Ashley Thomas knew he had to put in extra work for his role in the new Amazon horror anthology series “Them.” The actor plays Henry Emory, the patriarch of a Black family that escapes the racism of the South in 1950s America only the find a whole new level of terror in Compton. “I was quite scared of the piece, just for the weight that I felt it had and it was an important story,” says Thomas in an exclusive new interview for Gold Derby. “I just wanted to make sure that I could do the part justice and that I had all the gears and layers inside me to be able to deliver the part.” Watch the full chat above.
As a British actor, Thomas felt the responsibility to learn more about the specifics of the African-American experience in the 1950s. “I have my experiences as a Black man in the world and I know what that’s like, but the experience isn’t the same,” explains Thomas. “There was a gap in my understanding that I had to accept.” The actor spoke with family and friends who were African American and read books like “L.A. City Limits” by Josh Sides about the Second Great Migration to contextualize Henry’s place in the world.
Henry is protective of his family and wants to create a better life for them, but this desire for his kids to have more opportunities than him sometimes means enduring overt racism from coworkers and neighbors. As Thomas explains, Henry’s initial mindset is, “We can’t get in trouble. I don’t want to rock the boat at work. I don’t wanna annoy the neighbors.” He adds, “I think his motivation was to provide an opportunity for his family after a tragic attack and just wanting the best for his family.”
Starring in such a visceral series as “Them” was not easy for Thomas, with characters frequently throwing around racial slurs as the Emory family endures abuse after abuse. “What I would say to myself is this is an important story and it’s not even about me,” the actor recalls, of some of the tougher days on set, revealing he “felt the weight on my shoulders” to play this character with respect. This was particularly important because, as he observes, Black fathers aren’t always portrayed accurately in the media. “I wanted my own people to be proud of the performance and see it, in terms of our global community,” states Thomas. “Black people when they watch that, they can say, ‘Yes, that’s how our men are. They’re strong and they have all these layers and they’re multifaceted and they do love their wife and they are present emotionally and physically with their kids and their family.'”
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