Last Update: Monday, 21 October, 2013 1:26 PM




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Actress Maria Thomas

Maria Thomas



Interviewee: Maria Thomas
Job Title: Actor
Credits Include: Eastenders, Out of Hours, Fear View, Acceptance, The Counterfeit Butterfly
Interview Date: October 2013

Q. Hi Maria, give us a little background on yourself before you became an actor (degree, relevant work experience, interests, etc)
A. I had always wanted to be actress but didn’t go into the field straight away. I had a terrible experience with my drama teacher and decided to take time out. So did some acting courses at Goldsmiths & CSSD (Central School of Speech & Drama).

Q. And how did you first get into acting?
A. I was creative as a child at school and made up plays from a combination of adverts and well known stories. I would direct my friends in the play and then put myself in it too.

Q. You did a 3 year degree in Acting at the Birmingham School of Acting, does drama school teach you all the necessary skills to become a great actor or does it restrict you somewhat though its teachings and thus impress upon you traditional techniques?
A. I think drama school teaches you the discipline and structure for yourself, without these rules you can’t play with what you know. This you learn once out of drama school. I think raw talent is amazing but unless you know what you are analyzing, do your homework on the character and the story you will fall flat. It will be a one dimensional role unless the director gives great guidance. I think the restrictions come more from the people you work with, they impose their own opinions, feelings on what you can and can’t do. You could be the best actor in the world but unless you fit the director, producer, casting director’s idea it doesn’t matter. The good bit is they remember you for something else and then you get a call a year later.

Q. What’s your top tip to learn lines?
A. Everyone is different with how they learn lines, some repeat them, others record them and listen to them, some do a mixture of both. I have to learn the lines before mine and almost feel like I learn the entire script to know what is really happening. But whatever suits the individual.

Q. Should actors ever accept unpaid or below equity minimum roles?
A. I think this is a difficult one to answer as you will accept roles for free for a number of varied reasons. Either a friend has asked you, or it’s a role that you will find challenging and may not have been offered yet. The industry needs to raise the bar and not open the doors to anyone. This is why many people feel strongly about not accepting below equity roles.

Q. Should actors ever turn down a role?
A. Actors take on roles they feel will be a test or offer them a chance to shine.

Q. Describe a typical audition process?
A. Audition processes are so different, whether it is for theatre, commercials, TV. Most of the time you go in knowing they have an idea of what they want. So, as an actor you are willing to go in there as close to the character on the page as possible. If they require a homeless person who looks messy and dirty, most people will take a risk and do that.

Q. What is the best preparation an actor can do for an audition?
A. To learn the dialogue that has been sent to you as much as possible, go to in having an opinion on the character and the piece. To know who is auditioning you and research the director who is seeing you. It shows you are interested in the project. Say something nice about what they have produced, directed or casted previously.

Q. Where do you find most of your auditions and roles?
A. Through friends, Casting Call Pro, Ideas Tap, Arts Job Summary,, Talent Circle.

Q. How important is it to have an agent? Do you really even need one?
A. There are a few agents that will get their actors seen by the top casting directors, so you need to be part of one of these. I have been with agents, co-ops and on my own. I have still found paid work and unpaid work. My last agent was glad to see me being proactive, they preferred it.

Q. If actors have representation should they accept roles outside of that relationship?
A. That is more complicated, especially if both agents have you put you up for the same role. I think if you have a good relationship with your agent then it is best to be honest about other work.

Q. You’re of mixed race, does this influence the types of roles you read for and get cast for or does it make no difference?
A. I have found the industry can typecast you but doing short films or theatre work, people are more open minded about the casting. If they really like you, they will often change the role slightly to fit you and the script.

Q. How important is it for a British actor to be a member of Equity and Spotlight?
A. I think there has to be some moderation still on our industry otherwise with it would not sustain. Being a part of these unions tells the industry you are serious about it and you support it. I also believe in Equity and they will fight your corner if anything happens. I have also been injured from being on set and I am glad I was an Equity member otherwise my recovery time would not have been so great without their help.

Q. Which film role do you wish you had played?
A. There are too many to mention. Cate Blachett’s character in ‘Blue Jasmine’.

Q. What draws you to a project?
A. The story, a character, the style in which the film is being made, the people I am working with. I have worked with a few people before on set and it helps to feel comfortable.

