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2021 Gotham Awards

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Thandiwe Newton is acknowledging he effects of colorism in the film industry and is apologetic about reaping the benefits of it.

During an interview with The Associated Press, she talks about her role in her latest film, God’s Country, which is based on James Lee Burke’s ‘Winter Light” essay. In the movie, she replaces a white man as the protagonist and takes on the role of Sandra Guidry, a grieving professor who has conflict with two hunters who won’t stop trespassing on her property. Newton discussed how her own internalized prejudice has affected her acting career and the decision to take this role.

“I now realize that my internalized prejudice was stopping me from feeling like I could play this role when it’s precisely that prejudice that I’ve received. It doesn’t matter that it’s from African American women more than anyone else,” she said. “I received prejudice. Anyone who’s received oppression and prejudice feels this character.”

She also emotionally addressed being a fair-skinned Black woman in a colorist entertainment industry and understanding the backlash she has received from other Black women.

“It’s been very painful to have women who look like my mom feel like I’m not representing them,” she added. “That I’m taking from them. Taking their men, taking their work, taking their truth. I’ve wanted so desperately to apologize every day to darker-skinned actresses. To say, ‘I’m sorry that I’m the one chosen.’ My mama looks like you.”

While acknowledging her privilege, it is important to Newton to represent Black women every step of the way. In God’s Country, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, her character is named after Sandra Bland, whose death caused an uproar due to their being debate about her death being a suicide after she was found hanging in a Texas jail cell.

“For a good five (years) I’ve been supporting Kimberly Crenshaw’s work with the African American Policy Forum and movement ‘Say Her Name,’ which she coined,” Newton told Variety. “And in this movie, right from the get-go, we are saying her name. I don’t mean just about Sandra Bland. I’m talking about all the ‘Sandra Blands.’ Now and in the past.”

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