Thandie Newton Han Solo Character

Thandie Newton earned her place in the science fiction pantheon with her incredible work in the first season of Westworld last year, but she’s now looking to get nice and cozy with the genre in the Han Solo spin-off film. She recently stepped away from shooting season 2 of HBO’s mind-bending series for reshoots on the latest Star Wars story…and wouldn’t you know it, a perfectly innocent picture she took with director Ron Howard offers an intriguing detail worth exploring.

Howard, who took over the Han Solo movie following the departure of Chris Miller and Phil Lord, hasn’t been shy on social media, offering all kinds of teases and pictures from the set. At first glance, this one seems innocuous enough. There’s Howard posing with Newton, who had returned to the set for additional photography. In the tweet, Howard describes her as a “powerhouse talent” and notes that she’s there to “light up some key new #UntitledHanSolo scenes.” Aw. That’s nice. It’s a nice photo, too.

ron howard and thandie newton

But look a little closer. Specifically, look at Howard’s right hand, which is wrapped around Newton’s shoulder. And note the black and white patch he’s obscuring. Lean toward your monitor and squint – yep, that’s the familiar black and white patch representing the Galactic Empire. So let’s crack our knuckles, sit back in our chairs, and try to put two and two together.

tie fighter pilot

What Does This Patch Mean?

There’s always a chance that Newton is playing a character who goes undercover to infiltrate the Imperial forces. That’s just Star Wars tradition at this point – Han and Luke disguised themselves as Stormtroopers, Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor passed themselves off as officers to steal the Death Star plans in Rogue One, and it certainly looks like Finn and Rose will wear the colors of the enemy for espionage purposes in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Nothing says “scrappy underdog rebellion” quite like stealing a uniform and wrecking things from behind enemy lines.

But let’s assume that Newton is not playing an impersonator. Let’s assume she’s playing a card-carrying member of the Galactic Empire and that this patch represents her true allegiances. That would mean she’s certainly playing a villain in the Han Solo movie, which would make sense – her English accent makes her a perfect fit for an evil government known for its posh leadership.

However, based purely on this photo, it doesn’t look like Newton is playing a traditional Imperial officer. The Imperial officers of the original trilogy wear more form-fitting dress uniforms, outfits that make them look like space Nazis (which was certainly not an accident). Newton’s outfit here is loose and baggy, made from a different material than what’s seen in your typical high-ranking servant of the Empire.

What it does look like is a flight jumpsuit, the kind of loose-fitting thing you’d wear in a tight cockpit. The kind of non-restrictive clothes that a pilot would wear under their other equipment. Is it possible that Newton is playing a TIE Fighter pilot, possibly even some sort of ace TIE Fighter pilot because why the hell do you hire Thandie Newton to play a mediocre TIE Fighter pilot? From a plot perspective, it makes sense – Han Solo is one of the greatest pilots in the galaxy, so why not present him with an opponent who will test his skills? Star Wars aficionados will be quick to point out that there are details missing from this costume and that it doesn’t look exactly like the flight jumpsuits TIE Fighter pilots wear in the original trilogy…but it’s close.

rae sloane

Who Could She Be Playing?

A few years ago, I would have put money on Thandie Newton playing a wholly original character created specifically for the Han Solo movie. And then Forest Whitaker popped up in Rogue One as Saw Gerrera, jumping into live-action after debuting on the small screen in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. With Star Wars canon being completely overhauled and every corner of the universe being watched over by the custodians in the Lucasfilm Story Group, it’s possible to imagine that Newton is playing someone who already exists in this galaxy.

There are two obvious options: Rae Sloane and Ciena Ree, two women of color who fight for the Empire and have appeared in various novels, short stories, and comics.

Let’s start with Rae Sloane, an Imperial admiral who is featured prominently in the Aftermath trilogy of novels (set after the Battle of Endor, as seen in Return of the Jedi). A ruthless and strong-willed leader, she helps fill the power vacuum following the death of Emperor Palpatine, contributing to keep the remnants of the Empire together (and possibly going on to help found the First Order). The fact that she’s an experienced officer who has risen through the ranks makes this a strong fit for Newton, who is 44 and could play a woman with plenty of experience under her belt.

And while Ciena Ree is a TIE Fighter pilot and a woman of color, it’s Newton’s age that makes this seem like the wrong fit. Introduced as a lead character in the novel Lost Stars, Ree is in her 20s during the final stand of the Galactic Empire. Since the Han Solo movie takes place years before Han Solo even joins the Rebellion, this seems unlikely. Still, Ree is a hotshot Imperial pilot, and Newton is as ageless as she is talented, so let’s not rule out anything yet.

The untitled Han Solo movie is still scheduled to open on May 25, 2018.

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