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THE HAUNTED MANSION - Q&A with Marsha Thomason

How did you get the role of Eddie Murphy's wife in THE HAUNTED MANSION?

I was in Toronto shooting a movie and my manager sent me the script. At that point I didn't know it was based on a theme park ride, I just read the script because I had never heard of it. That's kind of hard to imagine now because I realise it is such an American institution. I liked the script and went after it. I flew in from Toronto to LA for a screen test and four long miserable weeks later they told me I had the job.

What was it like playing opposite Eddie Murphy?

The first day it was weird but after that it was fine. The first day was bizarre we were shooting at a house in Pasadena. He is a bit quiet and said, "Hi I'm Eddie" and I felt a little bit intimidated just because I was doing my American accent for the first time that day and I was terrified that they would think I was rubbish and sack me. Then I met Eddie Murphy, icon and comedic genius. So there was a little bit of pressure not to mention that I had to kiss him five minutes later, which was also a bit odd. So it was quite a day. But beyond that we got on like a house on fire. I felt nervous and intimidated but as soon as they said action it was time to focus. The last thing I was going to do was mess up this opportunity. I knew this was a big stepping-stone for my career but there was no point dwelling on those things because it's important to do a good job. Now I have seen the movie and it is so amazing and I'm thrilled beyond excited. There was a moment when we were filming and I stood quietly summing it up and I said this is a really big movie. But I'm trying to take it in my stride. It is very exciting and it was a thrill to watch my family's faces at the premiere.

Did you maintain your American accent throughout the shoot for THE HAUNTED MANSION?

Off camera? No. I was shooting MY BABY'S DADDY in Toronto and I was American in that and that was the first time in a movie that I had done the accent. So I kept it up then and they couldn't believe that I was English. But we shot this for five months and I didn't have the energy to keep it up that long when I wasn't on camera. But I worked hard with my voice coach. Every day I warmed up doing the accent. I enjoy the reaction I get in the USA when people discover I have an English accent. They don't expect that and it's kind of a kick. When I first came here I would go into auditions with an American accent because they wouldn't get their heads round the fact that I was English. A well known director wouldn't take the chance on casting me for an American role after he discovered that I was English. Some time later he expressed his regret that he hadn't taken the chance with me. Nobody questions that Cate Blanchett can do an accent because we know that she can, so I think that it's important for me to keep trying different things. I just did an indie movie THE NICKEL CHILDREN about child prostitution. It's very dark indeed.

Was Eddie Murphy serious off camera?

Eddie and I laughed a lot but he is quiet and reserved. There is definitely a pressure for funny people to be funny. People want them to perform all the time. But we got on well. I taught him Cockney rhyming slang like apples and pears, dog and bone, whistle and flute. He also made up his own dirty versions of Cockney rhyming slang.

Do you believe in ghosts?

I have never seen a ghost. But yes I believe because I know too many people who have had experiences. When I lived in Notting Hill [London] I shared a flat with a mate who was convinced that there was a presence in our house.

Apart from THE HAUNTED MANSION you are also starring in an American TV series called LAS VEGAS, what's that about?

I play a pit boss in the TV show and I knew nothing about gambling when I started. It's about the surveillance teams in the casino. My character stands in the middle and makes sure that nobody cheats. My character is known as the Ice Queen. I really knew nothing about gambling until I started work on the show, I did not even know how to shuffle a deck of cards. Now I can do some neat tricks and I can play Black Jack it's so much fun.

Is America now your home?

I have a house in London and a place in LA and I'm bouncing between the two. It's very nice because I fly first class now and that makes the world of difference. But when I am on the plane and turbulence kicks in I can't abide it. I feel like we are all going to die and it takes everything in me to stay calm. But there are worst things to have to cope with. I'm over in the States filming LAS VEGAS till the end of April. Most of the show is done in the studio but we go to Vegas for some filming and I think that Vegas is one of the wildest places I've ever been to. You can look to your left and there's a drag queen getting married by Elvis, to the right there is some old bird sticking quarters into a slot machine for hours. I think the TV series is starting in the UK in April.

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