November 8 2008
Actress Thandie Newton, 36, has starred in the television show ER and several films, including the Oscar-winning Crash (2005). She is an ambassador of Volvic and World Vision's campaign (www.volvic1for10.co.uk), for which Volvic supplies 10 litres of drinking water in Africa for every litre of Volvic bought in the UK. Newton stars in W , which opens this weekend in the UK.
What is the first charity you can remember supporting?
When I was 11, I became vegetarian, and sent my pocket money to the League Against Cruel Sports.
As I've got older and become exposed to person to person violence, my focus has changed from animal to human rights.
Fame is the toxic by-product of an acting career, but if I can use it for good, I'd rather raise awareness of human rights issues. Humans are going to destroy the world before animals do. I gave up vegetarianism when I was 21.
Which cause do you feel most passionately about?
In general, it's about protecting children and innocence. I'm working with Volvic because they've wisely chosen to support World Vision - a brilliantly constructed and very effective organisation that is not well enough known in the UK.
Are you concerned that bottled water is an environmentally damaging, unnecessary product?
Yes. I went in with that attitude. I wanted to see if my cynical view could be changed, and World Vision did change it.
Bottled water isn't going to go away and so I'd rather there was a brand that donates large sums of money to genuinely valuable causes, and which creates philanthropic competition between brands. I'm not a blinkered purist. I know that by infiltrating these large corporations, I'm in a much better position to suggest changes. Right now, for example, I'm encouraging Volvic to switch to biodegradable containers.
Is it more important to give time than money?
It's both; they create each other. Personally, my time has a very high value, because I'm going to generate a much larger audience.
What do you get out of your giving?
Knowledge. For a while now, I've been wondering if my job contributes anything to the health of the planet, or whether entertainment just dumbs people down, keeps them indoors and stops them from looking at the world and themselves.
With the knowledge gained from charity work, it makes it much more difficult to ignore what needs to be done, and I'm compelled to talk to people about it, talk to my children about it, talk to my children's school about it . . . and as a result, perhaps give more value to my acting career and its by-product of fame.
Is there a duty to use fame for good causes?
It's not a duty, but most celebrities do it, and that's what makes it such a beautiful thing.
Interview by Angus Watson