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'Solo' star Thandie Newton proud to be first black woman featured onscreen in a 'Star Wars' movie

Kevin Polowy
Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment

Thandie Newton couldn’t wait to tell her kids that their mother was about to be in a Star Wars movie.

“The girl in me was bouncing up and down,” she told Yahoo Entertainment at the Los Angeles press day for the new spinoff Solo: A Star Wars Story, where she was joined by Woody Harrelson. Newton and Harrelson play Val and Tobias Beckett, respectively, married bandits who reluctantly allow young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) the chance to join a dangerous heist they’ve been hired to pull off.

“And then it was like, ‘I’m gonna get to tell my kids this!’ [Newton has three children: Ripley, 17, Newton, 13, and Nico, 4.] I just kept it to myself for a couple days, just to enjoy how it was going to feel to tell them. And it was great.”

The Westworld actress, 45, developed an even stronger pride in the role when she was told by a colleague that she’d be the first woman of color prominently featured in a Star Wars film.

“I didn’t even realize it until afterwards,” Newton said. “A friend of mine who I’m working with, who is a total Star Wars geek, said, ‘You’re the first one.’ I couldn’t believe that! And I loved Star Wars when I was a kid. I loved those first three movies.”

Technically, we should note, Lupita Nyong’o broke that ground when the Kenyan-raised Oscar winner performed the motion-capture character of Maz Kanata in Star Wars: The Force Awakens; and the Vietnamese-American actress Kelly Marie Tran played the notable role of Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. But Newton is indeed the first black woman to be prominently featured onscreen in a Star Wars entry.

And Newton is clearly part of a continually progressing Star Wars universe, from more lead heroines (Daisy Ridley, Felicity Jones) to more people of color (John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Donald Glover).

“Just to feel like little girls and boys will be watching these movies now, and there’s so much more diversity in the characters that you see, they’ll feel like this is a world that they can inhabit too, in a way that I didn’t feel like that,” she said. “I think that’s such a huge gift to this generation.”

Solo: A Star Wars Story opens Friday.

Watch Alden Ehrenriech and Donald Glover talk about their interactions with Harrison Ford and Billy Dee Williams:

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