Newton said the studio exec began “reeling off” racist stereotypes.

Jul 08, 2020 @ 1:07 pm
thandie newton "charlie's angels" role
Credit: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin, Getty Images

In a new interview with Vulture, Thandie Newton got candid about her several experiences with misogyny and racism in Hollywood, including an incident in which a racist encounter with a studio exec led her to drop out of Charlie’s Angels.

Newton recounts, “The head of the studio—I had a meeting with her, and she said, ‘Look, I don’t mean to be politically incorrect, but the character as written and you playing the role, I just feel like we’ve got to make sure that it’s believable.” 

When Newton challenged the exec about “believability”—clearly an epithet for something more sinister—the studio head responded, ‘Well, you know, the character, as written, she’s been to university and is educated.’ I’m like, ‘I’ve been to university. I went to Cambridge.’ She went, ‘Yeah, but you’re different.’”

The exec in question was former head of Sony Pictures Amy Pascal, who stepped down from her position in 2015 following the studio’s infamous email hack. The hack leaked several racist emails between Pascal and producer Scott Rudin, including an exchange in which they “speculated on Barack Obama’s movie taste, wondering if he preferred those starring Black people,” according to Vulture

During their meeting, the Westworld actor said that Pascal began “reeling off these stereotypes of how to be more convincing as a Black character.”

When Newton refused those suggestions, she said that Pascal repeated, “Yeah, but you’re different.”

Newton’s decision to drop out of the role (which she didn’t specify, but we’re guessing was the role of Alex, which ultimately went to Lucy Liu) was compounded by the sexual objectification she felt by the film’s director, McG. Newton’s history of sexual abuse at the hands of director John Duigan when she was a teenager made her especially wary of being on unsafe film sets.  

“I just couldn’t do it,” Newton told Vulture. “I felt scared. Did I feel scared? That’s not true. Look, no one was ever going to sexually abuse me again. But I didn’t want to be put in a position where I was objectified. That just didn’t feel good.”

Newton’s experiences with racism, sexual objectification, and harassment in Hollywood were not limited to her encounters with Pascal, McG, and Duigan. She mentioned a few other incidents in the Vulture interview, but she collects all of the “grossness” that happens in her “little black book, which she said will be published on my deathbed.” As a young Black woman, Newton said, she “absolutely [felt like I was] being passed around.” 

In reflecting on “feeling disenfranchised” as a Black female actor, Newton said, “What I am evidence of is: You can dismiss a Black person."

"If you’re a young Black girl and you get raped, in the film business, no one’s going to fucking care," she said. "You can tell whoever the fuck you want, and they’ll call it an affair. Until people start taking this seriously, I can’t fully heal...There is now an appetite for listening to women, but there’s women and then, right at the bottom of the pile, is women of color.”  

“So careful what you do, everybody, because you might find yourself fucking over a little Brown girl at the beginning of a career, when no one knows who she is and no one gives a fuck. She might turn out to be Thandie Newton winning Emmys.”