With roles, over the last decade, in some of TV’s biggest shows, actress Marsha Thomason continues to prove her Hollywood staying power. Currently, she can be found playing FBI agent Diana Barrigan on the USA (Network) TV show White Collar, now entering its fourth season. In addition to television acting, Ms. Thomason has expanded into the video game world.
This year the Hitman series, a video game about the world’s deadliest assassin, Agent 47, comes out with its latest installment entitled Hitman: Absolution. Marsha, with her unmistakable British accent, is voicing Agent 47s closest confidant, Diana Burnwood. The role in the video game is sure to bring Ms. Thomason lots of exposure, as well as new fans.
Many will recall Marsha as Nessa on Las Vegas or as Naomi on Lost. Both Las Vegas and Lost are no longer in production, but Ms. Thomason’s work made her known to many television viewers. In the CYInterview below, Marsha Thomason speaks about her career, as well as who she is personally. She also talks about how she dealt with a Twitter imposter. (Incidentally, the imposter was following @ChrisYandek under her name. When Marsha took control of her account, she continued following me.)
Listen to the entire Marsha Thomason CYInterview:
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Chris Yandek: Before we get into everything, what do you want people to know about you away from the world of acting?
Marsha Thomason: “Oh wow. Not much really. (Laughs) I’m quite a private person. I don’t know. No, nothing much. I’m just a human in the world.”
CY: Well, there you go then. You know what I’ve noticed over the years you know about British performers? Is that you guys kind of have this different view of the world of acting compared to Americans. I think many of you guys see it more as a job you love and then you go home and there’s the rest of your life. Is that how do you see it?
MT: “Definitely. I mean and it’s always been that way. You know, I started acting when I was 14, my goodness and I remember the grownups, the adults that I was working with, they would say you know, ‘Well, I’m going to work. I’m going to work.’ Whereas to me it was like, ‘I’m going to shoot. I’m going to film.’ You know it was like this exciting and then I quickly learned that you know it’s just a job. It’s just a job.”
MT: “There’s nothing too special about it.”
CY: In my analysis, I think you’re somebody who plays serious roles like Nessa from Las Vegas, of course Naomi on Lost and of course Diana from White Collar, but at the same time I think you like to have fun. Is that how you are in your own life?
MT: “Absolutely. I really, you know it always surprises people that I’m actually funny because I think maybe it’s the English thing. I don’t know. I’m always cast in these serious roles it feels like, but you know one day I’d like to do a comedy. I really would. I mean I’ve been in comedies, but I’m usually the straight person. I really would like to do that. I’ve come close a few times to doing a comedy and it hasn’t quite worked out and hopefully one day it will.”
CY: Well, I hope it does for your sake. I’d love to see another side of your acting craft of course.
CY: You know. White Collar now has been going strong for a few years here. What’s it been like to be part of another TV show that gets to have a long run and you get to work with the same people for quite a while?
MT: “Oh you know, I’m so lucky and I realize it every day. You know, I keep, you know as exciting as it is and I try to live each day and enjoy the moment, but there’s always that knowledge that one day it will end you know. So every year we get to go back is such a blessing and I do. You know, it’s pilot season here in L.A. right now and you know, they’re gonna make all these pilots and they’re gonna be on television, some of them you know and they’ll be canceled within a day and I just really, I’m so appreciative that I’m on this show where I get to work with great people you know every day year after year.”
CY: Yeah. Absolutely. There are many great performers out there like yourself as you’ve mentioned and I feel like the reality TV culture has taken away opportunities from some of your acting colleagues to find work. Do you feel fortunate in that sense as you just mentioned because of that?
MT: “Absolutely I do and I think you’re right. I mean, you know, that’s definitely been the case in England. You know I have a lot of actor friends obviously back home and they don’t have as many channels in the UK. I mean they certainly have more than they did when I was growing up, but it’s not like here we have a booming cable industry and you know and network TV makes great stuff too as well as the reality stuff. So I feel like sure it’s had an impact, but compared to these smaller countries where you know they don’t have as many channels, it’s had a profound impact.”
