We receive a warm welcome from Antonia Thomas, as we step into her high-rise flat in London Bridge for the day’s interview and photo shoot. Before getting started with hair and makeup, everyone takes a moment to admire her eclectic living space and the panoramic view of South London its location affords. There is an intimacy to the space, born from carefully curating each piece of vintage furniture and every ornate knick-knack. As a whole, it is a mise-en- scène that illustrates a clear picture of who Thomas is off-screen, in comparison to the characters she’s become known for on screen.
Thomas, though, would argue that she brings a little bit of the “real” her to every role. As she shares, that’s what feeds her love for the stage and screen: the opportunity to tap the corners of her personality and flex her versatility as an actress. For Thomas, to be able to “draw upon different aspects of [her] personality and experiences [in order] to play those different parts is the most exciting thing about being an actor.”
Best known for her breakout role in Misfits, Thomas learned early in her career that sometimes, not identifying with who you are portraying is precisely the challenge a dramatic artist needs to master their inner chameleon. “I never in a million years thought when I got Misfits that I would be playing a role like that,” she says of her rebellious and overtly sexual Alisha Daniels character from the popular Channel 4 series. “I went to drama school, came from musical theatre, and thought that I would be doing Shakespeare. I was really scared of [the role], but it turned out to be the best thing that I have ever done… I learned so much and it positioned me amazingly to go on and do other things.”
Having become a cult figure within the realm of science fiction (how could a supernatural character able to provoke sexual frenzy through touch not become a fan favourite?), Thomas waded through post-Misfits offers with caution to avoid being pigeonholed. “Casting directors can see you in a certain light,” she explains. “It was a moment of turning things down and trying to make brave choices, which eventually worked out.”
Daring to be selective, has paid-off for the actress, whose reel boasts screen time in everything from BBC’s recent rendition of The Musketeers to renowned photographer Elaine Constantine’s feature film debut (and surprise box office crasher) Northern Soul to a starring role in Coldplay’s “Charlie Brown” music video to her most recent gig in the British dramedy, Lovesick (formerly known as Scrotal Recall).
Now in its second season—premiering globally on Netflix today—Thomas is at the heart of the show’s rom-com sentimentality; in fact, she is the heart. In the role of Evie—the best friend and would-be-true-love of the show’s protagonist Dylan (Johnny Flynn)—audiences are invested in the unrealized dimension of the pair’s relationship with one another. And while the premise of the show is about the various women that have passed through Dylan’s life (or more, bedroom)—as the original title of the series suggests—Thomas confirms that even though “each episode is still named after a girl, the girls become less and less important” to the story arc. Team Evie rejoice!
With its premiere season ending on a cliffhanger that left viewers anxious to learn what Thomas’ character would do now that Dylan’s love for her has been declared (by way of a third party, that is), Lovesick promises an eventful Season 2. “You learn more about the characters and where they come from,” shares the actress. “The flashbacks are so fun this time, we go all the way back to university!”
On set with Thomas, it’s impossible to miss how comfortable she is before the camera. She engages it with the prowess of a screen veteran—playing to its needs—the green of her eyes brighten when locked with the lens. In the photos, as on screen, Thomas exudes an innocence in nature, balanced by an electrifying grit.
An actress with range, Thomas is intent on expanding her portfolio to include more period dramas, in addition to productions that afford her the opportunity to sing. And then there’s also, of course, The Bard of Avon to consider.
Her passion for the stage runs deep, as can be deduced from the two vintage copies of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare spotted on her bookcase—which happens to be a repurposed vintage Coca Cola crate. When I point out the duplicates, she laughs, “you didn’t know I was a serious actor? Now you know!” Oh… we knew. The Shakespeare and her copy of 100 Great Plays for Women (a guide to female centric plays compiled by acclaimed theatre director, Lucy Kerbel) only confirmed our impression.
With a collection of classics, the likes of Oliver Twist and To Kill a Mockingbird stocking her shelves, it would appear this bookworm is an old soul. Still, binge watching programs on Netflix is a modern pastime Thomas likes to take part in, when not paging through gems of the literary canon. “In the wake of Netflix you can binge watch television… and I guess I watch a lot of series,” she laughs. “It’s quite a good way to shut off. I just finished watching Stranger Things, which is so great! The writing is awesome and [so is] the fact that they tapped into that nostalgia from the ‘80s.”
As for what we plan on binge watching for the rest of the week… take a guess. Below, Thomas talks the rebranding of Lovesick, the evolution of her on screen romance and all things acting-related.
To start, let’s go back to the beginning. You made a rather last minute switch from Fine Art at the Chelsea College of Art to acting at Bristol Old Vic. Why the change of heart?
