ITV’s The Bay: Interview with Marsha Thomason

The Bay

ITV’s popular crime drama The Bay is back for a fourth season, once again with Marsha Thomason playing family liaison officer DC Jenn Townsend. Marsha tells us about the series and the differences between filming in ever sunny Los Angeles and rain swept Morecambe.

Where did we leave Jenn at the end of series 3?
In Series three, Jenn was new to Morecambe, she was new to her job, she was settling in to a new family situation, and there was a lot of turbulence. By the end of the series, everything felt like they were in a happier place. We did a big pan out and they were off a fish and chips on the beach in Morecambe.

How is Jenn’s home life at the start of series 4?
At the start of Series four, Jenn’s life at home is really good and all the children seem to be getting on. There was a lot of turbulence last year between the kids and it really feels like they’re all happy families. However, Chris’s ex-wife appears out of nowhere, and doesn’t appear to be keen on staying away which starts to drive Jenn bonkers. Jenn and Chris are in a really good place but it feels like their relationship is being intruded upon and it starts to become an issue. Claire (Goose) plays Jacqui and is just brilliant, I’ve loved working with her.

What’s it like coming back to the bay and seeing all the cast again?
It was so great coming back for Series four. Last year I was the new girl, so I was a bit nervous, whereas this year I felt much more confident coming in and it was just so nice. We all became friends and are all in touch when we aren’t filming. It is especially nice coming back and seeing everybody as I live in LA, they would get together for dinner or drinks and they would send pictures so I’d be sad I was missing out so it’s been great to come back.

What are the dynamics of the relationships like between Jenn and Manning/Karen?
The relationship between Jenn and Manning is a little tricky this year. Manning has got some personal stuff going on that Jenn stumbles upon quite by accident so it gets a bit messy. On the flip side, Jenn also has some personal issues going on in her own life that infiltrates work. That aspect has been really fun to play.

Jenn and Karen’s relationship was tested a little this series. Much like Jenn and Manning, Karen is going through some stuff in her personal life, which is making her a little more sensitive at work, and she thinks that Jenn is keeping things from her when actually Jenn is just doing the best she can.

What was it like working with the new guest cast?
It’s so lovely getting to work with a new cast. This new poor family is going through so much and Joe Armstrong is amazing to work with, such a great actor. We have some gorgeous scenes together. All the kids are really wonderful too, great, great actors and just really sweet people. It’s been really lovely getting to know them. The thing I love about The Bay is that each series becomes a new show as each series has a different family, a new story.

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This series starts very quickly with a fire right at the start, how do you first arrive on the scene?
This series starts with a fire, which was really intense and so incredibly sad. It was really hard to watch as we were shooting it, very harrowing. I got very emotional. Right at the top of episode one, she gets a phone call, gets there as soon as she can and this house is ablaze and the kids are outside shouting and it is just heart-breaking. This is a particularly challenging case with some delicate relationships to manage, with the surviving children to look out for and how we handle all of that.

This feels like a particularly challenging case with some delicate relationships to manage along with some very young children to look out for. How does Jenn handle that?
There are four children in the family. Two of them are teenagers, but two of them are still quite young, so Jenn has to tread carefully. What’s interesting about the case this year is that there is a grieving family and the dad hasn’t really been very hands on with them ever so this is the first time he’s ever had to step up and take care of them on his own whilst dealing with this grief, whilst he is trying to keep his business afloat and everything that comes with that. Jenn has more to do with the older kids, that feels like comfortable territory for her. Then there are the two younger kids. You’ve got little Ella who has Downs Syndrome and it is just devastating to watch her processing the grief and trying to understand what’s happened to her mum. Karen takes charge of the two younger children and it’s really beautiful to watch. Erin is so great with Will Oldfield who plays Jonas. They just break your heart. It’s just as well I don’t have too much work as an actor with them, honestly, because you just watch them perform and it breaks you. I’d never get through a scene.

What is it about the script that makes the Bay and this story so rich?
I think that Daragh writes the most beautiful and rich stories. The show is about real people going through the worst possible moment in their life which I think any of us can empathise with and relate to. Hopefully none of us have been through the things that the people on the show go through but I do think that’s one of the reasons why the show is so popular, because you really can relate to the people in the show.

Why do you think that Morecambe works so well for the Bay?
Morecambe is a character in our show. It’s so iconic and so distinctive. It is a place unto itself. The character of this place really adds to the grit and the drama of the show.

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How does The Bay differ from series to series?
The thing I love about The Bay is that you do have this core group of characters that have run through all four series pretty much, but that each series there is a whole new family, a whole new set of different characters. Each series the centre of the story changes. Every series feels like a different show.

What was it like coming back to the UK again to film? Coming from L.A. to the Bay?
I love coming back to Manchester to shoot because I’m from Manchester and these last few years I’ve gotten to come back quite a few times. It feels like Manchester’s trying to pull me back in but I’m not having it. I love you, Manchester, but I’ve got a life somewhere else! It is always a pleasure to come back. My husband’s from Manchester too and our families are still there, so it’s a real gift actually, because I get to come to work and spend time with my family. A double bonus.

What are the differences between shooting in LA versus Morecambe?
It’s very different. Shooting in LA, it’s so sunny there are never any reasons to stop filming. Whereas in Morecambe and in Manchester we have to stop because of the rain, wind or conditions changing. So it is a different vibe. Also, there’s no craft services table in the UK. Come on guys. I mean, I feel we could bring that over here, you know, just a few snacks, soggy sandwiches at 4:00 and of tea. We could do better than that.

For those who have never seen the Bay, can you explain what it’s about and why it’s such a great show?
The Bay is a crime drama with a family at the centre of the story. Every series has a new family and a new crime the police have to solve. It’s really a very tragic show, actually, but each series there feels like there is light and there is a hope at the end. But the journey for these families, it’s rough. They’re going through the worst possible thing imaginable. At its heart it’s a show about humanity which we can all relate to.

What’s your favourite thing about the play about playing Jenn?
There are so many things. I just love getting to play a fully fleshed out character. It is so well written, that you get to see Jenn at work being brilliant and understanding her job so well. But we also get to see her at home, kind of a mess and figuring things out as we all do as parents. You just get to see a full person which as actors you don’t always get to play a fully realised people. It really is a gift. I love playing her.

What can audiences expect from this?
As with every series, the audience can expect more drama, more heartbreak and of course, some badass cops solving crimes.

The Bay is currently airing Wednesday nights at 9.00pm on ITV1. 

Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.