You may know him as Bashy, but Ashley Thomas was acting before the days of LA Gears. He tells SB.TV’s Editor In Chief, Lily Mercer why his latest role in The Veteran represents London, when we can expect his new album and why he’s saving up for his pilot license…
LM. How did you become involved in The Veteran?
AT. Like every other actor, just audition for the role. My agent told me the role was going, then I read the script, went in for the auditions, they liked what I done so I got recalled again, then I got a call saying there’s an offer on the table. I found out that Toby Kebbell was playing the lead and that Brian Cox was in it and I was like, ‘Yes, great company’.
LM. What originally attracted you to the role?
AT. I haven’t played a main baddie yet so getting to play an antagonist was cool. Each role I pick, I want to be slightly different. So this is different from Shank, which is different from 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, which is different from the next film I’m in, Cockneys vs Zombies.
LM. Everyone wants to play a villain, that’s like the dream role.
AT. Yeah, villains are cool. They’re fun to play, because you can play it any way you like. Because it’s a serious drama I wanted to play it un-clichéd, so no shouting crazy punch lines like, ‘Blad, trust me’ and ‘I’ll lick you down six ways from Sunday’. He’s not saying mad shit like that he’s just saying normal stuff that humans say when they’re from the streets. I’m not doing stuff like, ‘Get me blad.’ and ‘When I get out the ting blad, I’m gonna lick you blad’.
LM. There’s no sympathy for Tyrone as a character, was it a hard role to play?
AT. No. He was just like straight and serious, a bit slimy and a bit boastful. He really thinks he’s the man. But he’s intelligent, so I had to look at someone that’s been thrust into that environment because that’s where he’s been raised. Like maybe if he’d been brought up in Chelsea, he’d have been a lawyer or something. But where he’s been raised in an estate, that’s how he’s turned out. Looking at it like that and going by people I’ve come across in my life in the inner city made sure that I played it realistically as I could.
LM. Do you feel that you brought real experiences into the film?
AT. I brought the knowledge of speech, not everyone from the streets uses slang every other word, some people just speak normally. Regardless of whether they sell drugs, kick football or have a normal job, not everyone speaks with slang or gun fingers. Like ‘Do you get me blad?’ or ‘Is it doe?’, nobody really speaks like that so when I see it, I think where did they learn it? No one I know speaks like that and they’re in this world or they’re in the streets and they don’t speak like that.
LM. What do you think makes The Veteran stand out?
AT. I think The Veteran is harder hitting, grittier and real to life. It doesn’t pull any punches. Even the way it’s shot makes it look rough and British, obviously it’s British but the way it’s shot shows the grain and the grade. Locations maybe paint a different side to what people internationally think London looks like. Some people think that London is Oxford Street or Notting Hill when London is Harlesden, Brixton, Peckham or Hackney.
LM. Through your music you offer a social commentary. Did you think that this role would be beneficial to your listeners in that sense?
AT. I see acting and music as two separate careers so I don’t care if it’s beneficial. I’m not playing it because I think it’s gonna hit home with a song I made, it doesn’t have a benefit for me. I just wanna play really interesting characters in interesting movies and screenplays.
LM. You’ve been acting since 5, was that the original career you wanted to get in to?
AT. Yeah, I didn’t wanna rap. I wanted to either be an actor or a pilot, but the pilot thing was wild expensive. I wanna save money to get my pilot license, that’s another dream. But I was acting then music started to take off and I just went with it because it was working for me. Then my first role was Shank and it’s been going well since.
LM. How do you approach music compared to acting?
AT. Music for me is just a personal process from scratch. Everything starts with me so I gotta think about what songs I wanna write or what emotions are coming out, find the beat, finish it. Then put it out and pick the press team, the management, the video, the director. You have to do a lot yourself and its very independent, which I like. Then I get to do the live show, it’s all about personal expression for me. Acting and developing a character, reading a script, knowing you play a piece in a bigger picture is cool. I love them both equally.
LM. You’ve done several UK films, do you ever think about crossing over into Hollywood?
AT. I’ve got two careers at the moment, acting and music. I would love to take them to the top as far as I can go, whether that’s taking it to the top here or in Hollywood. That’s where they make the best films in the world so it would make sense to go over there and say, ‘How dare you strike the son of Odin?’ So I can put on the superhero voice. I need to do it, I love Marvell. I just love big action films.
LM. What would be your dream Marvell character?
AT. I don’t know. I wanted to play Morph because then you can play everyone but when he morphs into another character, that would just be another actor. It’s not how it was in my head as a kid. When I was a kid I was like, I’ll just be morph so I can be anyone but if I morph into Wolverine, its just gonna be Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine, its not gonna be me. So I’m gonna flick through and see what black super heroes there are and we’ll go from there.
LM. Or you could create your own one?
AT. No. There’s no creating your own. You have to be from Marvell or DC Comics, you’ve gotta be an original, there’s no coming out just being whoever.
LM. Are you planning a return to music soon?
AT. Every other tweet is like, ‘When you coming back with a new album?’ and I love the supporters for keeping me on my toes and making sure that I’m not just sitting back doing nothing. I did a world tour with Gorillaz for 3 months, then I was filming this and then I started filming Cockneys vs Zombies so it was starting to get like, when am I gonna get to record some music? So finally I got to record and the album is finally finished, as in me recording. The producers have got to put their finishing touches on it then it will be mixed and mastered, but I’m ready to drop this year and we’ve got some good features on it. I’m gonna drop the name on Twitter and Facebook soon. The artwork’s getting put together but there’s two that I really like so I might put out a vote to see which one the fans prefer but its good to have the music back on track. I’m gonna be coming with some fire and some heat and going up on some radio shows and bunning down the shows, just doing Bashy stuff not Ashley Thomas stuff. Ashley can be on some relaxed stuff but Bashy is always on a hype doing mad s***.
LM. Now it’s like a Bashy takeover.
AT. Exactly, now it’s like music, mixtapes, general stuff. I can be Bashy and just do that because I’ve had some time away. It’s not like I’ve been a waste man just sitting in my house watching 24. I have been watching a lot of 24 but I’ve been on tour, doing films, just benefitting my life and both careers.
The Veteran is in cinemas now.
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