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I TALK TO Adam Thomas

"They're great friends and I think Donte sees elements of Chlo in Nicky, but for him right now, he just needs that female companionship. And Nicky's that."

Following a revival on BBC iPlayer during the first lockdown, Waterloo Road returned to our screens a year ago after an eight-year absence, becoming the BBC’s second biggest drama title with 16-34-year-olds of the year, behind Happy Valley.

Known for its hard-hitting storylines and relatable characters, Waterloo Road reflects modern society with its portrayal of issues including the cost of living crisis, teen homelessness, racism, sexism, being LGBTQ+, mental health, and everything else facing young teens today. But amongst the chaos, the students, faculty and parents still make time for friendships, fun, and a few romances.

As well as a host of new actors and characters, a few familiar faces from the iconic original series returned, including Angela Griffin as now headteacher Kim Campbell, Jamie Glover as former Deputy Head Andrew Treneman and Adam Thomas as pupil turned caretaker Donte Charles.

This week, Waterloo Road returns for its thirteenth series (third since returning) promising affairs, scandals, blackmail and many, many headteachers and with a further two series already commissioned, there's still plenty more drama to come.

With a swathe of long-term refusers descending on Waterloo Road, the balance of peace and harmony rests on thin ice. But with cracks appearing, will Kim Campbell and her team have what it takes to stop their school from sinking?

I recently caught up with Adam Thomas to talk about how much it means to him to be back in Waterloo Road, what it's like to be working with son Teddy, whether series 13 could see Nicky and Donte go beyond the friendship stage and much more.

How did you feel when you found out that Waterloo Road was returning and they wanted you back as Donte?

I mean, what can I say? It was the best phone call of my life. I just never expected it to come back. In the back of my mind, I was sort of hoping that it would and it would have been a dream job if it did, but I just never saw it coming.

So when I got the phone call, I was quite taken aback and I remember having the conversation with Cameron (Roach), the producer, and he said he was looking at bringing it back and before they did bring it back, wanted to know if I'd be interested.

I was one of the first people he asked before he was able to bring it back. It hadn't even been greenlit at this time so obviously there was still a long way to go, but I just jumped at the chance. I was so happy.

Then eventually a couple of months later, it got greenlit and then yeah, the ball started rolling and the old team were back together for a little while.

It was amazing, and like I said, it's just the best job in the world and to go back so many years later and play the role of Donte Charles, it doesn't get better than that. It really doesn't.

Were you worried about Waterloo Road coming back and people not liking it?

Yeah, of course, because Waterloo Road was such a huge show, especially during lockdown, I think that's when people fall back in love with the show. And again, because it was such a huge show and people loved iy, bringing it back, were we making a mistake? Is it going to be as good as it was?

But thankfully, you know, I feel like the old fans, and the new fans have really got behind the show and are really enjoying it, which is amazing. The feedback I've been getting has been amazing.

To be part of a show that is so successful and the people and the fans are loving it, it's just the best. I feel like we've done it justice. It's like the old series, just bigger and better, I feel.

And it must have been nice to find out that Donte is still with Chlo and that you'd be working with Katie Griffiths again. But then when you found out she was only in one episode, how did you feel? Because I was shocked by what happened.

I was shocked! There was talk of it, but the first thing I said when they asked me to come back was, "Am I going to be coming back with Chlo?" and they were like "Yeah" and I got really excited. Then, later down the line, I remember having the meeting and my jaw just dropped to the floor. I was gobsmacked and the thing I was thinking in the back of my head was, "Thank God it wasn't me!"

Imagine. "We're going to bring back Waterloo Road. Do you want to be in it?" - "Yeah." - "We're going to kill you off in the first episode." - "Brilliant." Thankfully, Donte stuck around and it's been really exciting from there on really.

Let's fast forward then to the end of series 12 when Donte asks Nicky and her family to move in with him. Where do we meet them at the start of this series?

It's been such a long time since we shot that, but I think we pick back up with Nicky's family and Donte's family living together as one. But with Nicky's kids and Donte's kids, there's quite a lot going on within that family dynamic.

I think it's a tough role for Donte, trying to be a father and a father figure for Nicky's kids and also his own. And the kids, rightly so, clash a little bit and get a little bit jealous. There's quite a bit going on, but I think it all turns out alright in the end.

I felt for Donte actually in the first episode of this new series. It's almost like he can't win when it comes to Tonya.

