Marsha Thomason

The Haunted Mansion

Interviewed by Alana Lee

“He made up his own dirty versions of Cockney rhyming slang ”

Rising young star Marsha Thomason, born and raised in Manchester, was recently seen in the BBC series Burn It. After paying her dues in various UK miniseries, she's crossed the pond to take a major role in US TV show Las Vegas and puts on her well-practiced American accent once again for the action comedy The Haunted Mansion opposite Eddie Murphy.

How did you get the role of Eddie Murphy's wife in The Haunted Mansion?

I was in Toronto shooting a movie and my manager sent me the script. At that point I didn't know it was based on a theme park ride. I just read the script because I had never heard of it. That's hard to imagine now because I realise it is such an American institution. I liked the script and went after it. I flew in from Toronto to LA for a screen test and four long miserable weeks later they told me I had the job.

What was it like playing opposite Eddie Murphy?

The first day it was weird but after that it was fine. The first day was bizarre - we were shooting at a house in Pasadena. He is a bit quiet and said "Hi, I'm Eddie," and I felt a little bit intimidated just because I was doing my American accent for the first time that day and I was terrified that they would think I was rubbish and sack me. Then I met Eddie Murphy, icon, comedic genius. So there was a little bit of pressure, not to mention that I had to kiss him five minutes later, which was also a bit odd. So it was quite a day. But beyond that we got on like a house on fire. I felt nervous and intimidated but as soon as they said action it was time to focus. The last thing I was going to do was mess up this opportunity. I knew this was a big stepping stone for my career but there was no point dwelling on those things because it's important to do a good job. Now I have seen the movie and it is so amazing and I'm thrilled - beyond excited.

Did you maintain your American accent throughout the shoot for The Haunted Mansion?

Off camera? No. I was shooting My Baby Daddy in Toronto and I was American in that, and that was the first time in a movie that I had done the accent. So I kept it up then and they couldn't believe that I was English. We shot this for five months and I didn't have the energy to keep it up that long when I wasn't on camera. But I worked hard with my voice coach. Every day I warmed up doing the accent. I enjoy the reaction I get in the USA when people discover I have an English accent. They don't expect that and it's kind of a kick. When I first came here I would go into auditions with an American accent because they wouldn't get their heads around the fact that I was English. A well known director wouldn't take the chance on casting me for an American role after he discovered that I was English. Some time later he expressed his regret that he hadn't taken the chance with me. Nobody questions that Cate Blanchett can do an accent.

Was Eddie Murphy serious off camera?

Eddie and I laughed a lot but he is quiet and reserved. There is definitely a pressure for funny people to be funny. People want them to perform all the time. But we got on well. I taught him Cockney rhyming slang like apples and pears, dog and bone, whistle and flute. He also made up his own dirty versions of Cockney rhyming slang.

Do you believe in ghosts?

I have never seen a ghost. But yes I believe because I know too many people who have had experiences. When I lived in Notting Hill, I shared a flat with a mate who was convinced that there was a presence in our house.

Is America now your home?

I have a house in London and a place in LA and I'm bouncing between the two. It's very nice because I fly first class now and that makes the world of difference. But when I am on the plane and turbulence kicks in I can't abide it. I feel like we are all going to die and it takes everything in me to stay calm. But there are worse things to have to cope with. I'm over in the States filming Las Vegas [US TV series] till the end of April. Most of the show is done in the studio but we go to Vegas for some filming. I think that Vegas is one of the wildest places I've ever been to. You can look to your left and there's a drag queen getting married by Elvis, to the right there is some old bird sticking quarters into a slot machine for hours. I think the TV series is starting in the UK in April.