Thandiwe Newton Is Correcting Everyone on Her Name, Years After Her First Film Got It Wrong
"That's my name. It's always been my name. I'm taking back what's mine."
Newton revealed that her full name is Melanie Thandiwe Newton, and Thandiwe, pronounced “tan-DEE-way”, means “beloved” in Shona, a Zimbabwean language. In her May 2021 feature interview with British Vogue, the Westworld star shared that the W in her name was “carelessly missed out” from her first film credit. The misspelling occurred in the 1991 film Flirting, and credits have been spelled incorrectly since.
“The thing I’m most grateful for in our business right now is being in the company of others who truly see me,” Newton said in the interview. “And to not be complicit in the objectification of Black people as ‘others,’ which is what happens when you’re the only one.”
That’s my name. It’s always been my name. I’m taking back what’s mine, Newton concluded.
The 48-year-old actress, who has starred in Mission: Impossible 2 and The Pursuit of Happyness, shared that her Catholic school experience included the erasure of her name “where the W of her name drifted inward, out of sight and earshot, in a futile hope to make her feel less different.”
During the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns, Newton was pretty outspoken when it comes to sexual harassment and abuse in Hollywood. She fired a publicist who suggested that she stop talking about her experience being sexually assaulted because it was “not good for your reputation.” In her interview with British Vogue, Newton recalled Flirting director John Duigan grooming her at age 16.
There’s a moment where the ghost of me changed, you know and it was then, it was 16. He derailed me from myself utterly. I was traumatized. It was a kind of PTSD for sure.
In 2018, Newton, along with co-star Evan Rachel Wood, were promised equal pay to their male counterparts on HBO’s Westworld, which is a practice many Hollywood companies can learn from.
“Even though people know they can speak out now, there is still the fear of losing their job. I mean literally, people still say, ‘There’s someone else who could take this position, if you’re not happy,’ that kind of shit. I do think studio heads need to take much more responsibility.”