Thandiwe Newton covers the May 2021 issue of British Vogue, and no, that’s not a typo. The Westworld star is reclaiming the correct spelling of her name, 30 years after it was first misprinted in the credits of her debut role. Thandiwe means “beloved” in Shona, the language of the Shona people who live primarily in Zimbabwe.
“That’s my name. It’s always been my name. I’m taking back what’s mine,” she told the magazine. That w, per the profile, dropped in and out of her name’s spelling when she was in grade school—part of an effort to fit in among her white peers in London—and it was erased altogether at the start of her career. Newton doesn’t name which project was her “first”—the one that kicked off the misspelling that lasted for 30 years—but according to IMDb, it was either the feature Flirting or the TV movie Pirate Prince.
Always outspoken, these days Newton is more candid than ever about reclaiming her name, her time, and her worth. When she and costar Evan Rachel Wood fought for, and won, pay equity on Westworld, she recalls, “It wasn’t a celebration. I was disgusted.” After experiencing years of emotional turmoil, racism, and sexual misconduct in the industry, she says there’s still a culture of devaluing women’s and people of color’s contributions: “Even though people know they can speak out now, there is still the fear of losing their job. I mean, literally, people still say, ‘There’s someone else who could take this position, if you’re not happy’, that kind of shit. I do think studio heads need to take much more responsibility.”
At least on Westworld, though, her character—a self-aware android taking revenge on her creators—models a remedy, albeit a violent one. “I can tell when people haven’t watched Westworld because they just think I’m being naked and sexy in it,” Newton says. “But I love how subversive it is. Wherever I position myself now, I don’t want to be part of the problem, I want to be part of the solution. I’m not for hire anymore. I’m not going to speak your story or say your words if I don’t feel they could’ve come from me.” Speak on it, Thandiwe Newton!