INTERVIEW: On Set with Marsha Thomason (Diana) from White Collar

July 16th, 2010 by

The second season premiere of White Collar ended with a big cliffhanger. Marsha Thomason, who plays Diana, has been upgraded to a series regular and all we know is that she has something to do with the music box. While Neal and Peter might be the main cast, Diana was one of my favorites last season and I’m so glad she is taking on a bigger role. I recently had the chance to visit the set of White Collar, where Marsha Thomason chatted about Diana (is she good or evil?), her own TV addiction (she’s a Gleek!) and the support she’s had from the gay community.

So season two episode one ended on an interesting note, can you give us some spoilers?
I don’t remember what happened at the end [laughs].  We’re shooting episode six now. they all merge into one.

You opened the safe...the Music Box.
Oh, right yeah, oh yeah.  So it’s, is Diana good or bad right?

Well I can’t say.

Well I’m curious to know, you know, you’re signed up for season two with a bigger role. And how has that been, taking on a bigger role from season one to season two?
Oh it’s been great.  I mean everybody’s so lovely here, and it’s such a great part, it’s a wonderful environment.  And, you know, it sounds so cheesy when we say that, because I’ve lied in the past when I’ve said that on shows [laughs].  But actually, in this instance, it’s really true, like everyone is so lovely and it’s such a pleasure to come here.  And it’s just, it’s been really great. I’m loving working in the city, you know, being here.  New York is such a big pie, it’s like a character of its own on the show and its been really great.

So how do you like being in New York compared to being back [home]?
Well, I live in LA, I’ve lived there for almost ten years, so I feel almost like an American now.  I know I don’t sound like one but it’s been great being here, it’s such a great city, it’s so vibrant, I’ve loved it, really loved it.  It’s always been a dream of mine to work in New York.

When you came in on season one did they tell you that it was possibly going to be a season two recurring role?  Or did they tell you we’ll see what happens?
Yeah it was kind up in the air, we didn’t really know what was going to happen with it, which is often the case in this business as you know.  So it’s great to be back for this second season [with the] boys.

And you play a really strong female character who’s gay, and do you think we might see your relationship in the future?
I think you might, yeah.

[laughter] Oh, she knowingly nods.
She knowingly raises a brow [laughs].

[laughter] With your British accent, do you have to go through training?  Because on the show you don’t really hear it.
Yeah, you know, I’ve been here such a long time and I’ve definitely worked on the accent, you know.  Gosh when I look at some of the things I did earlier on in the career, yeah not so.  You know but I’ve worked on the accent a lot.  I don’t have anybody here on the set, I kind of use my co-stars, “How do you say that?  What is that word?”  And, you know, I mean, I’ve lived here a long time so I’m always listening and fine tuning.  And now it’s kind of gotten to the point where, you know, I’ll be in a scene and if a word comes out I hear it straight away.  If an English sound comes out I hear it and I [call it] because I never want to commit that to film.  And then, you know, we do it again, so I feel in a good place with the accent at this point.

Do you ever let a bollocks escape?
No I never let a bollocks escape.

Do you ever get an opportunity to use your accent?
We’re on episode six, so far no.  But we go under cover a hell of a lot so I would imagine at some point they’re going to have to use it.  Because why wouldn’t they?

[laughter] What about in other work that you’ve done?
Oh yes. Yeah I’ve played Americans, I’ve played English a lot.  I was English on Las Vegas, I was English on Lost. In fact I was a Mancunian on Lost.  I was English on Make it or Break it that I was doing last year.  I’ve been English a lot, yeah.

So you’ve done a lot of TV, how does this role in this production compare to other projects that you’ve worked on?
Well like I said, it’s such a great environment, and one of the things I really love about it is it’s really collaborative.  Jeff Eastin, our show [writer], is really, really open to ideas.  And, you know, because often times you find that they just want the actors to just say, “Please just say the words don’t, you know, leave us to…”  You know but he’s very collaborative and so I really appreciate that and that’s been pretty special on this show.  In fact, I have an email that I’m just about to send and, you know, and I always feel like I can do that like I’m not going to get fired.  So it’s good [laughs].

Do you give him ideas for shows or where your character is going?
No, no just, you know, might discuss a little idea about the character or have a question about a script.  Or, you know, I don’t know, just it’s a work in progress always so sometimes, you know, we might have an idea but never about stories really no, we leave that to them.

What has been the response from the gay community to your role, to your character?  And do you feel a special, what’s the word, is it tough playing this character?
Yeah.  No, God no it’s not tough, it’s actually an honor. After the first episode the gay community was really like, a little distressed when I wasn’t back in the second episode.  And they came out in full force and—hello! That’s amazing [laughs].  I mean you know, that was a really special thing that I feel really supported by them.  And no I don’t feel any pressure because I just, you know, I honor the work, say the words, do my best and, you know, let the chips fall where they may.

