her male costars alongside Evan Rachel Wood on the HBO drama series “Westworld,” ending the pay gap beginning with Season 3. “It wasn’t a celebration. I was disgusted,” Newton said about the win. “Even though people know they can speak out now, there is still the fear of losing their job. I mean literally, people still say, ‘There’s someone else who could take this position, if you’re not happy’, that kind of shit. I do think studio heads need to take much more responsibility.”
Head over to British Vogue’s website to read more from Newton’s latest interview.