The actress is the daughter of Englishman Nick and Zimbabwean Nyasha, who emigrated to Britain to work as a nurse. 

As a result of her mixed heritage, the Crash star and her family were subjected to cruel taunting during her youth in the English county of Cornwall. But Newton admits she frequently wasn’t aware of the rude remarks because her mother worked hard to protect her from it.

She says, "I remember sensing that my mother was holding something back from me. I used to think I had done something wrong because she could be so distant. I knew there was something going on that I didn’t know about, and, because I was a child, I thought it was my fault. It took me years to work out that she had actually been protecting me as a child (from) racism.

"It was Cornwall. I don’t blame people. I don’t think it was truly nasty, but there were comments, and my mother kept all that away from us and, to do that, she had to keep herself distant in order to be a barrier between us and them."

The 36 year old struggled to understand her mother’s distance, insisting it left her feeling deeply devastated: "She has explained it to me and of course I understand. There were times when I was so unhappy no one could reach me. It’s like a madness."

But their relationship has since been patched up – and she’s grateful for her mother’s support: "My mother and father have always supported me in what I have had my own distance from them."

Meanwhile in June, the British-based actress Thandie Newton is gave acting lessons to children in the slums of South Africa.

The ‘Crash’ star passed on her talent to girls at Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy, a boarding school for girls growing up in poverty in the country.

The academy opened in January 2007 with chat show queen Oprah Winfrey’s initiative after South Africa’s former president, Nelson Mandela asked her to help the poor children.