Exactly! It's a tough one because Donte has never been in that situation before. His main priority is Izzy, but he feels he needs to step in as Nicky is away with the fairies sometimes. He's just trying to be a support figure for her. Sometimes he can cross the line a little bit, but he's just finding out where he fits in with Nicky's family and her kids.

Donte's heart is always in the right place, isn't it?

Yeah. Donte's heart is always in the right place. He wants to do well and do good by everybody, but sometimes he just gets a bit too involved.

What about Donte and Nicky? Could there be more than a friendship there? Or is it too soon after Chlo?

Personally, I do think it's too soon for him. But for Donte, I feel like he needs somebody. Whether that's a partnership or just a friendship, I feel like Nicky is that friend that he needs right now.

They're great friends and I think Donte sees elements of Chlo in Nicky, but for him right now, he just needs that female companionship. And Nicky's that.

He wants to look out for her as she's in a bit of trouble and selfishly, I think he wanted her to move in with him because the house was so empty without Chlo and he wants that family unit again. He wants a female mother within the house.

So yeah, I'm not going to say too much, but it's definitely a great little partnership and friendship that Donte needs right now.

There's an influx of new characters in this series. One who befriends Tonya early on is Schuey. How does Donte feel about him?

Schuey's just a little bit of a tearaway. I feel like Donte can relate to Schuey quite a lot, and sees a younger Donte within him. He tries to help him out and steer him in the right direction, but that suddenly becomes a bit of a mess.

With Schuey being the bad boy that he is, Donte doesn't necessarily want him to get involved with Tonya. But Tonya loves a bad boy so it's a bit of a difficult situation for Donte. But again, he's just trying to do the best for everybody and steer them in the right direction and try and keep Tonya away from Schuey as much as possible. But it doesn't quite work out that way.

It's a real family affair on set with your son Teddy (playing Tommy) and niece Scarlett (playing Izzy) also starring in the show. How proud are you of them? Especially Teddy, and how he dealt with Chlo's death on screen.

I am so proud of him. That was his first-ever acting role and I feel like he just absolutely smashed it out of the park. He was just so good and I feel like it just became so natural to him. Looking back at that first series to how old he is now, he's like a teenage boy now.

It's crazy! Honestly, it baffles my head how quickly they grow up. In this new series, he's got a little role to play again. I keep coming home and he's going "When am I back into work Daddy? Have I got any lines?" and I'm like "Be patient Teddy. It's coming, mate. It's coming."

He's been fantastic. I'm just really proud of him. It's not every day that you get to work with your son and it's just been magical from from day one. I'm so grateful that I've had the opportunity, but also for him to have the opportunity.

For a show that started my career to be starting his career as well is magical. It's just gone full circle and I'm very proud.

Were you ever hesitant about letting Teddy enter the industry and be on Waterloo Road at such a young age?

Yeah, massively. I had a huge talk with my wife because I was worried that he was too young and he'd only be given the part because I was playing Donte. I wanted him to win it on his own merit.

And to be honest with you, I said let him do a self-tape and see how he gets on. And he did such a wonderful job, that I couldn't not send it to them.

Luckily, he got down to the last two and to begin with, they went in a different direction and cast somebody else. But the kid who got cast as Tommy, unfortunately, couldn't do it anymore, so Teddy got the call. He was second pick, but I was so happy that it went that way. He's been amazing and I'm so proud of him.

And what about working with Scarlett?

Again. I get to work with my son and my little niece. And we're in a family together in the same show, it's just the best. And to see her performance get stronger and stronger throughout the series. I think this was her first acting role as well and she's just incredible.

It's been a pleasure getting to work with her and also being able to teach her, direct her and just work together. It's all about collaboration. Even for me, I'm learning from her. She's so effortless. It's just an absolute joy.

That being said, working with Teddy and Scarlett can be a bit of a nightmare on set sometimes, especially when they're arguing and fighting as family members do. But I wouldn't change it for the world. I'm very lucky that I get to work with my family.

What are some of your most memorable moments on Waterloo Road?

Just the first time we were all on set together as a family, me, Katie (Griffiths), Scarlett and Teddy. Being on the set for Waterloo Road and being the Charles family. I remember being sat there with all the film crew and everyone and it was a very special moment.

It brought a tear to my eye because for me, my acting had taken a backseat so I never saw it coming either. To be back on set, doing something that I love, but also with the people that I love, it was just magic. It really was, from day dot. And I've just been pinching myself ever since.

