BY BILLY SUTER
THANDIE Newton, who won a Critics’ Choice Award for her performance as sentient android Maeve Millay in the acclaimed TV series Westworld, is joining the cast of the fourth series of Line and Duty.
Newton has been cast as newcomer Roz Huntley in the series, set in the fictional police anti-corruption unit AC-12. Huntley is a high-flying detective who has returned to the job after taking some time out to bring up her children.
The new season premieres on DStv’s ITV Choice (channe 123) at 8pm on Thursday, May 18
The award-winning cat-and-mouse thriller takes a probing look into modern policing and corruption. It has become one of the UK’s most successful series of all time, having garnered millions of fans around the world and drawn high praise from viewers and critics alike.
The original cast are all back for the fourth, with Martin Compston resuming his role of anti-terrorism officer Steve Arnott. He is joined by returning stars Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar, who play Kate Fleming and Hastings respectively.
Maya Sondhi is also back after her five-episode stint in series three. She is joined by new recruit Royce Pierreson, who plays Jamie Desford.
Newton – full name Melanie Thandiwe Newton – was born in London, the daughter of Nyasha, a Zimbabwean, and Nick Newton, an English laboratory technician and artist.
She admits that she used to have a very low opinion of British TV but her opinion changed radically the moment she was offered the guest lead role in Line of Duty.
“I don’t generally watch TV, but I sat down and watched the third series of Line of Duty in one go and I was so thrilled by it,” she says.
“It seemed to me like a return to the golden age of TV. So even before reading the script, I was in.
“I really wanted to be involved in the best thing on British television. So I met the writer-director (Jed Mercurio) the very next day and said to him, ‘Whatever you’ve got for me, I want to do it!’”
Newton’s character in Line of Duty is a detective under pressure to solve a case and prove herself to her superiors.
She apprehends a suspected serial killer but, after suspicions are raised about the evidence collected in the case, it appears a miscarriage of justice may have occurred.
So Huntley herself becomes the focus of an investigation by the relentlessly beady-eyed officers of the police anti-corruption unit, and finds herself the subject of one of this series’ now-trademark extended interrogations.
But the detective under suspicion turns out to be more than a match for the investigating officers.
Huntley’s calmness under fire was one of the elements that drew Newton to the role.
Does she lose her cool during those interviews?
“Not really. She’s had to fight to get where she is today, and she copes very well with this trial by fire. I love the fact that we’re seeing a woman in that position with hide that strong.”
Newton does acknowledge that shooting some of the scenes was very demanding: “I had to take a deep breath beforehand. I’m a perfectionist, and so if I get one word wrong, I give myself a hard time.
“The more unravelled we get in those scenes, the closer the facade comes to cracking. At the end of a 14-hour day, you’re close to breaking point. As a character, you’re desperately trying to keep it together,” she adds.
The 44-year-old actress, who lives in London with her writer-director husband Ol Parker (who wrote the screenplays for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films) and their three children, contends that her character in Line of Duty should be admired as she has had to overcome all manner of prejudice to reach her current exalted position.
“Every woman from every line of work will recognise the frustration here. If you’re a woman, you have to be twice as good, and if you’re black, you have to be twice as good on top of that. The audience will see that. This show will force them to be judge and jury.”
Newton sighs at the paucity of parts for black actors on British television.
“It’s all costume drama on UK TV, and they’re not going to put a person with brown skin in any of those. I’ve been in 40 movies and only four have been shot in the UK. But rather than moping around or getting really stressed out, I’m trying to do things to make that difference,” she says.
“I want to be on British TV, so I’ve written a six-part series, which I hope to make next year.”
With a laugh, she adds: “Give me glass ceilings wherever I go, and I’ll just smash through them!”