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Quantrell Colbert/Very Perry Films

In her new film, Thandie Newton learns a lesson she learned in real life long ago.

Beautiful beyond compare, offering a dazzling display of vulnerability and soulfulness in films like Crash, The Pursuit of Happyness and Beloved, Thandie Newton, the London-born daughter of an African princess and an artist, finds new light in every expression. In the new Tyler Perry film, Good Deeds, Newton explores what happens when one’s heart opens to chance encounters. It’s quite possibly the story of her life.

American Way: Good Deeds is about how chance encounters can create life-changing connections. How does that resonate in your life?
Thandie Newton: As I’ve gotten older, the thing that’s brought me the most peace is to embrace and accept everything that comes into my path. Things may or may not be by chance, but how you receive those things means everything. You can exert a lot of energy resisting things or ignoring things. The way to be really happy is to have a degree of acceptance — of all things.

AW: Tyler Perry creates wonderful roles for women. Tell me about making this film with him.
TN: It’s a very intimate piece. It’s really something new for him. Working with Tyler is not like being on a conveyer belt [where] you jump on and it just keeps moving whether you like it or not; it’s a path that gets wider for your being on it. He gives you your own stage, and that allows him to go from strength to strength. It’s a gift that he has.

AW: You’ve talked about not fitting in as a child. Yet you’ve found your way, haven’t you?
TN: One of the special things about the creative world is that you can turn your discomfort into empathy. You explore the lives of other people and different modes of thinking, and that opens you up. It’s a very positive thing, actually. You can turn pain into power.

AW: David Schwimmer, who directed you in Run, Fatboy, Run, has referred to you as “the queen of practical jokes.”
TN: [Laughs] I like to keep things entertaining. My jokes are tuned finely to the personalities of the people with whom I’m working. David was a very good target. This comes from my father, incidentally — a man who is full of joy and light. There’s that saying: “We don’t stop playing because we get older; we get older because we stop playing.” Practical joking is just another way for me to play.