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Actor Thandiwe Newton addresses colorism in the casting of films

In a tearful interview with the Associated Press, actor Thandiwe Newton opened up about colorism in the film industry. "I've wanted so desperately to apologize, everyday, to darker skinned actresses," she said. "To say, I'm sorry that I'm the one chosen."

Newton, who is biracial, is often criticized for benefiting from her lighter skin. In 2012 she was cast as an Igbo woman in Half a Yellow Sun, which caused a stir online. In 2018 she had to respond on Twitterafter receiving backlash for referring to herself in The Guardianas "the first dark-skinned woman in a lead role in the Star Wars legacy."

In this new interview, she talked about how the prejudice she says she's faced helped her prepare for the starring role in her new movie God's Country.

"It doesn't matter that's it's from African-American women more than anyone else," she said. "I received prejudice. Anyone who's received prejudice feels this character."

This isn't the first time she's addressed the issue of colorism in Hollywood. "I was perceived in so many different ways, and it was always about the individual who was perceiving. It was very much on the spectrum of is she Black enough, or is she too Black?" she told Vulture in 2020.

"Nowadays, there is regret for me. I recognize how painful it is for dark-skinned women, particularly, to have to deal with being substituted or overlooked. For example, you watch Queen & Slim. I look at Jodie [Turner-Smith]. Or, you look at Lupita [Nyong'o]. To see a woman of color, to see that dark skin, that beautiful chocolate skin, my mother's skin, onscreen ... It's holy. I do see so clearly why there's been so much deep disappointment."

Newton's recent comments come at a time when many films face criticism for not including enough darker skinned actors. Lin-Manuel Miranda recently apologized for a not casting more dark-skinned Afro-Latinos in the film version of In the Heights. The recent Netflix western The Harder They Fall was also similarly criticized for casting actor Zazie Beetz as Stagecoach Mary.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.

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