Marsha Thomason’s career is nothing if not expansive: her resume includes Lost, White Collar, American police procedurals and British dramas — even a Disney film shows up in her credits! But Thomason’s varied resume isn’t just a testament to the ease witch which she finds work for herself; it’s an indication of how hard she’s had to work to get ahead. With less opportunities for women of color in Hollywood and the UK film scene, Thomason has had to get creative, hopping back and forth across the Atlantic — and breathing life into a myriad of compelling characters in the process. We were excited to catch up with her recently to talk about COBRA, acting, and what she has coming up.

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When did you first know you wanted to act?
Thomason: When I saw the movie Bugsy Malone. I watched that film constantly as a young kid. Jodie Foster as Tallulah was everything! My daughter is now all about that movie too, which makes me very happy.

There seem to be fewer opportunities for women of color in British Dramas, at least the ones we get for U.S. consumption. Does that seem to be changing at all? Do you feel like that has influenced your career, or the diversity of roles you’ve taken on?
Thomason: There are fewer roles for people of color both in the UK and the US, though I’ve been seeing the kinds of opportunities I’m afforded slowly changing in a positive direction the past few years. The jury is still out on whether concrete change is being made. There was a time when I would never be considered for the lead of a TV show as a black woman and that has changed little by little. I do feel that my career has been influenced by the limitations enforced on me because of my ethnicity and not in a favorable way. I seize interesting/exciting opportunities when they come to me.

What has been your favorite role thus far?
Thomason: One of my favorite roles is that of Shazza Pearce on the BBC drama Playing The Field. Shazza was a beer-swilling, straight-talking, football-playing nutter and I loved her.

Do you have any advice for performers who are just starting their professional careers?
Thomason: I’m not gonna sugar coat it, you need real grit to survive the ups and downs of this crazy business. If you’re on the fence, or feel like there’s something else you could be doing career wise, go do that. You need to be all in with being an actor, because this s*** ain’t easy! The highs are high and the lows are brutal. I love doing the work, being on set and inhabiting these characters I play. But most other parts of being an actor SUCK — [and] that’s just real talk!

A man and a woman sit on the island in the middle  of a street, facing the right of the frame. On either wide of the street, cars are stopped.  To the right of the frame, a man in a suit bends over, hands on his knees, talking to the man and woman sitting. In the background of the photo, a bodyguard stands at ease.

What most excited you about the plot of COBRA?
Thomason: COBRA season 1 is unrelenting; it just never lets up and I love that. It’s anarchy and chaos and social injustice and racism and I was drawn to its commentary on all of that.

You make brilliant work of giving life to Francine in COBRA. What drew you to the character?
Thomason: I’ve never played a politician before, so I was drawn to trying something new and out of my comfort zone. Francine cares about people, she cares about her community and really wants to make a difference in people’s lives. I found her friendship with Anna interesting. I’ll be honest in saying that most, if not all of my friends fall in the same camp as me, politically speaking. But Anna and Francine are from opposing political parties, with very different philosophies and ideas of how/what things need to get done and yet they have an enduring friendship, which is fascinating to me.

What was your favorite moment on the COBRA set?
Thomason: There were a few cool moments on the set. Being in the middle of a closed motorway talking to the “Prime Minister”, working on those amazing sets that served as replicas of some of the most famous work spaces in Britain. The exteriors around Parliament were lots of fun, too.

What is one thing that you hope everyone watching the series takes away from it?
Thomason: Make smart political choices and vote, vote, vote, because the people we choose (or don’t choose in some cases) have the power to make or break your life.

Finally, what other projects do you have coming up?
Thomason: I’m about to start work on series 2 of COBRA! Expect an intense, nail biting season-again. I just wrapped another fun episode of NCIS:LA and I’m voicing a character for season 4 of Castlevania and another new animated series — which I’m not sure if I’m supposed to talk about, so I’ll leave it at that!