CY: I think most people would say how do you go from being a Brit over there and how do you get over to America? I think that’s the question people always ask when a foreigner comes over to America and starts getting all these roles.
MT: “Well, I’m one of those awful people who you know I just had a really lucky break. You know I started acting in England like I said from being a kid and I worked consistently over there and then they were, Fox were looking to cast somebody in Black Knight and they couldn’t find a black actress over here who could do an English accent, which is not say that they’re aren’t any, but they didn’t find one. So they came to England and you know I was lucky enough to get the job and that helped me launch my career over here.”
CY: Yeah. I think it’s just interesting in itself how you were a foreigner who comes over here because so many don’t have that experience, let alone in America being an American performer and getting an opportunity. But when you’re the foreigner and you come here and then you blow up in America, that’s just so rare, even more rare.
MT: “Yeah. I feel really fortunate. I mean it sounds like [word unintelligible], but it’s true. I feel really fortunate.”
CY: Yeah. More than anything else I wonder you know going forward now, of course, and you know expanding out to acting opportunities as we’re talking about this next project, you know I am not a big game/video game follower or anything like that, but the Hitman series is the one franchise I do follow coincidentally. It’s the only thing I really pay attention to. So when I heard you were voicing/acting/playing Diana Burnwood, agent 47s closest friend/colleague, did you feel honored? In Hitman: Absolution we finally are able to see her. But all of us Hitman gamers live for Diana and understand her importance.
MT: “I know. It’s amazing. I made a joke the other day I’m only playing Dianas in the last couple of years.”
MT: “It’s funny. I’m Diana Barrigan and I’m Diana Burnwood, only Diana Bs. Yeah, I mean it’s, I’m a bit of a gamer and I was definitely aware of the Hitman franchise and so when the opportunity came I jumped at it ‘cause you know it means a lot to a lot of people. But you know my Twitter’s been blowing up since it was announced I’m part of it and I can really see that it really you know has quite an impact on a lot of people’s lives.”
CY: Well, working on a video game seems to have a lot of artistry the way you were showing it in the video for your preview thing, but this is gonna introduce you to a whole new audience as you just mentioned.
CY: Do you think it is something that performers overlook being part of something like this.
MT: “Definitely because I think there’s a snobbery about it, you know but I think things are changing actually because we have Andy Serkis doing all this wonderful motion capture work, amazing incredible work in the last decade and that’s how we shot Hitman. You know I was in the motion capture, in the suit with the darts and the camera in my face. It was a very interesting, different, creative experience and I think people do undervalue it and I think that’s a mistake.”
CY: And the question I wonder is how does an actor audition for a video game? Is it a different process or is it just like everything else? How does one find out about it? That’s interesting.
MT: “It’s slightly different. It was more about the voice actually and so I recorded some of the dialogue and sent it to the people, the powers that be and they liked my voice and that’s, we went from there really.”
CY: Well, wonderful. It almost seems like, you know, watching you put this video game together it almost seems like it was almost Avatar, like almost kind of.
MT: “Oh totally. That’s what I was saying on the day. I said, ‘You know I feel like I’m in Avatar right now.’ It was very, very cool interesting. I’d love to do something like that again. I really would.”
CY: As you know there are probably millions who have been anticipating the next installment of the Hitman series because it’s been a very long time. I think it’s been four years if not five. So can you at least tell me something about Hitman: Absolution for the fans out there? Can you tell me something?
MT: “No. No. No I can’t. I’d get in a lot of trouble. There’s a lot of secrecy around this project and I’m certainly not gonna be the one to let the cat out of the bag.”
CY: Well, there you go then. Do you have an idea when the release is of course? Is there a release date yet ‘cause I couldn’t really find anything on that. Any idea on that yet?
