The Root Interview: Thandie Newton on 'For Colored Girls'

Thandie Newton chats with The Root about playing the tough-talking, sex-obsessed Tangie in Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls.


Thandie Newton wasn't supposed to be in Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls, but when Mariah Carey had to drop out of the film at the last minute, the British actress swooped in to play potty-mouthed Tangie, a character with a bad attitude and an even worse sex addiction.

Newton sat down with The Root to talk about the movie's controversial male characters, the poetry of Ntozake Shange, and how she and the rest of the cast found levity while shooting the film's emotionally wrenching scenes.

The Root: What did you think about taking on Ntozake Shange's classic work?

Thandie Newton: One of the reasons her work is a classic is because many productions can be made and it still remains her work. I think she has given us a gift by allowing us to use her piece of literature to meditate on the human experience. Tyler Perry's movie is not the definitive exploration of her piece. This is a play that will be put on many, many times, and our movie will be one link in the very long chain that is her choreopoem.

TR: As a man, I felt shame seeing men portrayed the way they are in the movie. What do you want men to take away from this film?

TN: Certainly not shame. Look at Michael Ealy's character, Beau Willie. He's a guy that's come back from war in Iraq, and he's an example of how society is not taking care of its soldiers when they return. All that confusion and all that pain becomes domestic violence and abuse against his family.

This film is not shaming men. Shame is a very simplified take on the emotional value of the movie. I think there is too much complexity to simply bring the hammer down on men.

TR: When I saw the play, Shange's words seemed to have resonated with everyone in the audience. Why do you think it is still relevant today?

TN: Phylicia Rashad calls it "everybody poetry" in that it is an extension of thought. It is not formal poetry in the way many people consider poetry. It's got this amazing, sexy rhythm and a rawness to it. It doesn't feel highbrow or intellectual. It feels like a scream or a cry.

TR: What was it like performing Shange's poetry?