Thandiwe “Thandie” Newton (born 6 November 1972) is an English actress. She has appeared in several British and American films, and is known for roles such as Linda in The Pursuit of Happyness, Nyah Nordoff-Hall in Mission: Impossible II and Christine in Crash, for which she received a number of awards, including a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.
Newton was born in London, England, the daughter of Nyasha, a Zimbabwean health-care worker, and Nick Newton, an English laboratory technician and artist. Her birthplace has been incorrectly reported to be Zambia in some biographies, but she has confirmed in interviews that she was born in London. The name “Thandiwe” means “beloved” in Ndebele, Zulu, Xhosa or siSwati, and “Thandie” is pronounced /ˈtændi/ in English. According to Newton, her mother is a Shona princess.
Regarding her childhood, Newton remarked at a TED conference: “From about the age of 5, I was aware that I didn’t fit. I was the black, atheist kid in the all-white, Catholic school run by nuns. I was an anomaly.” Newton was brought up in London and Penzance, Cornwall, she studied dance at the Tring Park School for the Performing Arts. Newton grew up as an atheist. Between 1992 and 1995, Newton went to Downing College, Cambridge, where she studied social anthropology. She graduated with a 2:1
At 16, she began a six-year relationship with the Australian film director John Duigan, who subsequently cast her in the film Flirting, a sequel to Duigan’s 1987 film The Year My Voice Broke, starring Noah Taylor.
Newton married the English writer, director and producer Oliver Parker in 1998. They have three children: daughters Ripley (born in 2000) and Nico (born in 2004), and son Booker Jombe (born in 2014). Her daughters were named after the character Ellen Ripley in the Alien films and the singer Nico. Newton had home births with all three of her children. She is vegan and was named PETA’s “Sexiest Vegan of 2014” in the UK.
In 2006, Newton contributed a foreword to We Wish: Hopes and Dreams of Cornwall’s Children, a book of children’s writing published in aid of the NSPCC. In it, she writes vividly about her childhood memories of growing up in Cornwall and the way in which the county’s vibrant cultural heritage made it easy for her to “enrich every situation with layers of magic and meaning”.
In 2007, Newton sold her near-new BMW X5 and replaced it with a Toyota Prius after Greenpeace stuck a “This gas-guzzling 4×4 is causing climate change” sticker on her BMW. In 2008, Newton visited poverty-stricken Mali, describing it as a “humbling experience”. She visited the village of Nampasso in the Ségou Region of the country. In 2013, Thandie led the One Billion Rising flash mob in London, for an end to violence, and for justice and gender equality.
David Schwimmer (who directed Run Fatboy Run) called the actress “the queen of practical jokes”. Newton has expressed an affinity with Buddhism.