But now you have your own activist group to keep you in the show.

What’s the most fun thing you’ve gotten to do on the show so far?
I go undercover playing a high class hooker in Costume National shoes which is never a bad thing.  And I get quite a bit of gun work on the show as well, which is really fun for me because, “Hi I’m English I’ve never held a gun.”  I held a gun on Las Vegas but that was in a shooting range so it was very controlled, it wasn’t like, you know, I get to shoot people.

[laughter] Well you know you never really get over the kick of that because that’s just, you know, when you actually pull…
Right oh, yeah.  I mean it was, yeah I was very nervous the first time because they’ve all done it for a whole season and I’m the girl in high heeled shoes.  I really didn’t want to mess it up, but I think I did a good job.  Apparently it looks great, but I haven’t seen anything yet. You’ve seen more then I’ve seen [laughs].

[laughter] What was your reaction when you read the script for this first episode of the season and saw what was going to happen at the end that realized that your character was going to be the subject of a great deal of discussion?
Yeah, I was thrilled. I was thrilled.  I mean, you know, the story centers around Neal and Peter for the most part, and so you never know what they’re going to do with, you know, the co-star roles.  And so I was very happy to see that I was an integral part to the story and have been, you know, they’re really using me and that’s great.  I mean if you can’t tell, I’m really happy to be here [laughs] I’m having such a good time.  It’s just a great show, it’s a great network to be a part of, you know, they’ve got such great, good shows that, you know, I really enjoy a lot of their stuff.  I’ve been a fan, so I’m having a nice time.

Have they given you any clues about where you’re headed or do you kind of find every week as you’re reading?
Yeah, no we just find every week, and usually we get the script the day before we start shooting [laughs].  So we’re just discovering the story as we go.  But that’s kind of good anyway, because in life you never know what’s going to happen from one moment to the next.

And it can’t be as simple as you being the bad guy.
Can’t it? I can’t say.

You don’t know or you can’t say?
No, I can’t say we’re on episode six. I know at this point [laughs].

[laughter] Lost brought back a lot of former players during the final season as kind of the alternate reality thing.  Was it just a scheduling thing that –?
Yeah, yes it was. I know, I know, I was gutted.  I went to Thailand for a month. Can you believe I dared take a vacation?  And so, and they called to ask me to go back. I was probably going to show [up]—waiting on somebody or something.  I loved the way those characters kept coming back and, you know, I’m a big fan of that show.

[What would you have] Naomi doing in the –?
Who’s to say? I just would have liked her to like show up in an unexpected place, like, you know, serving somebody dinner in a restaurant or, you know, whatever.

Or high class call girl?
Or that even, yeah.

Or even do a British high class call girl.
Well she was British on the show, yeah in fact, a Mancunian.  It was so funny, one of the scenes I did on Lost was me and Dominic Monaghan who’s also from Manchester in the north of England.  We’re on this beach in Hawaii talking about the Night and Day Café which is this really cool bar that play, you know, acoustic guitars on this beach on Lost in [Hawaii] [laughs].  I was like, this is hilarious. It was really cool, really surreal.

Do you think we might see you back on Make it or Break It? Do you have any other things coming up?
I don’t know.  They probably are going to be starting soon.  I don’t know if they’ll still be going. If I’m back in LA done with the show and they ask me back, then I would definitely go back.  It’s really fun and that show is so popular, people really like it, and I get to play kind of a bad-ass.

Yeah you were great on that too.  Do you have any other projects coming up after this is done?
No.  I’m going to go back to England for a little bit actually.  I got married last year. I want to spend some time with my husband.

What is your relationship like with Tim and Matt?

You met them right?  Terrible people.

Yeah they both seem like really bad guys.
Oh, what a drag, and they’re so awful to look at, I mean it’s just the worst.  It’s great. And actually, you know, my relationship with Tim in particular, because Diana is his right-hand woman, you know, and when she grows up she wants to be Peter.  I mean he’s so good at his job and he’s so collected and he’s a brilliant man and that’s how Diana feels about him. And I kind of have that relationship with Tim, truth be told, I really, really respect him and I love working with him.  I feel like I can talk to him about anything, whether it be the work or my personal life, whatever.  Yeah, there’s a scene in the finale where he’s on a bench and I show up, it’s the first time you see Diana back.  And, you know, we just have this moment where we kind of look at each other and it’s like, “Oh it’s you.” “Yeah it’s you.”  You know and that’s kind of how it felt going, you know, coming back to the show, and that was our first scene.  So, yeah, I have a great relationship with Tim, and with both of them, but most of my stuff really is with Tim. But Matt’s great too.

[laughter] Tim had mentioned that Peter is very close or he really trusts Diana.