I decided to do an art foundation, and I really enjoyed it, but found it quite solitary. The art foundation was in the same building as the drama school, and I just found I always wanted to know what they were doing!
Do you still do art?
I do. My wish is to eventually buy a place where I can have a studio with my paints out all the time. It’s a thing of getting it out and putting it away. [FYI: Her paints were spotted sitting on the balcony table.]
Now to the main event: Season 2 of Lovesick. First, I must ask, why do you think they changed the name from Scrotal Recall to Lovesick?
I mean… [laughing] why do you think?
Yeah, I think I get it. [Laughing.]
That kind of name signified a lad show, and yes, there is humour that is fun and a bit silly, but there is a lot of heart to it, and softness and some romance. [The name] became a thing where we all felt slightly ashamed because everything else about the show we are really proud of.
Sounds like it was almost a hindrance.
You would find yourself finding ways of not saying [Scrotal Recall], like “so it’s about three friends and it’s actually really sweet…” You would just find yourself completely avoiding [the show’s name], and then you would be like, “Scrotal Recall,” and people would look at you like your career had gone down the pan. [Laughing.]
I like the new name, speaks more to the show’s romantic plotline. On that note, can you explain what exactly is going on between Dylan and Evie? Please!
I think it’s that unrequited love thing, isn’t it? Like the thing that you really want has been staring you in the face. I think in a lot of ways, you can look at [Dylan and Evie] and go: it’s so obvious, like why are you not seeing her, she is obviously right for you!
I think it’s that thing, that in real-life people are really careful with each other’s feelings, especially when you care about them and when you’re friends… you don’t want to rock the boat or make them unhappy. So often, you just kind of stay quiet. [Laughing.] I think that’s quite an essential theme in this show!
What aspects of Evie’s personality tap into your own?
She wears her heart on her sleeve, she’s quite scatty, she’s creative. It’s that thing of being in that period of your life where we should all be completely sorted and know what we’re doing. I mean, I am to an extent… I am in a relationship, I am happy, I am doing a job that I love, but you never know—especially in this career—from one moment to the next, where you’re going to be living. At the moment, I am in between here and America. I mean when I was fifteen, I thought by the time I got to my mid 20s, I would have bought a house and I would have it all sorted… and I haven’t, so I would say I relate to [Evie] in that respect.
The show doesn’t shy away from intimate moments, have you gotten fairly use to filming those types of scenes or are there still awkward moments?
I am very lucky my co-star John is such a nice guy, and outside of work we’re really good friends. Initially when you do those scenes it is always awkward, especially because the room is crammed full of people, there is whole film crew starring at you.
You just have to kind of laugh and trust the other person.
What actors do you admire, and what qualities would you say they all share?
My favourite British actress is Emma Thompson and an obvious favourite America actress is Meryl Streep. I admire them because they are such chameleons, they have the kind of careers that you dream of. From one job to the next they are playing completely different roles. They also normally tell stories that are important… that have a real message to get across!
You’re career has been quite versatile in terms of roles, as well. I mean going from Misfits to playing the female narrator in the Teletubbies… it’s a leap!
[Laughing.] It was a real choice after Misfits to choose things that were really different. I really didn’t want to get pigeonholed as an actress that just does that kind of a role.
I understand that. Diversity is a good way of getting casting directors to see your range… to open their minds.
They start seeing you as a bigger picture, a person that can hopefully be a chameleon.
Any past roles that particularly stand out for you?
Musketeers was so fun because I absolutely adore period drama. To wear these amazing costumes and corsets, and really get to grips with that period… like the way you carry yourself and the whole difference of what that period brings.
Equally, I loved Northern Soul. That was an incredible experience, Elaine [Constantine] had been trying to get that film made for almost ten years. The authenticity she brought to the experience… every detail was incredible. I loved that job.
Aside from film and television, are you thinking of doing more stage?
I did a play called Home at the National. I love that theatre so much. For me, the dream is to be able to keep my career equal with theatre, TV and film. Yes, I want to make film, but it’s such a different process. With theatre, you get six weeks minimum in a rehearsal studio perfecting a role… really getting to grips with that character. Rarely do you get that for television… you might get a day. And, depending on the film and budget, you might get a week’s rehearsal.
Performing in front of a live audience must also add a whole other level to the experience.
You get the immediate response from the audience… every night you know how the pay has gone down.
Last question: aside from reprising your role on Lovesick, what kind of parts would you like to play in the future?
Period drama in general.
Should have guessed!
I love the costume aspect of it, [how it’s a] different moment in history. I would love to do something jazzier, ’20s-’50s… play a musician. Than equally, I just want to tell cool stories and [work with] really good writing. I am interested in playing interesting and strong women.