“When you love something enough persistence will naturally follow” Eloise Thomas tells us about finding success in the acting industry. As well as talking about her latest role in the fourth series of ITV’s The Bay as Izzy Metcalf, Thomas reflects upon the ways in which her creative upbringing, roles in short films, and the importance of letting your life influence your acting and not acting influence your life.
As a creative in every sense of the word, Thomas really embraces range in all that she does. Constantly finding herself both surrounded by art in all of its forms and producing it herself, she talks us through her practices not only in the field of acting but also as a budding DJ. In both areas, Thomas works to both find her niches and push her creative boundaries.
Could you begin by introducing yourself to our readers?
I’m Eloise! I’m an actor and artist from London.
Were there any notable influences that you can recognise from your childhood that inspired you to pursue a career in acting?
I had a very creative upbringing. From about four or five years old, I went to a part-time performing arts school where we did singing, dancing and acting. It was essentially a space that encouraged silliness and ridiculousness which is probably why I am the way I am now. I also went to an amazing primary school where our teachers were so creative. We had gospel singers come in and orchestrate our Christmas concerts, we had Bollywood dancers lead workshops, we had teachers who were ex drama students that would write original stage productions and create insane set designs for the final year 6 play, most schools around us would be singing primary school or church songs in assembly, we would be singing The Beatles, Michael Jackson, even JLS (laughs). I think from a young age performing and art was so normal and encouraged by the adults around me as a way of expression so I’ve always wanted to pursue some form of story-telling and that would sometimes sway between music, dance, art but it really stuck with acting.
You featured in numerous short films between 2017 and 2020. Is there anything, do you think, that draws you to certain roles?
I didn’t go to drama school for university so short films were my gateway into learning how to navigate a set and how to essentially act for screen. I think as well these short films were what then led me to fall in love with cinema since I learnt so much from director’s references and the passion a lot of them and the crew had for independent films. I’m drawn to roles that have a complexity, an obstacle to overcome, an opportunity to explore in weird ways and has a lot of room to play around with, adding idiosyncrasies and specific mannerisms to. I think I love a range really, like any actor, like I love the surreal, outrageous characters that are so far away to who I am but then I also love just connecting to the core and playing roles with a sense of hyper-realism and relatability to myself.
What is your process in terms of getting to know the characters you are playing?
I read the script a couple of times to get an idea of the context but I try not to overthink lines during the early stages. I love just jotting down loads of thoughts and ideas within the characters headspace, I have a notebook full of diary entries as if I was the role which would probably make me look like a mad woman if someone accidentally picked it up. I think like I said before, I like the idea of finding the subtle mannerisms that a character might have just because in real life we all have our little habits that we do without realising so I think playing around with that helps me bridging the physicality and mentality of a character together and making it feel encompassing. Saying that, I’m still learning and one of the things that help me the most with character development is collaboration and learning through other people like going to classes or sitting down with a cast mate or an actor friend, even just someone who isn’t an actor and workshopping ideas together.
Your first TV role was as teenage Becky in BBC One’s show Chloe! In the show, the main character Becky was played by Erin Doherty. Did you work collaboratively with Erin on your respective performances of the character?
I’d say mainly with the accent; I’m not from Bristol and I don’t think Erin is either but she trained in Bristol when she was younger so she definitely had the accent perfected! It was mainly in post-production within ADR where Erin would send voice notes of certain lines in her character accent that I would then try to replicate as closely as possible so that we both weren’t doing two completely different voices (laughs). We were on different units during filming but I did bump into Erin a few times, she’s absolutely fantastic both as a person and actor! I did most of my character work with the directors, Amanda Boyle and Alice Sebright, where we had really thorough Zoom calls at the start of production (since this was during Covid), go through the scripts and just talk openly about the emotions, the reasonings, the characteristics that teenage Becky could be created from.
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Chloe aired in 2022, five years after your first role in 2017. Could you talk a bit about the importance of persistence within the acting industry?
I think with anything, let alone acting, when you love something enough persistence will naturally follow? Because I was really trying at this industry for five years, even when I did feel like throwing it in, the fact I have been doing it for five years, how much fun (and hardship) I was having gaining all of these new, character-defining experiences, and slowly opening new doors made it feel ridiculous to throw it all in, what a waste it would have all been otherwise! If I quit a few years ago when I did question quitting, I would’ve never of done Chloe which would’ve then not led on to The Bay, as well as, other projects and all the incredible memories I’ve made from them. When you frame persistence in a way of what you could miss out on if you gave up and measure how much that means to you then I guess that answers how much it’s all worth for you to persist.
Acting is such a precarious industry, I could be facing a whole new wave of rejection and quiet spells despite having more established work under my belt than I have before, you never know what to expect and you can’t let the turbulence of it throw you off guard, you have to put on metaphorical horse blinkers in a way. So yeah, persistence is super important!
