Monday , May 16 2022
Photo of Marsha Thomason standing in front of the evidence board
Marsha Thomason as DS Jenn Townsend (Courtesy of BritBox)

TV Interview: Marsha Thomason from ‘The Bay’ on BritBox

I wasn’t familiar with the term “family liaison officer” (FLO) until I watched The Bay, a mystery series currently streaming on BritBox. The FLO is a police officer serving as a point of contact in murder cases between a bereaved family and an investigative team. In The Bay‘s third season, which premiered on March 15, viewers meet the new FLO, DS Jenn Townsend (Marsha Thomason from Castlevania, White Collar, Lost).

Townsend is thrust into an intense case from day one: the body of a promising young boxer (Brahmdeo Shannon Ramana) is found in a bay in Morecambe, UK. She needs to build trust with the grieving family and help her team solve the murder. Everything isn’t what it seems as more is uncovered about the victim’s family and his circle of acquaintances.

What Does It Take to Be a FLO?

I had a few minutes to meet Marsha Thomason on Zoom to find out how she prepared for her first lead television role and what she found thrilling about DS Townsend’s story. To start the conversation off, I asked her if she thought she could handle being a real-life FLO. She confessed that she would be “terrible” at it.

“That job requires so much sensitivity. How does one work with these families and not become emotionally attached? The trick to that is to be giving and there for the family as you help them through this difficult time, but then not take it home. I couldn’t do that at all.”

On top of her work stress, Townsend’s other challenge concerns her newly blended family. She and her two children (David Carpenter and Emme Haynes) just moved in with her partner and his teenage daughter (Georgia Scholes). “I joke about this, but I don’t know how Jenn didn’t foresee this nightmare with throwing a bunch of teenagers together!” 

Behind the scenes, Thomason also received valuable assistance from executive producer Catherine Oldfield and creator-writer Daragh Carville. Along with the script for the first episode, they sent her a “bible” or a packet all about Jenn Townsend. “It went through where she’s been and where she’s headed. That was a real treat! I could tell that a lot of thought had gone into Jenn and she would be written thoughtfully.”

TV still of Rina Mahoney wearing a head scarf
Rina Mahoney as Mariam Rahman (Courtesy of BritBox)

Working with Rina Mahoney and Erin Shanagher

Despite her trials, Townsend is good at her job. She makes some headway in cultivating a relationship with Mariam Rahman. The distraught mother is played by Rina Mahoney (A Banquet, Vera), who was the perfect scene partner for Thomason because of her acting talents and the humanity she brought to the role. “It’s not without friction but they are both mothers. Jenn can empathize with what Mariam is going through, the worst thing anybody can imagine.”

One of Townsend’s most important allies is her partner on the police force, DS Karen Hobson. Thomason appreciated how that part of the story unfolded with Erin Shanagher (Censor, Peaky Blinders), who even learned sign language last year for some pivotal scenes of the investigation. “It was so nice that they didn’t pit the two women against one another for a source of conflict … There’s a moment you see where maybe they come at the job differently, but then that was just a moment of getting to know one another. They build respect and see they are both very good at their jobs.”

A Behind-the-Scenes Playlist

While the subject matter of the show is serious and at times heart-wrenching, the set was always a place for fun between takes. That vibe was particularly true of the days spent filming confrontational scenes between Townsend and the Rahman family. “We were making The Bay playlist, which consisted of the pop music, Backstreet Boys, and Britney. We were singing and dancing in the kitchen.” 

TV still of Daniel Ryan listening to his cell phone
Daniel Ryan as DI Tony Manning (Courtesy of BritBox)

Bonding with Younger Actors

The positive spirit was also true of Thomason’s time with younger actors David Carpenter, Emme Haynes, and Georgia Scholes. Before their first meeting, Carpenter sent Thomason a respectful email about how excited he was about working with her soon. While the character Erin Fischer was an adversarial stepdaughter, actress Scholes was a true team player, a sweet and thoughtful scene partner.

Thomason recalled asking Haynes, the youngest of the three, if she would like to continue acting in the future as a career. She was pleasantly surprised when Haynes told her, “I want to be just like you.”

“It made me cry because it was so sweet! She could really do it if she wanted to,” Thomason said.

The good news is that The Bay will return for a fourth season. Thomason confessed to me that early on during filming, she guessed correctly about who murdered Saif Rahman. She’s not sure she can figure out the next mystery. For now, she’s enjoying this moment of starring in a lead role that she loves. “I’m so happy the audience has responded to Jenn.” 

Watch all three seasons of The Bay on BritBox, a streaming service from BBC Studios and ITV.

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About Pat Cuadros

Pat Cuadros frequently covers theater and television for Blogcritics Magazine. Every quarter, she enjoys putting the spotlight on new voices and emerging talent. Her portfolio includes interviews with Juliette Binoche, Daniel Davis, Fran Drescher, Derek Jacobi, and Ndaba Mandela.

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