Without auditioning, Thandie Newton was given the choice between two roles on HBO’s highly anticipated new series, “Westworld.”
“I picked Maeve,” Newton, 43, told Business Insider earlier this week.
On face value, the choice to play a brothel madam would seem an odd choice for an outspoken women’s right activist and victim of Hollywood sexual abuse.
“Maeve was bit more challenging to me, personally, with the nudity and so on,” she said. “It was also very important, because ironically, the use of my body has not been my choice in a number of situations.”
In an interview in W magazine in June, Newton revealed that one particular hurtful situation. Earlier in her career, a director instructed her to fondle herself while he shot up her skirt for an audition. Years later, Newton discovered that the filmmaker was sharing the tape with friends of his after poker games at his house.
Produced by new “Star Wars” movie franchise director J.J. Abrams and based on the 1973 Michael Crichton movie of the same name, “Westworld” revolves around an amusement park where wealthy people pay admission to live out their fantasies with robot humans called “hosts.” Those fantasies can run the gamut of playing out a Western movie storyline where it’s guaranteed they will come out unharmed to sexual fantasies of all kinds. But a slight glitch in some hosts has the park’s scientists anxious as they try to keep its customers’ engaged in their fantasies.
Newton decided to take the “Westworld” role precisely because it mirrored what she and other women have experienced with sexual abuse and maintaining control over their bodies, and at the same time asked the hard questions.
“My decision to play this role was a result of conversations we had about what they wanted to create with the show, the provocative material, which was going to be a conversation about what it means to be humane, what defines life, and do you value that life,” she said. “Those are all questions that I’ve been asking myself for a very, very long time. My social activism, my activism for women’s rights, which takes up a huge proportion of my time, but wasn’t my day job. So suddenly my day job was going to be turned into telling those stories and potentially go on for a number of years, I was like, ‘Count me the f— in.”
As for the role Newton turned down in order to play Maeve, the actress isn’t talking.
“It’s a role beautifully played by somebody,” she told us. “I don’t want to pop an idea in someone’s head that’s going to mess with what’s actually there, because what’s there is what’s real.”
The ensemble cast of “Westworld,” which premieres Sunday at 9 p.m., stars Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Jeffrey Wright, and Jimmi Simpson, among others.
Watch a trailer for “Westworld” below:
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