Following on from that, are there any aspects of acting that you find you struggle with? If so, how do you work to overcome those obstacles?
I get mega imposter syndrome. In terms of whether I deserve to be on a set, whether my performance was even good. I have to force myself sometimes to be like I’m an actor when someone asks what I do because I still don’t think I’ve worked enough to be considered one which is so silly because that’s not even the defining point! I have such high expectations of where I want to be and what I want to be as an actor and even when I do reach those targets, I’m then thinking I’m not there yet because there’s this other thing I haven’t done. One helpful factor is just voicing that, I remember being on the set of Chloe on the first day and saying to someone who was very integral to the production that I feel like an imposter being here and they responded same here! and it completely shifted my perspective into realising wait most people feel like that, even those who are so far advanced in their careers, why do we all do that? So funny. More importantly, I think it’s just learning to trust myself and trying to quickly pull myself out of a self-deprecating pit by reminding myself that the opportunities I’ve got to do so far have come from me loving the craft, working hard at it rather than just a fluke or mistake and trusting that there will be more to come because of those same reasons. To be honest, even if you were an imposter in a situation, that’s pretty sick that you’ve managed to get yourself through the door anyway. Own it either way!
You are also a regular on the fourth series of the ITV show The Bay, out now. How do you think your performance in this show demonstrates the ways you have evolved as an actor up until now?
A lot of my learning curves have come from doing the short films so I guess I’ve taken aspects of director tips and personal realisations along the way and experimented with them for The Bay. Every role is different, so some techniques work really well and some really didn’t but what was great about The Bay was that I had a lot of time to figure that out. I learnt soo much on The Bay, a lot of what I did on screen came mostly from what I was learning as I went along on set from collaboration and being amongst cast, director and crew who really cared about telling the story and had so much experience under their belt, I was just trying to take in as much as I possibly could!
In The Bay you’ll be playing the role of Izzy Metcalf. Could you tell us a bit about Izzy? Are there any parts of yourself that you see in her
Izzy Metcalf is the daughter of Beth Metcalf, who we find out tragically dies suspiciously. For context, Izzy also has three other siblings and a dad who isn’t the most paternal. On the surface, Izzy is definitely an angsty, impulsive teenager who probably seems very irritating. But, as the episodes develop, I feel like her external character begins to delayer as she ultimately is trying to grieve the death of her mother, understand what her relationship is with her father and also just try to navigate the world as a teenager which is weird enough already let alone difficult after a tragedy. It’s funny, playing Izzy Metcalf at 23 years old makes me realise why I was the way I was sometimes when I was a young teenager. A lot of trying to be edgy and the melodrama over the smallest things that I had a bit of when I was 15 or 16 probably just came from the fact that I was figuring the world out for the first time independently and being a bit more conscious of being perceived whilst also trying to reject all that at the same time.
Do you have any advice for budding young actors that you feel would have been helpful when you were starting your career?
I think like you said earlier, persistence is key! Take classes, make your own work, meet and collaborate with other actors, film-makers your age and grow with them, take every opportunity and learn from it. But whilst doing that the most important thing is to just enjoy it! The reason why you’d be doing it from a young age would most likely be because you love it so don’t let that aspect go. One of my big mistakes was letting the ambition of wanting an acting career over-consume me sometimes and that just ends up taking you away from everything else you’re exploring for the first time growing up like travelling, friends, independence, other interests. Let life influence your acting rather than acting influence your life.
I’ve also seen that you are quite a keen DJ! How did you get into that?
When I was 18 I started to really get into dance music and then in 2020 I was very generously gifted mixers for my birthday over lockdown and I dabbled with it here and there. It wasn’t until I went back to university a couple of years ago and joined DJ society that I properly got into it. I started signing myself up for nights at Corsica Studios and then when I got selected for the line-ups I’d think Oh my god I have to actually learn to DJ now. So I kind of faked it til I made it type thing until I finally got comfortable with what I was doing. After that, I started doing my own mixes and posting them online and from there and through word of mouth I just started doing more and more. I love collecting songs I hear in clubs then trying to curate them together into a set like a jigsaw, I get really obsessive and particular about it. It’s nice as well because I’ve managed to find my place as DJ and club-goer amongst a more femme, queer and music-nerdy scene rather than like the intense hyper-masculine vibe that I don’t resonate with as much.
Finally, what else have you got coming up that you are working on?
I had the amazing opportunity of going to Iceland to play a small role in HBO’s True Detective: Night Country to be released at some point. In terms of DJ’ing, I will be playing at Avalon Cafe in April for Awake All Hours 3rd Birthday which is super exciting as I’ve been doing their artwork since the collective was born. Super excited for what is to come in 2023 and what new roles there may be to dive into!
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