Q. When you first get involved with a project are there any tell-tale signs it will be an awesome production or a complete lemon? How important is trust, intuition and doing your own research in this?
A. I think you get a sense from the script if it is a project for you, and the more scripts you read the better. It informs your choices on knowing how to tell from a bad script and a good one. It also tells you about the story, where it’s going and so on.

Q. You’re equally at home on stage as you are on screen, how do the two forms of acting differ and do you have a preference?
A. Theatre and film differ immensely. Theatre is a freer medium where you can play and discover more in depth about the characters, about their relationships. With film, you don’t have that luxury, you may have to read the script and do all the work yourself before you are on set. It can be very technical, about how much movement you have, hitting a mark and you know it is more intimate. On a few occasions you will get the opportunity to rehearse in advance and ask if you could meet the person you are working with. Overall, I have come to love film more as it is always a challenge.

Q. Which 3 directors would you like to work with most?
A. Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, Ron Howard.

Q. What is the most challenging aspect of being an actor?
A. Staying positive, trusting yourself, staying confident.

Q. What is the most frustrating aspect of being an actor?
A. It is the only industry in the world where you train like everyone else in their field and there is no guaranteed work at the end of the day.

Q. How important are contacts in the industry?
A. Very important, it is all about who you know and maintaining relationships and communication.

Q. Is the film industry a small world?
A. The film & theatre world are small industries, the two cross over more than you realize.

Q. If you are a great actor will you always make it?
A. There is no guarantee.

Q. How do you know when you’ve made it?
A. It depends what you want. Fame, success, recognition, awards etc. It is the individual that needs to be happy with what they achieve and amongst their peers.

Q. What defines success in this industry? Winning an Oscar? Making a living as an actor?
A. Success is defined by the industry, but don’t let it define you. You need to define what success is for you. What you really want and what it means to you.

Q. In today’s society should females be referred to as ‘actors’ or ‘actresses’?
A. Either.

Q. Do you think male and female acting opportunities are affected differently by their age or will they experience similar journeys throughout their careers?
A. It is a fact there are many more roles out there for men than women even though there are more women that go into this industry.
There are so many factors that affect your potential, but they are not necessarily about age, ethnicity, size. It could be that someone who auditions you is having a bad day, they already have seen someone like you, if you’re late or not prepared. There is so many other considerations.

Q. The internet has changed the industry over the past 15 years or so, how important is it for actors to self-publicise and have a social media presence or is all publicity best left you your agent?
A. I think social media has been the best online commercial any actor can have. You are getting yourself out there more than your agent. You almost act as your own agent because you can update people with your work. Besides, agents are online seeing what online presence you have and do keep an eye on your work.

Q. Should every actor have their own website?
A. Whatever works best for the individual.

Q. In recent years you’ve also moved into producing, why is this?
A. I feel that I am able to do more and have other skills to use. Producing makes me feel more empowered in what I do and being an actress. I think people should use their skills, actors are knowledgeable people, they learn quickly about directing, producing, writing etc. I think these skills are what they don’t use enough or feel like they could but why not. You learn something new on every job that you do, you spend hours reading scripts, you spend hours on set watching the set up. Just because you don’t physically do these jobs, it doesn’t mean you can’t.

Q. You and your co-producers at Snakegully Productions get involved with many co-productions with other production companies rather than just focussing on your own projects, why is this?
A. Snakegully Productions is about building relationships with other people and bringing people together. I learned that when I met a group of filmmakers that help each other out with their projects. Co-productions help extend relationships and make you look busy and not just talk about what you want to do but actually doing it.

Q. What makes a good Producer?
A. Communication, time keeping, suggesting ideas, organization. I like being part of the creative process instead of on the side lines.

Q. Is it a help or a hindrance people knowing you are both an actor and a producer?
A. I have stopped caring about what other people think, we do not tell entrepreneurs that they can only do one job and not many. So, I think of myself as an entrepreneur.

Q. What advice would you give to someone wanting to become an actor?
A. Keep positive, keep busy, look and create your own opportunities. You will know if this is something for you or not. Utilise your skills, so be an all rounder. Don’t rely on the fact that you are just an actor, you are so much more that just an actor. But equally there is nothing more if that’s the only pursuit. Just keep finding your own work and think outside the box.

Thank you Maria, we look forward to seeing more of you on stage, big screen and on the Producer circuit.


Maria's Contact Details:
Twitter: @MsGazelle





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