Over the past few years, women have fought for a place at the table in Hollywood. Women in film and TV have worked to create substantial roles that subvert stereotypes and traditions that have persisted for decades. Yet, complex stories often require women to step into archetypes that could be viewed as counteractive to modern feminist efforts. Here’s why Thandiwe Newton, a passionate women’s rights activist, sought out the role of a brothel madame in the HBO hit series Westworld.
‘The Use Of My Body Has Not Been My Choice’
When Westworld premiered in 2016, audiences were surprised to see actress and women’s rights activist Thandiwe Newton in the role of Maeve Millay, a brothel owner. Of course, Maeve is soon unraveled as a complex character with sympathetic motivations. However, it was undoubtedly an interesting move for Newton, who admits that she was able to choose the role.
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Before ever auditioning, the show’s creators gave Newton two roles to choose between. “I picked Maeve,” the actress confessed to Business Insider in 2016. “Maeve was a bit more challenging to me, personally, with the nudity and so on.” It isn’t often that you hear an actress say she gravitated to a role because of required nudity. However, Newton’s explanation made total sense. “Ironically, the use of my body has not been my choice in a number of situations.”
That same year, Newton opened up to W Magazine about an abusive situation she experienced early in her career. As a young actress, a director asked her to touch herself suggestively while he filmed from underneath her skirt. She obliged, thinking the request was strange, but that she must be safe since there was a female casting director in the room. Later, she found out that the director was sharing that footage with his industry friends at poker games.
Jennifer Lawrence Had Similar Motivations For Her Role
Jennifer Lawrence was the victim of the 2014 iCloud hack, and nude images of the actress began circulating on the internet. So, no one was expecting the actress to agree to a role that would require her to film nude. However, audiences were shocked when she did just that in the 2018 film Red Sparrow.
“The insecurity and fear of being judged for getting nude, what I went through, should that dictate decisions I make for the rest of my life? This movie changed that and I didn’t even realize how important changing that mentality was until it was done,” Lawrence said at the time.
Clearly, nudity in film and TV isn’t always about shock and scandal. For some women in Hollywood, nude scenes are one of the few areas where they do have control over their own bodies.