Antonia Thomas Talks … Shooting Hedda Gabler

Antonia Thomas, known for her breakout role in the quirky British show Misfits, really hit the big time as the beloved Dr. Claire Brown in The Good Doctor.

Recently, she’s switched things up, diving into the crime scene with Channel 4’s Suspect and earning accolades in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe. You can’t miss her on Netflix, stealing hearts as Evie in Lovesick, and keeping the laughs coming on Apple TV+’s Still Up.

Now, she’s lighting up the stage at Rose Theatre in Shooting Hedda Gabler, proving she’s not just a one-trick pony.

We caught up with Antonia to chat about her latest role and her thrilling ride in the acting world.

Hi my name is Antonia Thomas, I am a British actress. I’m from south east london, Greenwich. My mother is Jamaican and my father is English.

Describe your life right now in a word or one sentence …

I’m eating, sleeping, dreaming Shooting Hedda Gabler.

You are currently performing the title role in Shooting Hedda Gabler can you tell us about the play …

It is a modern day, twisted homage to the Ibsen classic. A Hollywood film star finds herself at a crossroads in her life, trapped by the paparazzi and a string of bad choices she decides to do something different and accepts the invitation from a Norwegian Auteur director to play Hedda Gabler in a film in Norway. But when she arrives there is no script and the process becomes a nightmare.

Antonia Thomas in Shooting Hedda Gabler – Credit: Andy Paradise

Tell us about Hedda, her motivations and how you developed her?

Hedda is reminiscent of a number of real life female stars we are aware of who were hounded by the press and have ended up in a desperate state. Acting since the age of 6 she was a child star and a teen star but eventually aged out of that bracket and has found it difficult to be taken seriously, which led her down a tricky path.

I did a lot of research into the different women that her story mirrors in some way – the most depressing finding being that women who spiral down this route of addiction, struggle to be given a second chance. Some have managed but most haven’t. Whereas for men it is a totally different story. They are allowed to fall apart, then the world is waiting for them when they reappear.

Armed with some real life examples, I brought them to the rehearsal room and just mined the text. And spent the four weeks finding my specific version of this woman. Trapped by her specific circumstances, her gender, her career.

How did it come about and what made you say yes to the part?

I got sent the script. I was supposed to be shooting a film but due to the strike that was postponed. Which has been a small blessing in that it has made room for this play. I read it, and Nina Segal’s writing is just some of the best I have read in such a long time. It felt like a no brainer.

We have been watching and celebrating your career progress over the years from Misfits to The Good Doctor and of course Small Axe, this is our first time speaking to you. Reflecting on your journey thus far, what’s been the biggest eye-opener/learning curve that has helped you navigate the industry?

Learning and relearning that being a brown woman in this industry, the road is not straight forward in regards to career progression. You have to work 10 times harder than your colleagues to be allowed onto the next rung of the ladder. Once you realise that, you stop comparing yourself quickly and that is the most important lesson. You have to do you. There is no point in looking at others journeys. It’s not always easy not to, but it won’t bring you any kind of happiness if you do.

You are able to adapt your acting skills for screen and stage quite seamlessly but where are you most comfortable and which skills in your bag do you have to lean on more when on set or on stage?

It is hard to say where I feel more comfortable because they are so very different. I think I love both equally because they are just such different mediums. Stage is so much more immediate – the feedback is in the moment. You can feel when an audience is with you or when you have lost them. With a play, you have the luxury of rehearsal; the time to find and work the character with the director and your cast. But then you have to have the stamina to deliver the entire performance every night.

With screen you have less preparation time with the creative team but you only have to tackle each scene once and then it is done, in the can, you can’t go back and try something new after the fact. So you have to be ready and know exactly what you want to try. And then it is maybe a year before you know how the whole piece is received. For both, you need a readiness but the approach is different. And I love both for that reason.

Antonia Thomas in Shooting Hedda Gabler – Credit: Andy Paradise

At this stage of your career, how do projects find you, are you sought after or is your agent putting in the work to find all the roles?

I think at any stage of a career you are always striving for the next rung up. I feel exceptionally lucky to be in a place where exciting opportunities are now coming to me and alongside that my brilliant team are also putting in the work to find the roles that I wouldn’t necessarily yet be considered for. So a bit of both.

Which project across your career trajectory has had the most significant impact on you personally and professionally?

It’s hard to say. The Good Doctor has had a huge impact on both for sure. I ended up living in Vancouver for four years in order to shoot it, which was personally challenging. Moving to a new country isn’t easy, as an actor being nomadic is part of the job, but this was 9 months of the year so it took some adjusting to. Professionally it also has had a huge impact, being in a successful American TV show has opened a lot of doors for me and has meant coming back to the UK, I feel like I am in a slightly different arena now.

Of the characters you’ve ever played which has been the most freeing when it comes to testing your skills, breaking barriers and making an impact?

Funnily I think this current role and the last one I did- a character for an Apple TV show I have out which I can’t speak on due to the strike. That was a comic piece which is different for me and this, playing Hedda in Shooting Hedda Gabler feels like the dramatic challenge I have been craving for a really long time. Both have been learning curves in different mediums as I am on stage for the entire play and in most scenes for the tv show so stamina is something I have had to work on. Both have felt freeing. as the material is just so good, I have had the luxury of really playing and trying different things in order to find the right performance.

Highs, lows, solutions

Highs, finally opening the show and receiving the audiences feedback. Lows, our first run through where we still had a long way to go to get it into shape. Solutions, a lot of hard work and hours dedicated by everyone in the creative team.

Antonia Thomas in Shooting Hedda Gabler – Credit: Andy Paradise

What’s made you Sad, Mad, Glad this week?

Glad, we opened the play to positive reviews. Mad, that I have a cold coming. Sad, we only have two weeks left of the run.

What are you watching right now?

Just watched Hair On Set, my brilliant friend Fola Evans Akingbola’s amazing doc on curly hair within the entertainment industry. And guilty pleasure, The Beckham documentary.

What are you reading right now?

Scripts. I haven’t had a chance to pick up a book in a while but next on my list is The Other Black Girl.

What are you listening to right now?

I have a playlist I made for the play. Some Fleetwood Mac, Lana Del Rey, Tracy Chapman amongst other things.

The last thing you saw on stage?

The Effect at the National.

What’s on your bucket list?

To work on Broadway. And to see the Orangutans In Borneo.

Where’s your happy place?

My home in Peckham.

Celebrate someone else …

Jeymes Samuel, a dear friend has his movie The Book of Clarence out at the LFF and it is absolutely fantastic.

Celebrate yourself …

I’m excited right now to have two very different pieces of work out, a rom-com series, and a dramatic play both in which I play a lead.

What’s Next?

I have a couple of films on the horizon that I look forward to getting stuck into in the new year. And hopefully something else that will go once the actors strike lifts.

Where can we find you?

Instagram: @althomas1

Where can we see Shooting Hedda Gabler?

The Rose Theatre Kingston until Oct 21st.


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