Actress Thandie Newton was born in 1972 in London, England. Her career took off in the 1990s when she appeared in films such as in Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles and Beloved. During her career, Newton has starred in a number of diverse films including Mission Impossible II, the Academy award-winning Crash, The Pursuit of Happyness and Norbit. During the 2000s she also appeared in the wildly popular television series ER and more recently stars in the HBO sci-fi western series Westworld.
Thandie Newton was born Melanie Thandiwe Newton on November 6, 1972 in London, England, to parents Nyasha and Nick Newton. She has a younger brother, Jamie. Her mother hails from Zimbabwe and as a toddler, Newton lived in Zimbabwe, but she and her brother grew up in the coastal English town of Penzance in Cornwall. “Moving from Zambia to Cornwall in the 1970s was an extraordinary experience,” she said in a 2013 interview with the Daily Mail, “It was a mad contrast. The story of living in Penzance as the only black family would make a fabulous sitcom if there had been a little more humor.” Newton attended a Catholic School where she was the only person of color.
As a child, Newton struggled with low self-esteem and often felt like an outsider, but she found great joy and confidence in learning to dance. When she was eleven, she earned a scholarship to attend the Tring Park School for the Performing Arts. However, her dreams of becoming a dancer were dashed after an injury. But it was also as a teenager that she received her first significant acting role – opposite Nicole Kidman - in the 1991 Australian film Flirting. Newton returned to her complete her education in England and graduated from Downing College of the University of Cambridge where she earned a degree in anthropology.
Thandie Newton got her first blockbuster break when she appeared as Yvette, a creole servant, in Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994) opposite Hollywood heavy-hitters Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. The following year, she appeared as Sally Hemings in the biographical drama, Jefferson in Paris (1995). Following some smaller roles, she starred as Barbara 'Cookie' Cook in the dramedy Gridlock'd (1997) opposite hip-hop star Tupac Shakur. She closed out the 90s with her next high profile role in the 1998 Jonathan Demme film Beloved, based on the Toni Morrison novel. In the film, she starred as the title character opposite Oprah Winfrey. Though the film was a box office disappointment, Newton’s career was on the upswing.
In 2000, she was back opposite Tom Cruise in the action-packed thriller Mission Impossible II. In 2004, she starred in the Oscar-winning film Crash. Newton took home a Best Supporting Actress BAFTA for her work. Two years later, she starred as Will Smith’s estranged wife Linda in The Pursuit of Happyness. In 2005, Newton got to demonstrate her lighter side opposite Eddie Murphy in the critically panned Norbit. Other films from this decade include Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla (2008) and W. (2008), in which she played the role of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Through the 2000s, Newton also found herself starring in one of the most popular American television dramas of its time, ER.
Into the 2010s, Newton has continued her film work, but has also made strides on the small screen, starring in The Slap (2015) and Rogue (2015). In 2016, she stars as brothel owner Maeve Millay in Westworld, HBO’s sci-fi western series inspired by Michael Crichton’s 1973 film. Newton received a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of Maeve Millay, a "host" or android who is a madam in a brothel.
In 2013, Newton revealed that when she was a naive teenager just starting out in the film industry, she embarked on an affair with John Duigan, the director of the film Flirting, who was 23 years her senior. She had also discussed how she had been sexually exploited by a director during a film audition when she was 18.
“But I still feel a need to communicate to other young women what happened to me. Because I really do believe that negative experiences can very often be the absolute revelation in your life. Sometimes our instincts attract us to the wrong people – sometimes to someone who is abusive and who will make us feel bad about ourselves because our subconscious is telling us that is what we are looking for. Sometimes an abusive relationship can lead you to unwrap your pain because you are left so low you have to look into the core of who you are and that will lead you back to the cause of your issues and help you change.” -- Thandie Newton, The Daily Mail
Newton is active in raising awareness of violence against women, including participating in the One Billion Rising campaign. "Fame is the toxic by-product of an acting career," she told Angus Watson, "but if I can use it for good, I’d rather raise awareness of human rights issues." She also works with a number of non-profit organizations across the African continent.
Thandie Newton married writer and director Ol Parker on July 11, 1998. The couple have three children together, daughters Ripley and Nico, and son Booker.
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