Newton: Run Fatboy Run
Interview with Kam
Born in London on
November 6, 1972, Thandiwe Newton spent some of her
formative years in Zambia with her Zimbabwean mother,
Nyasha, and her British father, Nick. However, political
unrest would prompt the family to relocate to England
where Thandiwe would attend the University of Cambridge.
After a back injury
curtailed her plans for a career in dance, she dropped
the ďwĒ from her name when she turned her attention to
acting. In 1991, the regal beauty made her screen debut
in Flirting, an Australian film featuring another then
unknown, Nicole Kidman.
Thandie has since proven
herself to be one of the most talented thespians around,
delivering very memorable performances in such pictures
Jefferson in Paris,
Mission: Impossible II
The Pursuit of Happyness. Recently, the
versatile actress has even mastered comedy, first as the
object of Eddie Murphyís affection in the $100 million
Norbit, and now as a pregnant woman left at the
altar by Simon Peggís character in Run, Fatboy, Run.
As for her private life,
Thandie has been married for ten years to
writer/director Ol Parker. The couple lives in London
where they are raising their two daughters, Ripley, 7,
and Nico, 3. Here, she weighs in on everything from
family life to her new movie to colorblind casting to
the candidacy of Barack Obama.
* * *
KW: Hi Thandie,
Iím honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.
Thatís so lovely.
TN: Nice. Is
Kam short for something?
KW: Funny you
should ask. Yes, Kamau, itís an African name.
I was given the name when I was a jazz musician back in
the Seventies. We were getting ready to record an album
and the leader of the group didnít want any slave names
on the record cover.
Over the years, people sort of Anglicized it by dropping
the ďauĒ off.
How amazing! ďKamĒ is gorgeous. I love it. My name,
Thandie, is an abbreviation, too, of Thandiwe.
I knew that. And that it means ďbeloved.Ē Ironically,
Beloved might have been your breakout role.
Yes, I think it probably was.
I also thought you were terrific in your next picture,
I loved that film.
Why did you decide to make your second comedy in a row
with Run, Fatboy, Run?
Well, I made Norbit, but I still felt that I
hadnít really been involved in a comedy in terms of
having the experience of just witnessing comedians at
work. Norbit just felt a little claustrophobic.
It didnít have the kind of freedom or camaraderie that I
thought a comedy should have. And I was keen to work in
England, as I always have been, because my children go
to school there. Plus, Iíve been a fan of Simon Peggís
for a number of years. I love the work that heís done
with Nick Frost, like Shaun of the Dead and
Hot Fuzz. And I just got a sense of [director] David
Schwimmer as a really well-rounded, decent guy from when
he did a play with a friend of mine, Saffron Burrows. I
like working with first-time directors because itís
often a risk well worth taking. And I loved the
material. So, it was fun!
One of the things I love about this film is that itís
hard to pigeonhole.
I feel the same way. Itís not a romantic comedy. Itís
not a straight drama. It feels much more true to life
than a formulaic comedy. But I also think that Simon has
great timing and a unique kind of humor, reminiscent of
Peter Sellers or Jack Lemmon. He reminds me of those old
school comedians whose brands of humor were much more
authentically a part of their personality, not anything
generic. Simonís is a combination of physical, creative
and intelligent. His other gift is that he can move from
a strongly comedic moment to one of complete earnestness
which draws you in much more. Ordinarily, comedy is a
detachment from feeling where you turn something into a
joke instead of express how you really feel. That kind
of protects you from being the one with an opinion, if
you know what I mean.
But Simon can get right into earnest emotion very
easily, so the comedy almost allows for the sentiments
to go deeper. I think heís unique in that respect. In
England, itís been a while since weíve found someone who
could cross over and be an international success in
movies. And I just think Simonís it.
I think youíre obviously ďitĒ too. I felt that your
performance in Crash was pivotal, and providing
that Oscar-winning Best Picture with its most riveting
and social significant moment by far. Thatís why I said
you deserved an Oscar for it.
Well, there were a large number of very strong
performances that year. I donít know, ever since
Beloved was snubbed by the industry, and not taken
seriously in that respect, I donít feel impassioned with
either joy or sadness by getting or not getting
accolades. Itís not part of the way that I value myself.
I also think that many of the challenging, iconoclastic
characters that youíve played, in films like Beloved
and Besieged and Crash, arenít the types
of roles ordinarily recognized by the Oscars.
The thing about all of those roles, and The Pursuit
of Happyness, as well, is that they make people
uncomfortable, because it goes right to the marrow of
the truth. That is not a popular place to be. With
Beloved, it wasnít popular to take the lid off
denial. But I like to put myself in that area of
discomfort, because thatís what truly reveals the
essence of what we really are, those areas that youíd
rather ignore and get away from. Theyíre the ones that I
just want to stare at as long as I can. So, I donít
mind, even though the Oscar has become the absolute
benchmark for filmmaking talent. I think we can sort of
promote ourselves as individuals. If we feel privileged
to witness a great performance, then that in itself is
enough to feel validated.
I agree. Plus, the job that you do as a mother is far
more important than acting.
