In a feature interview with Vulture, the Emmy-winning Westworld actress did not hold back about the toxic culture in Hollywood, especially as it pertains to its exploitation of Black women. She also opened up about her personal bouts with traumatic and triggering experiences within the entertainment industry, including her struggles with anorexia and self-worth as a result of sexual abuse.
Trigger Warning: The following article contains quotes regarding sexual assault and rape.
Newton talked about her experiences filming the 1991 film, Flirting, which was my first introduction to Newton, actually. Vulture Senior Writer E. Alex Jung brought up a valid point in that, during the press run of the film, the alleged grooming and sexual abuse that was allegedly perpetrated by director John Duigan was inaccurately reported as an “affair.” Newton was only 16 years old at the time.
“I would talk about it a lot in the press, as you know,” Newton recalled. “I think it’s because I was traumatized. If someone brought it up—and of course they’re going to bring it up in a fucking interview, man—if they spoke about it in a way that’s not sympathetic or they called it an affair, it was insult to injury. It’s like re-abuse. I think the reason I talked about it a lot, too, is I’m trying to find someone who understands. I’m looking for help. It’s so fucking obvious to me. What is the point if we don’t expose what needs to be exposed?”
“When I look at my career and see how affected it was by my speaking out about sexual abuse in the industry, it was massively affected in two ways,” Newton added. “One, because I was dealing with my trauma—and talk about being in a triggering environment, right? Also, I’d come across people that were doing the same shit, and so I would challenge them, or want to get out of it, or not want to work with people.”
Additionally, being a young Black actress unfortunately meant being exploited in various ways. Back in 2016, Newton recalled the time she was pressured to expose herself on camera by a director at a callback.
In a particularly poignant moment of the interview, 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. 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 are so many problems [with] feeling disenfranchised. But I keep finding myself alone. 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.
When it comes to other details of her lived experiences, Newton revealed she has a “little black book, which will be published on [her] deathbed.”
“I’m not doing it when I’m alive,” she mused. “I don’t want to deal with all the fallout and everyone getting their side of the story. There is no side of the story when you’re sexually abused. You give that up. I’m also a Black girl, and I absolutely [felt like I was] being passed around. Being Black is important. Because certainly at the beginning of my career, when it was just, like, me and Halle Berry in our age group going up for every role: ‘Oh, this is novel. This is a little quick flash in the pan. We’ll let you come in for a minute.’”