Thandie Newton slams British TV for lack of diversity

Louise McCreesh
Photo credit: Darren Gerrish / Getty Images

From Digital Spy

Thandie Newton has called out British TV makers for not creating enough roles for people of colour, blaming a lack of diverse roles for her inability to work as much as she'd like to in the UK.

The British-born actress is largely known for her work in Hollywood films and US TV dramas like HBO's Westworld, but in a new interview she opens up about how she feels the kind of programmes Britain is creating has left her unable to work in the country.

Yep, she's looking at you, Downton Abbey, Victoria and Call The Midwife.

Photo credit: Stuart C. Wilson / Getty Images

"I love being [in England], but I can't work," Thandie told the Sunday Times Magazine.

"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."

Thandie added that the popularity of such shows does nothing to help encourage more racially diverse roles.

"There just seems to be a desire for stuff about the royal family," she added, "stuff from the past, which is understandable, but it just makes it slim pickings for people of colour."

Photo credit: ITV

The actress continues to discuss how she feels this is nothing new in the acting industry, adding that she doesn't think things have changed much for black actors over the course of her lengthy career.

"There's a lot more reality TV," she muses. "At least in that you can be any culture, colour, creed … But no. I've just quoted shows that are beloved by people and there's no diversity in the casting. It's just a bum-out."

During the interview, Thandie is open and honest about the experiences of sexism and racism she's experienced over the course of her career, calling it a "struggle".

"I'm talented at what I do, but I've had to struggle against racism and sexism," she summed up. "But I'm glad of it, in a way, that I survived and overcame."

Thandie recently played brothel hostess Maeve on HBO's highly-acclaimed sci-fi series Westworld and while the show attracted some criticism for its graphic depictions of rape and sexual violence, Thandie argues the show acts as a "powerful metaphor" for human oppression.

Photo credit: John P Johnson / HBO

"[Westworld] was such a powerful metaphor," she said. "The robots represent the oppressed, whether that's people in the Third World, dirt-poor employees in China, human trafficking, sex trafficking, the 'have nots' being ruled over by those who have.

"The context they created with Western and robots would attract an audience that wouldn't necessarily want to be preached to."

She also seems similarly passionate about her upcoming role on Line of Duty's fourth season, which returns to BBC One at the end of the month.

"The reason they wanted me wasn't just, 'Oh, she's been in Hollywood movies'," Thandie shared. "They wanted someone with integrity, someone who does actually stand for the empowerment of women, fighting violence against women."

Thandie Newton joins the cast as DCI Roz Huntley, who falls under the suspicion of AC-12 over her handling of a career-defining case, Operation Trapdoor.

Line of Duty will air at 9pm on Sunday, March 26 on BBC One.

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