‘Westworld’ star Thandie Newton: “I can’t do ‘Downton Abbey'”

Thandie Newton won a BAFTA for her supporting role in the Oscar-winning “Crash” and has made movies with Hollywood A-listers like Will Smith (“The Pursuit of Happyness”) and Tom Cruise (“Mission: Impossible II”). And she is likely to contend at the Emmys for her role as a robot on the HBO sci-fi hit “Westworld.” But this British actress bemoans the fact that she can’t get work back home because so much of the television being made there is period pieces.

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As she explained in a recent interview, “there just seems to be a desire for stuff about the royal family, stuff from the past, which is understandable, but it just makes it slim pickings for people of colour.” She catalogs all the shows she can’t be part of: “I love being [in the U.K.], but I can’t work, because I can’t do ‘Downton Abbey,’ can’t be in ‘Victoria’, can’t be in ‘Call the Midwife,’ well, I could, but I don’t want to play someone who’s being racially abused.”

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Her comments build on the recent criticism of the British film industry by David Oyelowo, who has found success in America with starring roles in “Selma” and “Queen of Katwe.” Last fall he noted, ”We make period dramas in Britain, but there are almost never black people in them, even though we’ve been on these shores for hundreds of years. It’s frustrating because it doesn’t have to be that way.”

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