For Thandie Newton, a strong female character "is a regular woman" — and her Solo character is no different
One thing Thandie Newton would have liked for her Solo: A Star Wars character that she knows her Solo: A Star Wars character wouldn’t have liked? A cape. In the brand new stand-alone Star Wars movie, Newton plays the no-nonsense Val, one of the criminals who Han Solo meets up with on his journey to become the Han Solo we remember and love today.
And while Val might be a criminal — one who helps Han become a full-fledged smuggler — remember, this is all happening under the reign of the Galactic Empire. Things were different back then, and being a criminal in order to oppose the Emperor was a good thing. Also, having a cape is a good thing, since it appears literally everyone in the movie has a cape — from Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian, to Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra, to even Woody Harrelson’s Beckett — but not Newton.
HelloGiggles sat down with Newton during the press day for Solo in Los Angeles and yes, we talked about capes:
After seeing Solo, you’ll realize that while everyone else gets a cape, Val seriously doesn’t need one to cement herself as a total badass in the movie, and that’ll make you love her even more. Another thing that will make you love her? In Newton’s own words, she’s simply playing another normal empowered woman in the Star Wars universe. More of this, please.
HelloGiggles: How excited were you to land the role of Val?
Thandie Newton: I was thrilled, and surprised, and delighted. I mean, really delighted. I felt the way I did when I was seven years old, when I first watched the original Star Wars movie. That’s one of the cool things, is that it’s such a long tradition, but it’s actually very young. Star Wars [first came out in] 1977.
HG: It’s only 41 years old.
TN: It’s not that old, and yet it feels like all of humanity has been hinged on this legacy, you know what I mean? I think partly because it has such an ancient feel to it, and the characters, and my goodness, Alec Guinness! He bestowed such depth to the Star Wars franchise. You know, it was the most successful thing he did, and he did so much incredible work, but by such a long way, his Obi-Wan Kenobi was [iconic]. That’s the thing, the magnitude of these productions is even a speck compared to the magnitude of the fan base that just soaks it up. I love it.
I think that Solo is going to be a really beloved addition to the Star Wars franchise, definitely. The cast of characters, the way the movie just pelts along, the kind of irreverence of Han Solo, and the risk. He’s such a risk-taker. He’s a kid. To imagine the Harrison Ford character that everyone loves as the rookie, the real rookie that started out, and why has he become the way that he is, the person who’s willing to take risks in this terrifying galaxy? Then you come to learn why, and the people he met along the way who inspired him, and who helped mold and shape the person that we’ve come to know.
I think, “What a great gig.” For [screenwriters] Jonathan Kasden and Lawrence Kasden, a father and son duo…all the wisdom, and meeting the kind of wisdom of the father and the post-modern musings of the son together, and I feel like it’s beautifully [done]…that fusion is the real energy behind the movie. It’s cool.
HG: This is Han’s origin story. Did you come up with one with Val? Did you tell Woody Harrelson, like, “This is what’s happening between us,” and he went with it?
TN: Yeah, definitely. We needed to, just to have a sense of how strong our connection was. It was never in the script, but as actors, that’s something that we always come across. You just need it in order to inform moments in scenes. Even though it’s wordless, I think you definitely get a feel that these two. It’s partly through the way they bicker. They bicker like an old married couple. It’s really just negotiating about what’s best for everybody. They’re kind of the mum and dad of the whole Solo tribe.
I feel like that…it’s funny, yesterday when I was talking with Woody, when we were doing interviews together, that’s the energy that I feel about Woody, is that they’re the mama and papa of Han, as he goes forward.
HG: Of course, the Star Wars movies are going in just so many fun, exciting directions. Could we ever see something just for Val?
TN: I don’t know. I tend not to make really strong decisions about what I’m going to do in the future, partly because there are so many moving parts with [my] family, and I’m doing Westworld. I tell you, I’m so up for everything, and really excited about how [the movie and Val have] captured people’s imaginations. Of course I would be [up for it], I would be. I think that if it was something that was going to be of value and enrich people’s experience of what it feels like to be a human being on the planet right now, then yeah, I’m up for it. As long as the intention behind these things is ultimately for the good of everybody,
[I wouldn’t want to do] just like a money-making scheme, but something that’s of real value. One of the things that I think is really taken seriously with Star Wars is that the fans have a say. If there’s a real yearning for something, it tends to come about. Yeah, I imagine if there was that desire, that I can’t see why [a story for Val] wouldn’t be considered.
I sign up for the complete experience, you know what I mean? I loved the idea of going back into this character’s early life, partly because he was, without a doubt, my favorite character from the first movies. When I was a kid, I just loved his irreverence. Also, there was a sense of pathos with Solo, that there was something he couldn’t shake, you know what I mean? It’s like, “Ooh, what is it with this guy?” He’s the bad boy that you kind of want to go and, whatever stuff’s been going on for him, you want to be the one to heal the pain. He’s one of those guys.
HG: Outside at the junket, I stopped by all the merchandise. One of the girls there told me that you had gone through and seen all of your toys. Can you talk about what it’s like to see yourself as a toy? You’re two toys now, between Solo and Westworld.
TN: I’ve got a four year-old! I went to go and see all of the toys. I’ve got my Val doll, and I’ve got my Maeve doll [from Westworld], and they hang out. They go at it. They go at it with the other superheroes.
HG: I feel like those two could save the world together.
TN: Maeve would be the mastermind, and Val would just be the technical organizer. Maeve would be the inspiration and the ideas. I think she’d bring the ideas. They’d also just really dig each other. I think Maeve would really appreciate Val’s no-nonsense. I think Val would recognize that all of Maeve’s poetic, the slight melodrama that comes with what she does is…actually, I think Val might find it slightly irritating, but she’d ultimately be impressed by Maeve’s sacrifice and power.
HG: How does it feels to be a face of strong, female empowerment right now?
TN: You haven’t heard enough about it? People say, “What’s it like playing these such empowered roles?” To me, they’re normal. This is a normal woman. You want to see an empowered woman? Take it up a notch even from that, you know what I’m saying? Val’s regular. She’s just regular. She’s actually, she doesn’t even have the makeup. Everything’s pragmatic. Everything about her. Literally every piece of that costume had a purpose which I would use. You don’t see it, and it’s not, like, labeled, but I would use the stuff. The helmet, the hair is a good cushion underneath it. She doesn’t care about how it looks.
We would literally, we would think about how to make it look as undone as possible, as opposed to done. That, to me, is a regular woman. Maeve, too. I know she’s a robot, but she is a robot that is programming herself to the best that she can be within the confines of being a female. Regular. That’s regular. My daughter’s called Ripley, after Sigourney Weaver’s character in Alien. It’s like, that’s just a regular woman, with a kid under one hand, saving a cat, and battling aliens in the universe. That’s just a regular woman.
Solo: A Star Wars Story hits theaters on May 25th.