Well known for her roles as Maeve Millay in Westworld and DCI Roz Huntley in Line of Duty, the actress has been known for many years as ‘Thandie’, an anglicised version of her name.
Why was Thandiwe previously known as Thandie?
In an interview with British Vogue, the actress explained that her name was misspelled as ‘Thandie’ in the credits of the first film she starred in, Flirting, in 1991.
Ever since then, ‘Thandie’ stuck, and has been the most widely-used spelling of the actresses’ name for the past three decades.
Why has Thandiwe decided to change the spelling now?
Newton told Vogue of the change:
"That's my name. It's always been my name. I'm taking back what's mine”.
From henceforth, wherever Newton is credited it will be with the original spelling of ‘Thandiwe’, which is pronounced "tan-DEE-way".
The actress’s full name is Melanie Thandiwe Newton, with Thandiwe meaning ‘beloved’ in Zulu.
Thandiwe was born to a white British father, Nick, and a Zimbabwean mother, Nyasha in London, with the family settling in Penzance, Cornwall when Newton was three.
In the interview with Vogue, Newton recalls attending a predominantly white Catholic school in Cornwall where the ‘w’ in ‘Thandiwe’ was often dropped.
“We may as well have been the first Black people anyone had ever seen. We didn’t have conditioner. We didn’t have anything”, she told the magazine.
In the interview she also noted how much the entertainment industry has changed in terms of representation of ethnic groups since she began her career.
"The thing I'm most grateful for in our business right now is being in the company of others who truly see me. And to not be complicit in the objectification of black people as 'others', which is what happens when you're the only one," she said.
In the late 1990s, Newton dropped out of a role in the 2000 remake of Charlie’s Angels, but revealed last year that she left after being asked to play up to racial stereotypes in the role.
Newton recalled ignorant comments made by former Sony Pictures head Amy Pascal suggesting that a black female character should be ‘sexy’ and not university educated
She was replaced by Asian actress Lucy Liu after dropping out of the role.
How do you change your name in the UK?
There is no legal process required to simply start using a new name in the UK.
However, to get your new name on official documents like a passport or driving licence, you have to apply for what’s known as a ‘deed poll’ to prove your change of name.
In Thandiwe’s case, the actress has simply reverted to the original spelling of her name, so it’s unlikely she has gone through the deed poll process.
In most of the UK, you can make an “unenrolled deed poll”, one you make yourself, or apply for an “enrolled” deed poll which means you’re officially putting your new name on public record.
To apply for an enrolled deed poll you have to go through the Royal Courts of Justice, a process costing £42.44.
You can only enrol your own name change if you’re 18 or over. The process is different to change the name of a child under 18.
The rules are slightly different in Scotland, where a form can be filled out to apply for a name change.