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 &
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
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
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.
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
actors ever turn down a role?
A. Actors take on roles they feel will be a test
or offer them a chance to shine.
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.
do you find most of your auditions and roles?
A. Through friends, Casting Call Pro, Ideas Tap,
Arts Job Summary, Mandy.com, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
today’s society should females be referred to as ‘actors’
Q. Do you
think male and female acting opportunities are affected differently
by their age or will they experience similar journeys throughout
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
every actor have their own website?
A. Whatever works best for the individual.
In recent years you’ve also moved into producing, why is
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. 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
Thank you Maria, we look forward
to seeing more of you on stage, big screen and on the Producer
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