- EastEnders star, Ellen Thomas reveals her desire to work with award winning Ghanaian film maker, Shirley Frimpong Manso.
- Ellen Thomas is on record as one of the few people to have played 3 different characters on EastEnders
- Black British actors are excelling in Hollywood and beyond because of their talents and work ethics.
- Diversity in film and television is getting better in the UK
Actress, Ellen Thomas of Britain’s most loved drama series, Eastenders has expressed her desire to work with multiple award winning Ghanaian film maker, Shirley Frimpong Manso.
"I’d like to work with Shirley, I love her work. I love what she did with ‘Adams Apples’ and some of the movies she has done. I’d love to work with her, but I have already told her that. So it is time to make it happen Shirley," the bubbly actress revealed in an exclusive interview with Yen.com.gh during her recent visit to Accra.
Ellen Thomas, who was born in Sierra Leone and emigrated to the UK at the age of 9, has over 25 years of acting experience under her belt, although her initial dream career was to be a ballerina. She has had many television and film roles but is perhaps best known for her recurring role in ‘Teachers’ and her record setting appearances in EastEnders – where she is on record as one of the few people to have played 3 different characters.
She first appeared on EastEnders in 1990 as Pearl Chadwick, a troublesome Jamaican grandmother. In 2011, she returned as a Nigerian, Grace Olubunmi, the grandmother of Mercy and Faith. In 2015 Ellen Thomas returned to EastEnders yet again this time as audience favourite, Claudette Hubbard.
In the 30 years history of EastEnders, the BBC for the first time did a feature story trailer with a Black family, which is headed by by Ellen’s character. “I love her character. A lot of the times, audiences say to me that there has never been a black woman playing a character like that on British television, ”Ellen commented about her role as the steely matriarch, Claudette Hubbard.
Speaking on diversity in film and television, Ellen believes the situation is getting better in the UK. She said, “For instance, for the character I play in EastEnders, a few years ago they just wouldn’t be brave enough to take it up. I remember the challenges they had with the Nigerian character I played previously – any storyline that was recommended, they were like that was too controversial. I think they are gradually moving away from that to bottomline, what audiences what to see.”
Ellen Thomas also believes that independent web-based productions have also contributed greatly to the change in tides. According to her, a lot of young people are doing things on their own and not waiting anymore to be given the opportunity. TV producers now go online to have a look at these products and a lot of actors get cast from online shows, a lot of story ideas generate from online shows.
With several black British actors taking the world of film and television by storm in the last few years, Ellen believes these actors are excelling in Hollywood and beyond because of their talents and work ethics.
“As actors we go where the opportunity is, and America is where the opportunity is. A lot of Americans say that the difference between their actors and British actors is the work ethics because a lot of us in the UK have unbelievable and amazing work ethics – you really do just get down to the work, you learn your lines, you turn up on time and you just do it.Thats what we have been trained to do. But in America people something get political forgetting they are there to work. These talented British actors are getting opportunities in America that they wouldn’t get in the UK. I was planning to go there also until the call came from EastEnders,” she explained.
Apart from her her powerful character on EastEnders, Ellen Thomas can also be seen this year in ‘Mount Pleasant’ a comedy on Sky 1 in which she plays a Jamaican grandmother new to the neighbourhood. ‘Golden Years’ a movie which she shot last year also opens in UK cinemas in March.