Cannes Lions: Thandie Newton Says HBO “Was Pressured” Into Pay Parity by Time’s Up

“It is not wicked thing to do, it’s part of change and growth. It’s another word for encouragement,” said the ‘Westworld’ star.

When HBO stepped up to offer pay parity to male and female leads earlier this year, Westworld star Thandie Newton’s first reaction was resentment, she told a crowd Tuesday at Cannes Lions.

“When I first discovered how much they were offering, it made me realize, ‘Oh, my god, men have been paid so much more,” said the actress. “Every year I go into a new production or a new season of Westworld, and I didn’t even think to ask for more because I just feel so grateful to be working. But we need to expect more for ourselves.”

Though Newton has at times been critical of the Time’s Up initiative for overlooking women of color, she credited it with the change. “HBO, to a degree, they were pressured into it. But we need pressure, we need to disrupt. It is not wicked thing to do, it’s part of change and growth. It’s another word for encouragement. So that pressure has worked,” she said.

The Golden Globe nominee said she will also be directing for the first time later this year, but did not disclose the project.

Newton, who gave a TED talk on diversity that has been viewed 2.5 million times, discussed the topic onstage at Cannes Lions with British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, Omnicom Group diversity chief Tiffany R. Warren and HP marketing chief Antonio Lucio, and pointed to a program on the production of the latest Star Wars franchise installation Solo. She said the program brought in production assistants and interns of color as an alternative to the “conveyor belt” of people who get their break in the industry due to family connections. “For Lucasfilm to do it — that’s the thing, it’s so easy for businesses to change,” she said.

Newton is the first woman of color to be featured in the HBO series’ world, she noted. 

The actress pointed to the box-office success of Black Panther as an example of how diversity pays off, saying that Hollywood will change as a result. “It’s about demand, it really is,” said Newton. “Let’s face it. The customer is always right, and they are obviously reacting to that.”

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