Interview with Ashley ‘Bashy’ Thomas
The 27-year-old gives a sterling performance in his new film The Man Inside, a gritty urban thriller in which he stars as Clayton Murdoch, a young boxer trying to escape his troubled past and gangster father, played by Homeland’s David Harewood.
Along with Harewood, The Man Inside stars Peter Mullan and Michelle Ryan, better known for her role as Zoe Slater in EastEnders. Thomas says it was “amazing” working with his co-stars. “In the film everyone puts in some really powerful performances so to be opposite them onscreen and in the scene was good.”
Harewood in particular served as a mentor and a father figure to Thomas, offering him a wealth of acting advice. “He would encourage me to go for it, like when [the director] Dan [Turner] would say ‘cut’, he [Harewood] would be like: ‘right, you’re right in the moment and hold it’. He was just really cool, he was a super professional.”
The role was physically demanding and required Thomas to train twice a day for six months and carry out boxing training in the month leading up to filming. Along with the physicality of the character, there was a lot of emotional depth to Clayton. In terms of preparing for the role, Thomas drew parallels between himself and Clayton, including experiences of his own fractious relationship with his father.
Thomas explains: “We were [filming] in Newcastle so I wasn’t around any friends or family, so I was quite alone when I was up there in quite a dark place because I was going through some things. So I just seemed to sort of be in that mode anyway and I sort of amplified it for the camera.”
Despite its dark subject matter the film does offer hope. “It’s a good story in like it’s inspirational, the ending shows there’s light at the end of the tunnel and I think that’s really good.”
He hopes the film will send out a positive message to people and says. “If you’re in a dark place and you’ve had a certain upbringing it doesn’t need to define you as a person, as an adult. When you get older you can take the negatives and use them to fuel positive energy and have a positive outcome, and I think that’s what the film definitely portrays and I’d like people to take away from it.”
Thomas grew up in Northwest London and had a passion for drama from an early age. He attended acting classes and eventually went to the BRIT school for further acting training. He then started on working on his musical career.
While waiting for his big break into the music industry he worked as both a bus driver and a postman and released the Chupa Chups Mixtape, named after the lollipops which he would give out with the tape.
The release of his song Black Boys in 2007 brought him national recognition. The song was about positive black role models and listed dozens of people from Tim Campbell, who won the first series of The Apprentice to rapper Dizzee Rascal.
With Thomas’ growing prominence, he soon came to the attention Noel Clarke, the writer of Kidulthood, who had listened to one of his mixtapes which sampled excerpts from Clarke’s film. Thomas was subsequently asked by Clarke to contribute a track to the soundtrack of the sequel to Kidulthood. It would not be the last time he worked with Clarke.
In 2009 Thomas released his debut album Catch Me If You Can and is currently working on his follow-up album. Not long after his acting career took off when he landed a role in Shank, a British thriller set in a decaying futuristic London. He subsequently won several other acting parts, including the film The Veteran and working again with Clarke on his diamond heist flick 18.104.22.168.
Given his own success, does he see himself as a role model? “I think that the older I get the more I’m understanding the position that I’m in. That a lot of people look to me as, I guess, a role model, something to aspire to and that’s cool. I try to lead by example and live my life in as positive a way as possible, so if anyone can take that from it then it’s a good thing.”
He says he likes acting and music equally but for different reasons. “I like the fact that the music’s more me and I get the chance to connect with a lot of fans and I can do my shows and stuff. [Then] there’s acting, I have the chance to play someone else, play a different character and explore different aspects of me which I think’s really cool and I enjoy doing.”
With diverse roles, from a thief in 22.214.171.124 to a Randy Jackson-esque judge on a reality television talent show in Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, Thomas is constantly seeking out different parts to avoid typecasting but he says it is not a big worry. “My mind’s set on just moving forward and taking on different challenges.”
He has several projects in the pipeline, including British comedy Cockneys Vs Zombies where he plays a zombie hunter called Mental Mickey and another film called My Brother the Devil. Musically, he has an EP coming out this year called The Great Escape. He also mentions that he is in the early stages of a screenplay. Musician, actor and now an aspiring screenwriter, it’s clear that Thomas is not one to be pigeonholed.
‘The Man Inside’ is out in cinemas nationwide from Friday 27th JulyTagged in: Bashy, David Harewood, Michelle Ryan, Peter Mullan, The Man Inside
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter