Thandie Newton Sounds Off About Becoming Jane Eyre
We dished with the acclaimed actress about what it was like to record the timeless classic.By Erin McReynoldsApr 18, 2016
In case you were ever thinking about recording an audiobook, here’s a pro tip: get comfy. Seriously, dress like you’re going on a cross-country flight.
Thandie Newton: It’s not going to be very faithful, what you’re seeing here, me sitting here with a bit of rouge on and mascara—I really don’t look like that when I’m recording the audiobook. I do rock up in a onesie with a big blanket around my shoulders.
Oh, and watch for different languages and accents. It helps if you’re a clever polymath…
TN: I think what I found most difficult was probably the languages I had to speak, a little bit. There’s a bit of Russian, a bit of German, a fair bit of French. That was probably the most challenging because I wanted that to be as authentic as possible, and I didn’t want anybody else doing it. I even got my friend’s mum, who spoke fluent French, to read a passage of the book and send it over on her iPhone.
It also helps if the writing is, you know, Charlotte Brontë.
TN: I’ve played roles where the writing isn’t as strong as, say, the story, overall; it’s difficult. This was page after page of fantastic dialogue, so the characters just leapt up out of the page. There were times when I was really kind of dizzy with the emotion and enormity of it. That’s another thing that I love about audiobooks — and which I think people enjoy — is the intimacy of it: It’s Jane speaking to you.
There’s nothing like performing a Victorian novel to make you appreciate being a modern woman.
TN: This is a woman dreaming on the page; this is Charlotte Brontë hoping for what can be. You’re reading this book and … I’m acknowledging that, yes, I’m free to choose which partner I want, I’m free to have my own money, I don’t have to wait to receive an inheritance from anyone in order to be taken seriously and not starve to death. These are all things that I am privileged to have, and more. And so it kind of renewed my gratitude for freedom.
But make no mistake, Brontë was not part of the establishment…
TN: She was remarkably progressive, particularly when she’s talking about women’s rights. And she’s talking about women’s rights before being able to vote — the suffragette movement hadn’t even taken off.
Thandie reading Jane Eyre: simply meant to be.
TN: A very dear friend of mine who I’ve known for years, who got married a few years ago, I still haven’t been to her new home that she shares with her new husband … and they live up in Yorkshire … found out that I was recording the book; she didn’t know … and she said, “Thandie, you’re not going to believe this; we live at the house where Charlotte Brontë was governess and where she wrote Jane Eyre.” And there’s the famous tree on their estate, the tree under which she sat when she wrote Jane Eyre. I felt that was the absolute seal of approval.