Thandie Newton is like a great buttery croissant.
Her words, not mine. And her theory, as it may be, is that with a great croissant, you can never go wrong. It has layers. It’s rich. And as complex as it is, it’s simple and a classic go-to pastry. (And yes, it can be flaky—though Newton doesn’t exactly fit that particular bill.)
As the years have gone on in her career, she’s added different things to the mix. “Now, we’re at the almond croissant place,” she jokes before sipping a spot of hot tea.
This new layer has her starring in her own television show, Rogue, premieres exclusively on DirecTV tonight. It’s a twist in what we’ve seen from her before, and she hopes folks follow her down this new path. EBONY.com speaks with the Brit about her television and film pursuits, and why she’s gone Rogue.
EBONY: Why a TV show? You’ve had such a great run in film.
Thandie Newton: I loved the character. She’s an undercover cop who loses a child. Her instinct drives her to believe that there’s something underhanded happening. And her guilt and her work as a cop seduces her into going back undercover for police protection. It was set up in an open location and it was 10 episodes. Getting to work on a character for 10 episodes, I can’t tell you… It’s so delicious, because it means you can just go deeper. So imagine it’s like a two-hour film that’s been stretched, and you get to just pull back the layers behind everything.
EBONY: Yet this is the first time you’ve taken the lead in television. How does that change things for you?
TN: Time will tell. I suppose it means that I now can work in television. I’ve opened myself up to that, and now it’s part of my wheelhouse. I also think that television is no longer the place that you do because you’re not working film. There used to be that snobbery—which I never understood, frankly, because I just think television is incredible. I mean, the tradition of television in England was so strong; less so now. But here [in America] there’s no longer that kind of divide between TV and film. You’re seeing TV actors taking lead roles in films and vice versa.
EBONY: What was the shift? What happened that made this line blurry?
TN: Popularity. TV audiences have all the power. People love television. You know? Cinema screens have shrunk in size and home screens have grown in size. It’s very expensive to go to the cinema. It’s about the same to rent a movie. People like being at home, and you can create your social experience at home. It’s actually very, very costly to release films at the cinema. Very costly.
EBONY: Does being armed with that knowledge change the way you accept material?
TN: As an example: if there was a weak script that was going to be made into a film or there was a strong script that was being made into a TV series, I would go for the strong script in the TV series. That’s the difference. It’s about the quality of the material, and there’s great material in television. There’s great material in film too, but adult drama is shrinking. People want the tent pole movies. They want the special effects, the teen stuff, vampires. And look, fine, great. Let’s face it: teens are the most powerful demographic.
EBONY: Which brings us to this new series. Rogue is untraditional for TV consumers. This is DirecTV’s first original show. This is foreign. It’s not NBC or HBO. Scared?
TN: It actually made it more attractive. I felt that it made it more exclusive and interesting, the fact that it was DirecTV’s first thing. I think when people are doing something for the first time, one of two things happens: either they get very dictatorial and anxious and screw it up because they’re so worried, or they accept that they aren’t the experts and they hire people who are really good to do it for them. The second thing happened in this case. It was just brilliant producing. And whether or not the show is successful, they allowed us to do the best that we could do by supporting our endeavors.
EBONY: Does that inspire you to work on any behind-the-scenes projects?
TN: I’m writing! I’m finishing the first draft of a script, which is set in Brooklyn and Oakland in 1968.
EBONY: Important year!
TN: Yeah, really! My husband [British screenwriter Oliver Parker] is writing a script about Jimi Hendrix in the 1960s, so the ’60s is very much part of our lives right now. There’s lots going on. It’s just whether I can get it all done in time!