MT: “Yeah. There isn’t one yet actually and I’m not, it shifted around a couple of times and I’m not sure, but it’s definitely going to be this year.”
CY: Ok. Well, thank you very much on that. Ok, let’s talk about a few more of your other roles. What I could never understand is why you departed from Las Vegas after two seasons because you really balanced out the entire cast.
MT: “Oh. Thank you. You’re so sweet. Well, they let me go. You know. I don’t know. You’d have to ask them.”
CY: I just don’t get it. I really don’t get it.
MT: “Neither did I.”
CY: You were the serious good looking woman on the show and then, of cours,e there were the other good looking women and they had their own spunk as well, but you were like the serious work for corporate keep an eye on what’s really going on, understand what’s really going on, not get caught up in all the hoopla. And it was like, why do you get rid of the opposite character on the show. She balances out the entire cast and I just couldn’t understand it.
MT: “Neither could I.”
CY: And I didn’t enjoy Las Vegas after that as much to tell you the truth.
MT: “Well, thank you.”
CY: Was it as crazy to work on that show as it seemed?
MT: “At times. Yes. Absolutely. But we didn’t shoot in Vegas. You probably know that.”
MT: “We shot in Culver City in a warehouse that they converted into a casino. It was pretty incredible. I mean you really felt like you’d been transported to Las Vegas. They did an amazing job. And then I think subsequently after I left the show they moved to Sony Studios I think, but we would shoot a bit at the beginning of the season in Vegas and that was crazy. You know when we shot the pilot, we shot at the Mandalay Bay and we had to shoot in the quiet time, which you know a casino never closes. So I think we started at you know two in the morning through and a 12 hour day. Oh it was rough. So rough.”
CY: One thing I’d love to clear up with you, after season five [sic] was slated not to come back and it didn’t come back, there were rumors you were going to be brought back. Was that just a rumor?
MT: “Absolutely just a rumor. “
CY: Well, thank you very much for clearing that up because there was a lot of hoopla.
MT: “I wasn’t even aware of that hoopla.”
CY: Yeah. There were numerous conversations about the possibility of them bringing you back. Go look online. And I was like, I can’t believe that. I’m like ‘cause you know we never got a real official ending. How would you sum your Lost experience?
MT: “Oh it was amazing. I was a huge fan of the show. You know, I know Dominic Monaghan from back home and so you know this was his big new TV show and I started watching from the beginning and I was hooked immediately. Then I came in season three and I was just that first day that I went, I had been shooting for about a week before I actually went to the beach and when I got to the beach with everybody there it was so surreal. It was really an incredible time. I felt like I was a part of something that those seminal TV shows, Mad Men’s gonna be one of them we talk about for years. Twin Peaks is one of them and Lost too and it’s amazing I was part of that.
CY: Favorite role?
MT: “My favorite role?”
MT: “Wow. You know I think it’s Diana right now. I really, I love working with the guns, I love working in New York, I love playing an FBI agent, I adore the people I work with. This, I really do think this and I know you know it probably sounds like bullshit because, of course, she’s gonna say that, it’s the job she’s on now. But this truly has been one of the most special times for me working on White Collar.”
CY: You’ve had four seasons on the same show. You had two seasons on Las Vegas. You came into Lost in the middle of that thing. I would obviously call this your favorite thing because you guys are gonna be back again this summer I believe for a fifth [sic] season. This is your longest running project. Why wouldn’t it be your favorite?
MT: “Well indeed. Well put.”
CY: Well put indeed. Ok. Now a little CY mystery as I always like to call it. Just for the people who know out there, some of you do know this, me and Marsha have been longtime Twitter followers and I believe what happened, now help me clear this up because I really want to know.
CY: What I believe happened is that there was some random person out there pretending to be you, you got control of your Twitter name, you cleaned out all of your followers and you kept a few people in the list that you liked and over the years you just kept following me and is that really what happened?
