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

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.

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11 Responses to “Thandiwe Newton: My Star Wars character wasn’t killed off in the script”

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  1. Gil says:

    Westworld season three was really bad but Thandiwe was amazing as Maeve.

    • nb says:

      I was really into the first season of Westworld, lost interest halfway through Season 2 and didn’t even bother to watch Season 3. It had so much potential but then they started trying to do too much with it and I couldn’t keep up with all the storylines and backwards/forwards in time. Anyway, Thandiwe’s character was one of my favorite parts of the whole show.

  2. D says:

    I’ve loved her since Flirting but now I can’t watch that film because of what the director did to her. She is so intelligent and so brave for coming forward with all of that. I also love what she is saying about Critical Race Theory. You can’t just “move on” from trauma, you have to confront it and process it to fully recover. She seems to have done that for her own past and has come out so much stronger.

  3. BnlurNforever says:

    Those who will not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. What will happen when we refuse to learn about our history and erase it altogether, doesn’t that just ensure we will repeat it some point? These days it feels like we’re all trapped in an experiment where those conducting it, just put out ideas to see how weak minded some in our species are.

    I love Thandiwe, she came to the US for work and in the beginning was a little problematic as some POC Brits tend to be when they first come in contact with AA. She learned and grew and is now someone I truly think gets it and is not just saying all the right things.

  4. Yup, Me says:

    I really like Thandiwe and have done for years. Her direct speaking about her experiences reminds me of a wonderful friend of mine who is a survivor of childhood abuse. Both speak very directly about their experiences of a matter that many people often keep hush hush. My friend explained that she was clear that the shame of her story and experiences was not her own but on her abuser and those who protected him.

  5. ncboudicca says:

    Thandiwe is awesome, she’s smart, she’s beautiful, she has screen presence, and Lucasfilm really mucked that up. I say this as a Star Wars fan: that franchise doesn’t have a good track record with female characters at all, but I actually shouted out “NO!” when they blew up Val. Stupid and pointless to me but I’m sure much more devastating to women of color. I’d still like to believe that they could figure out how to bring her back if they spent some time thinking about it….and I’m still hoping Disney will shove enough money at John Boyega to convince him to do another project as Finn, but I’m guessing he’s just not interested at all in dealing with them. I could go on and on about how (my opinion) this franchise is being held hostage by a certain segment of the population, but ultimately it doesn’t matter because it still makes money.

  6. ItReallyIsYouNotMe says:

    Spoiler Alert if you have never seen Westworld: I am glad to know that Thandiewe signed up for Westworld fully knowing how much nudity would be involved. Watching that show, I was uncomfortable with how often Maeve was just left in the nude — it felt meant for the male gaze in that here was this gorgeous brown woman just there for anyone to enjoy whenever they wanted to without any agency over herself. I mean, I get that was the point of the show. Especially the back-of-house people knew what was up and didn’t treat the characters as human because they didn’t realize that the characters were developing into AI. I just wasn’t sure that Thandiewe knew that was going to happen when she signed up. Glad to know that she did know and that she was aware Maeve would get a chance to take back her power.

  7. Scrambled Eggs says:

    That’s so disappointing about what happened to her Star Wars character. I remember watching Solo and being conscious of the fact that she was the first Black woman primary character, and to have her die the way she did, too when I’m sure there could have been other options that could have left open the door. Also, her character was the most interesting new character in that whole movie! And poof! Gone.

  8. Ohlala says:

    She is so stunning

  9. Zantasia says:

    She is a treasure. I want to hear about her booking tons of projects so I can see her own the screen again and again!

  10. Diana says:

    She’s not speaking in opposition of critical race theory, she’s speaking in opposition to those who seek to “get rid of it”.