Thandie Newton Says Roles for Black Actors in the U.K. Are Scarce: 'I Can't Do Downton Abbey'

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Even if you’re Thandie Newton, it’s hard to find work in the U.K. as a black actor. She specifically cites the abundance of period dramas that inherently shut out people of color.

Newton—who’s reportedly been cast in the upcoming Han Solo Stars Wars film starring Donald Gloveris best known right now for Westworld, a series set in a droid fantasy world. In an interview, she told the U.K.’s Sunday Times about her casting frustrations:

“I love being [in the U.K.], but I can’t work, because I can’t do Downton Abbey, can’t be in Victoria, can’t be in Call the Midwife — 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... 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 colour. 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.”


Though American film isn’t the best example of diversification, better opportunities seem to exist here for black British actors like Idris Elba, David Oyelowo (Selma), Naomie Harris (Moonlight) and more, recently, Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out).

The experience in the U.K. had Newton considering retirement. During New York Comic Con in 2016, while promoting Westworld, she said, “I almost got to the point where I kind of wanted to retire...and do something else but it’s hard to find something else like this that’s going to give you money for the rent and for the school fees.”

Vulture cited a similar grievance from Oyelowo last year, when the actor told The Guardian people of color were being “expunged from Britain’s history” in period dramas.

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