MT: “That’s exactly what happened. Yeah. It came to my attention and this happens to a lot of actors, there was somebody totally pretending to be me for at least a year having full blown conversations with followers. You know, ‘Headed to a meeting with my bodyguard.’ Hello, Marsha T doesn’t have a bodyguard. That’s hilarious. You know, just engaging with fans, talking about my hubby and this, I mean it was actually really offensive because you know you’re pretending to be me. And so and it’s very difficult, it may be easier now, but it was at the time kind of difficult to prove that their fake and you’re the real person. And so.”
CY: What happened? How did you go through that process? I’d love to know.
MT: “I had a little bit of fun with it actually because I got the boys from the show to take a picture with me with the New York paper.”
CY: With the New York Times, with the New York Times. Yeah.
MT: “Yes. That’s right and then that helped fast track it and then somebody from publicity at USA kind of took control of the situation. By the end of that day it was done. But I had been aware of this fake Marsha for a little bit and didn’t know what to do about it. And Facebook makes it really difficult. There are fake pages of me on Facebook as well. I have a real one, but that’s not easy either. And there was somebody on My Space pretending to be me as well.”
CY: Well, I’m not surprised by that. What was curious to me was though you had like 700/800 followers that you clear everybody out and you left me there and I love that. I really appreciate that.
MT: “Well absolutely. I could tell you were a class act.”
CY: I appreciated that more so than anything else. I always enjoy your tweets and I hope you enjoy mine. I always try to entertain and inform. It’s like, because usually I get the follow from the celebrity after the interview and it’s like you’ve just been there for a few years.
CY: And it’s just kind of one of these random things and you follow like 77 people. [Marsha follows about 100 people now]
MT: “I know. I don’t follow many people at all.”
CY: Ok. Thank you so much for clearing that up. And that’s quite fun. I’m glad you finally got a hold of your life and you deserve that obviously.
MT: “Thank you. Thank you.”
CY: I don’t know if you have a middle name, but either way are you adding or changing it to Diana?
MT: “(Laughs) I have a middle name that I’m not really fond of and no I’m happy with, I added my name, another name when I got married. So I have three. I’m good.”
CY: Ok. Well there you go. And of course as you know as you mentioned earlier, I understand this and I would love just a little quick story if you don’t mind. You know, I always enjoy that busy people find happiness. So did love find you while you were working? Is that what happened?
MT: “That’s exactly what happened. Yeah. It’s hilarious ‘cause my husband’s actually from my hometown and so here I moved 6000 miles away to Los Angeles and found a man. We were shooting something for the BBC in Belfast and I met somebody. His parents live 15 minutes away from my parents.”
CY: I think that that’s just so wonderful.
CY: I’m not someone who pries into people’s personal lives, but it’s just so wonderful when you’re working because as you very well know it’s a very lonely life because you’re just…
CY: …constantly working and to find happiness along the way, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.
MT: “Oh thank you. You’re very sweet.”
CY: Marsha Thomason thank you so much for joining me today. Of course, catch her in White Collar. When’s it coming back this summer? When’s it starting again this summer?
MT: “I’m not sure. June probably.”
MT: “We usually start in June.”
CY: Ok. Thank you very much. So catch her in new episodes of White Collar, of course, in June, of course, repeating on USA. Finally, what do you still want to accomplish, hopes for the future? I know you mentioned you want to be in a comedy, but anything else?
MT: “You know I really love television. I mean film’s great and I was, of course, enjoy being in film, but when this is over I want to be on a show like Modern Family which, of course, every actor is saying right now. I love comedy. I got to do those two episodes of Two Broke Girls and it was really to make people laugh is just a lovely thing and I’d love to do something like that.”
You can fall Marsha Thomason on her verified Twitter here.
Marsha Thomason’s official Facebook is here.
You can find more out about Marsha Thomason on White Collar here.
You can order a copy of Hitman: Absolution and find out more information here
You can email Chris Yandek at ChrisYandek@CYInterview.com Chris is available for interviews to comment on anything featured on CYInterview.