There’s probably going to be a big fall-out there when it comes to [the box] or is there?
He does trust Diana.

Give us something.
I can’t, I’m not supposed to. You know, if I give the story away people might not watch.  But—I can’t say.  But he does trust Diana implicitly and she’s very involved.

It seems like you guys have so much fun on the set as, you know, I’ve heard on other interviews too.  Do you guys have to do take after take because you guys are laughing so much, does that ever happen?
You know what?  No, we’re really good at like pulling it together.  Like we’ll be laughing and all of that and then—Sharif actually had a melt-down the other day which was very unusual.  And I didn’t even hear the joke because they were like, they’re here and then I enter the scene.  So I didn’t even know what it was, but Sharif couldn’t stop laughing, he couldn’t stop laughing, it was hilarious.  But for the most part we kind of pull it together.  Matt loves to sing and he just makes up songs about the scene.  And he’s got a really great voice as well, so he’ll be like [humming] and like that’s always really difficult.  And at the end of the day you go home with these stupid songs in your head [laughs] which is pretty funny.

Do you find time to watch TV, are there any shows that you like?
Ha, I watch so much TV I’m out of control [laughs].  Right now I’m watching Friday Night Lights, back to back to back to back to back.  I started on the first season, I’m on season three, episode seven and last night I was on episode one when I first started viewing.  I even fit in an episode this morning, because Hulu’s going to knock-off the first episode of the fourth season on Sunday.  So I have to get to see, you know, because I just want to catch up.  I’m watching Glee in my room as we speak, [laughs] love Glee yeah, I’m a total Gleek.  What else do I watch?  I like The Good Wife a lot, that’s a great show.  What else do I watch?  Gosh I love CSI, OG, original Vegas.

Are there any shows that you watch that you want to be on, guest star?
Glee? Are you kidding?  But everybody says, “Can you sing?” and unfortunately the answer is “No” so I have no chance of being on Glee.  Oh that’s such a great show.

Matt should be on the show too.
Oh, he’d be great on that show, I mean he has such a good voice.

You could be part of Sue’s story than you wouldn’t have to sing.
There you go, yeah. I’m just trying to think what other shows I’d love to be on.  I’d love to be on True Blood, I can’t wait for Sunday.

So are you into other vampire genres?
You know I do, of course, like Twilight I do, I do.

Team Edward or Jacob?
Edward, oh yeah, no, Jacob’s too serious.

What is it like for you when you go back home. Are the paparazzi all over you back in Manchester?
Oh no, no they’re more interested in, I don’t know Lily Allan or whatever.  No I’m not paparazzi followed because I don’t really, you know, “Hi, I stay in and watch Glee.”  It’s really, there’s no spice there at all. [laughs] No, they don’t bother me.  But people, you know, Lost was, I mean I’ve worked—I’ve been acting since I was 14 years old in England.  And then I came over here when I was like 25 or something when I did Black Knight.  But Lost really changed things around, like I can’t, a day doesn’t go by where somebody doesn’t come up to me.  Not necessarily about Lost, but in terms of visibility like people tend to, seem to know who I am now.  Like and it was Lost I think that changed that.

You mean they don’t know you from Black Knight?

So, you know, as of episode five, Diana’s still there. Have they given you any notice that you will be on for awhile or off for awhile?
Oh I’m here, I’m in every episode, I’m here to stay. I ain’t going anywhere [laughs].

[laughter] And fashion as we’ve sort of touched on kind of before, plays such a crucial role in the show and you seem to really enjoy fashion.  Do you have a favorite designer you want to show?
Oh I have this gorgeous, gorgeous Alberta Ferretti Philosophy top that I wear. That’s how she’s, like, I’ve got great suits. I’m wearing a lot of Joseph and a lot of Dolce and Gabbana.  But the tops, she has me really fab, so I’m wearing [indiscernible] I’m wearing Prada, all kinds of clothes FBI agents—they’re not wearing.

Is that why you’re stealing music boxes?
Yeah exactly, just to form the outfit, yeah.  It’s funny actually, we had a scene where you see Diana’s closet and there were all these clothes that had been set that were nothing to do with Diana.  And I was like, “You know what?  We might want to get a bit of Prada in there.”  No honestly, because these clothes just did not look like Diana’s wardrobe at all, because she has a great closet.

Here’s the question, does the music box play Journey when you open it up?
No, no come on.  You know it plays, “I like big butts and I cannot lie.”

Maybe those are all her disguises though.
You never know, never know.

Do you get to keep any of the clothes?
We’ll see we haven’t gotten to the end of the season yet.

Well that’s what this undercover episode is that, are we going to be seeing more of Marsha Thomason then we’ve ever seen in any role before?
[laughs] No.

White Collar airs on Tuesday night at 10 pm on the USA Network.

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