Thandiwe Newton: ‘I Thought ‘God’s Country’ Was My Last Film as an Actress’

"I do feel like I’m done by the way, genuinely," Newton said at the IndieWire Studio, presented by Adobe. "A light has gone out… ['God's Country'] defines what I want to be as an actress."
Thandiwe Newton in "God's Country"
"God's Country"

After a decades-spanning career that includes an Emmy win for her performance in “Westworld,” Thandiwe Newton finally found the role she had been chasing her whole life.

“I’m 49, and I think I’ve been a successful Black actress for many, many years. And it’s been rare for me to have a movie where you follow me for the whole movie,” she told IndieWire’s Eric Kohn in an interview in the IndieWire Studio, presented by Adobe. In fact, her role in the upcoming “God’s Country” was so good that she might be done with film acting. “I thought ‘God’s Country’ was my last film as an actress,” she said. “I was sad that I finally got to do something I really fucking got my teeth into.”

In “God’s Country,” Newton plays a grieving college professor who finds her property invaded by mysterious trespassers. When she confronts them, she is drawn into an escalating battle of wills with dire consequences. The role played by Newton was originally written for an older white man in an earlier short film. When director Julian Higgins and co-writer Shaye Ogbonna decided to change the character to a Black woman, it sparked some challenging conversations between the creative team.

Without spoiling any of the thrilling aspects of the movie, Newton said that certain aspects of the story had to be changed because “if she makes the same choices the original character did, I think people respond to it differently.”

Despite her love of the film, and her hope that it will spark some challenging conversations, Newton still believes that she is done with acting. “A light has gone out,” she said of her desire to work in film. “My reasons for doing anything from now on, you know, there’ll be reasons, but this [‘God’s Country’] defines what I want to be as an actress.” That said, “It’s very painful, as well. I don’t particularly want to give, like I’ve given to ‘God’s Country,’ every movie. But there was a necessity on this, and a desire.”

Presenting sponsor Adobe — with a mission to enable creativity for all — is committed to supporting, elevating and amplifying underrepresented creators, so the world can see, learn and benefit from diverse perspectives. Learn more at Diverse Voices. The upcoming 2022 festival marks the fifth consecutive year IndieWire and Adobe have joined forces for the IndieWire Studio at Sundance.

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