You've touched on it a few times already, but how much has Waterloo Road meant to you? Especially the show coming back during a period when you weren't acting anymore.

It's meant so much. It's given me a new lease of life. It's not like I gave up on acting, that's not the truth, it was just that I went in a different direction. I remember ringing my agent when I left Emmerdale and she just said that I've got to stop ringing her.

As soon as that phone call happened, I was like "Right. I've got to go off and do something. I can't just rely on acting, as much as I love it, I've got a family to support, I need to go out there and earn my bread and butter."

I went off and became an estate agent, I opened a restaurant. I just did stuff that I was passionate about. I also got the opportunity to do a bit of presenting as well. I just went in a different direction, so the acting just never took off in the way that I wanted it to.

Everything just happens for a reason, I feel. I'm glad of the journey that I went on. Then when the time was right, I got the phone call from Waterloo Road to come back. So yeah, it was just one of those things that I just never saw coming. But I'm glad that it did.

I loved seeing Chelsee Healey back briefly as Janeece. Could she make another surprise appearance? Any other familiar faces?

Never say never. I love working with Chelsee. She's just a ray of sunshine that girl. It was so nice to have her back and do a couple of scenes with her. Janeece and Donte's relationship and friendship is definitely one that I'd love to work on again.

But look, hopefully, she'll be able to come back. I think she should do. But she's in Hollyoaks at the minute so it could be a little bit challenging. But look, I think there's going to be a few familiar faces popping up in this series and other series to come.

One thing that's different this time around from when you were first in Waterloo Road is BBC iPlayer and the fact that people can choose to watch the entire series on the first night. What's that like? And is that how you watch telly?

I know! As a viewer, it's a tough one, because waiting a week gives you something to look forward to. You can't wait for the following week and it's a big event when it's on. Also, it builds suspense and drama.

But look, for me as well, me and Caz watched a whole series the other night because it was one of those series you can just watch and watch and watch. Especially with suspense thrillers which have so many cliffhangers and you can't wait any longer! I love it. I absolutely love it.

Look, for me personally I would love Waterloo Road to come out weekly. But again, with this generation now, it's completely changed. It's mad, because I remember when the first series came out, people had watched the whole series already before the first episode was even on TV because it got released earlier on BBC iPlayer. It just baffled my head!

Also because of spoilers and stuff, but hey, it is what is and the powers that be know what they're doing and it seems to be working, so happy days.

I have to talk about Strictly Come Dancing. What was that experience like?

It was challenging because I was working on Waterloo Road and doing Strictly so it was just a lot. And obviously, I wasn't getting as much training as I would have liked. But you know what, I'm glad that did it. Looking back, it was one of the best and also one of the worst experiences that I've ever had.

Again, I feel like I've learned so much about myself doing a show like that and also getting to meet so many amazing people, not just in front of the camera, but behind the camera. It was a huge show to be part of and I feel very lucky and blessed that I had the opportunity to do something like that and to experience something like that, because not many people do get that chance. And I've had it.

I look back and I've done two of the biggest reality shows on television. I've done the jungle (I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!) and now I've done Strictly, so I'm very blessed and lucky to have had the chance to do both. Looking back on Strictly, I can leave with my head. held high. That's for sure.

You've done the two biggest, but are there any other reality shows you've got your eye on?

No. I'm done now. That's one thing that I've learned. I never want to be in a reality show ever again. Actually... never say never, Elliot. You'll probably see me in Big Brother next year!

What is next for you?

I'm concentrating on Waterloo Road at the minute. We are just coming to the end of series 14 and going to start on series 15 so I'm filming that now up until August next year. So yeah, I'm just concentrating on my acting at the moment and we'll see what else happens.

It must be nice as an actor to be booked so far in advance and have that backing from a channel like BBC One where you already have multiple series of Waterloo Road greenlit.

It's a gift. It really is. Because being a jobbing actor, you never know when your next job is going to come in. And I've been in that situation for years. Not knowing where my next paycheck is coming from, or what job I'm going to be doing next.

To be in a series like Waterloo Road which is ongoing and that I absolutely love, it's a gift. I just feel very lucky that it's happened and it's happening and hopefully, long may it may continue.

Waterloo Road continues Tuesdays at 8pm on BBC One with all episodes available at launch


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