It is and it isnít though, Kam, because the truth is
that if you want to be a movie star, youíve got to work
at it. But Iíve found that in order to ensure longevity,
itís better to avoid the highs and lows of success. Itís
sort of like surfing where if you stay in the middle of
a wave, youíre going to stick around longer. But if you
get into the dizzying heights, youíve got to maintain,
and thatís a tough thing to do. IĎve got two kids, so
Iím quite happy to stay on in the middle, burning my
light a bit brighter here and there. But I love what I
The Tao teaches that both the very heights and the very
bottom are to be avoided.
I think thatís true, but Iíll get the old Oscar for all
of us one day.
Iím sure. Given that you have a parent from Africa, and
one whoís white, Iíd love to hear what you think of
Barack Obamaís candidacy.
I think that itís wonderful for America to have these
rich choices in whom they vote for. It feels like
thereís evolution happening right in front of us. And I
donít think itís just about America but an international
vote for life to have these exciting choices available.
Once a pick has been made, whatís important is to commit
to the changes that these people actually want to put in
place. I think that how Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama
or anyone else is going to benefit the country is far
more complex than the color of their skin or their
gender. So, in a way, itís been a distraction from
whatís truly necessary which is to get in there and make
Iíve read that you were born in England, and also that
you were born in Africa. Which is correct?
I was born in London during a brief trip back from
Africa which is where we all lived at the time.
How do you think growing up in Africa and England, and
having both a black and a white parent has shaped you?
Oh, God, that would be an hour-long answer to your
question. It provided challenges which have made me who
I amÖIt provided great wealth in terms of having this
great-colored skin, and looking exotic, and different.
However, it also made for a very lonely disposition as a
child, at times. Being an outsider has its good and its
bad. Thereís a ying and yang to all of it. Having to
negotiate that kind of winding road has made me much
more inquisitive about psychology, and interested in
investigating myself and the parameters that people set
up around themselves and others. Itís a privilege, in a
way, to have had to question my identity. By virtue of
being unconventional, I was exploring that from a
very young age. And I feel glad about that. But by the
same token, if I hadnít had the strength of character
and some real pluses, like getting involved in the arts,
for example, where differences can be celebrated, I
could have been a very depressed, a very closeted, and a
very unhappy person. But I see these challenges and
negative experiences as gifts, at least I do now,
anyway. [Laughs] So, Iíve been showered with gifts, and
Iím glad of that. Life is about being uncomfortable and
about how we deal with those areas of discomfort. Iím
sorry Iím not answering your question, but itís such a
gigantic question, and one that I canít answer briefly.
No, this was an excellent answer, given our time
constraints. Another thing I really liked about Run,
Fatboy, Run was its colorblind casting.
I love that not one journalist has questioned my son in
the movie looking so light. In real life, I have one
blonde child, and one dark-haired child. One of my
daughters is olive-skinned, like me, and my other is
very pale-skinned. Their faces are similar, but they
have different coloring. 30 or 40 years ago, it would
have been noted, and someone wouldíve complained,
saying, ďShe couldnít have a kid that color.Ē So, I do
love that the casting hasnít been questioned in England
[where it opened last September] and Iím interested in
seeing how it is accepted in the United States. I wonder
whether black audiences will want to see the movie.
I certainly hope so, not only because itís very funny,
but to support colorblind casting and the idea that you
can have you and Simon Pegg paired in a romantic comedy
without skin color having to be the theme. So, Iím
asking all my readers to support it.
You do it, Kam!
Bookworm Troy Johnson was wondering whatís the last book
TN: Oh my Lord!
What was the last book I read? Oh, it was a book by my
friend, Justine Picardie, called Daphne. Itís
about Daphne du Maurier and the Bronte family.
Lastly. are you ever afraid?
thanks again for the interview, Thandie, and best of
luck in the future.
TN: Thanks you
so much. Take care, bye!
* * *
* * * * *
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By Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons knows firsthand that
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* * * * *
The New Jim Crow
Mass Incarceration in the Age of
By Michele Alexander
Contrary to the
rosy picture of race embodied in Barack
Obama's political success and Oprah
Winfrey's financial success, legal
scholar Alexander argues vigorously and
persuasively that [w]e have not ended
racial caste in America; we have merely
redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial
segregation has been replaced by mass
incarceration as a system of social
control (More African Americans are
under correctional control today... than
were enslaved in 1850). Alexander
reviews American racial history from the
colonies to the Clinton administration,
delineating its transformation into the
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* * * *
Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays
Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a
collection of fourteen essays by scholars and
creative writers from Africa and the Americas.
Called one of two significant critical works on
Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late
1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of
Carter G. Woodson and
Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as
well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations
were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early
essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish
medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an
historical context for understanding 20th-century
creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone
writers, such as Cuban
NicolŠs Guillťn and Ecuadorean poet, novelist,
Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the
significance of Negritude in Latin America. This
collaborative text set the tone for later
conferences in which writers and scholars worked
together to promote, disseminate, and critique the
literature of Spanish-speaking people of African
descent. . . .
Cited by a
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field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which
most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."
* * * * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Boisí
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
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Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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posted 26 March 2008