Thaddea Graham doesn’t want to waste any chance she is given

PHOTOS : Jack Alexander
TALENT: Thaddea Graham
STYLING: Thomas George Wulbern
MAKEUP: Naoko Scintu at The Wall Group
HAIR: Leigh Keates at The Wall Group
PRODUCTION: Studio J•T•P
WORDS: Jasmine Perrier

This feature is taken from Grumpy Magazine’s ISSUE NO.17, available soon in digital and print worldwide
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Chinese-born Northern Irish actress Thaddea Graham — Thady, as many refer to her — fronts the new Netflix show The Irregulars, a modern take on the Sherlock Holmes novels out since March 26. Eager to unveil this “passion project” she has had to hide away for a year, Thaddea’s bubbly personality courses through our virtual meeting, while remaining down-to-earth when she realizes everything that comes with that. Here, the actress, who turned 24 three days after the global premiere, opens up about how she prepared for her key role as the leader of the gang, filming in Liverpool, the big lessons from the 8-episode series, and on a surprising note: what we can learn from trees.

“I keep talking about this to everyone because I’ve just found out and I think it’s really cool,” Thaddea says, laughing. “Trees can communicate with each other — when they are all together, they create this microclimate that enables them to grow. They take what they need and no more,” she tells, before concluding, “We should all be a little more ‘tree’ in life.” On this philosophical note, Thaddea believes she would have gone into music therapy, if she hadn’t become an actor. However, her parents had the feeling she was meant to be somewhere creative and therefore opened that path for her. “My mommy said to me, ‘You are not going to be happy, what about drama school?’ She put together a list of all the drama schools across the UK, printed off the applications, and said, ‘If you want to go, I’ll take you across and you can audition.’ I think they saw something in me that I didn’t.” 

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She recalls an experience when she was studying at ArtsEd in London that stuck out for her. “We did this play called People, Places and Things by Duncan Macmillan. And our head of acting said he was playing this role one day in a theatre play, and someone came up to him afterwards and said, ‘See that role that you were playing? That was actually my real-life story.’ We, actors, have this kind of duty of care, responsibilities, to tell these stories truthfully. I think that was the moment that I realized this is really what I want to do and I want to give it everything I’ve got.” When talking about her background and personal experience, Thaddea reveals, “I was born in China, and then I was adopted and grew up in Northern Ireland.” Filled with refreshing honesty, she adds, “I don’t see my story as the fact that I was abandoned. I think [my biological parents] did it with the intention that they would give me a second chance at life, and I don’t want to disregard the incredible decision my parents made to adopt. So many people have opened doors for me and I don’t want to waste that.” 

Grateful for every person who has taken a chance on her until now, Thaddea specifically praises Tom Bidwell — the creator of The Irregulars — for allowing her to bring Beatrice/Bea to life. “I’ve never really played a role this big before. [Tom Bidwell] spent 10 years crafting this before it really saw the light of day. Knowing how hard he had worked and how much he is invested in this, I didn’t want to let him down and did feel pressure, but just from me. I was putting pressure on myself in the same way that Bea is leading.” Thaddea’s character is indeed at the forefront of the show and has many layers. After losing her mother at the age of three, not only has the 17-year-old orphan to take care of her younger sister Jessie [Darci Shaw] who struggles to deal with her profound psychic powers, but she also puts a real responsibility and weight on her own shoulders to have all the answers. On top of that, there is Bea’s wider relationship with Leopold [Harrison Osterfield] and Dr. Watson [Royce Pierreson]. “Somebody said they watched the entire show and at the end, they just wanted to give Bea a hug. I thought that was so sweet and beautiful that someone else felt for her in the way that I do because I’m obviously biased.” 

So many people have opened doors for me and I don’t want to waste that

With Bea and creator Tom Bidwell, Thaddea admits she has learned to have a little more confidence in herself. “I’m so terrified of being egotistical and holding myself on a pedestal. It’s a fear that sometimes makes me doubt myself way too much but I’m learning how to manage that better. I think having that quiet confidence is no bad thing and it’s what you need to be able to go, ‘You’re doing your best job.’ So I just did it and stopped worrying,” she says, before adding, “I love Bea as a character. It’s scary to be vulnerable and let people in, but what she learns to accept as the series goes on is that you don’t have to do it alone. There are people around you who can help you in their own ways.”

“When I first entered [the industry], I certainly didn’t realize how lonely it could get — you’re spending weeks and weeks away from home with people you don’t really know, in a hotel room all of the time, which sounds glamorous and fun, until you realize it’s not really like The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.” The young actress reflects on her own relationships with her cast and crew while they were filming in Liverpool, saying, “It’s so strange, I don’t ever remember feeling awkward around any of them, which [is a feeling] you usually get when you’ve never met someone and you are thrust into this quite intense working environment. Everyone was just so lovely — not just the cast, the entire crew as well. Everyone really put their hearts into it, it was a real honor to be part of that where it is such a collaborative effort.” Ahead of the release of the show, Thaddea mentions she asked Tom Bidwell if he was nervous about it. “He said, ‘Not really, because we were all together. We know what we did that whole year, we saw how much work everyone put in, and I’m really proud of that.’ Of course, it does matter what people think, but don’t let it hit you too hard in your heart. It’s just that people have opinions and I think that’s the beauty of life.”

Reminding Thaddea of Bea’s brief singing moments in The Irregulars, we ask her how music occupies an important place in her life. “I think music is more vulnerable and a lot scarier for me because it feels like almost giving a diary over to someone,” she confesses, before explaining, “Music is such a therapy for me and I would love to release it professionally because I try to do it by myself, but I don’t really know what I’m doing. But I don’t have dreams to be signed with the biggest agencies or anything like that. I would really need to build up a level of trust first before handing everything over and being able to collaborate.” On the acting side, Thaddea reveals she never had a specific goal or role she really wanted to do, until she discovered Killing Eve. “I remember watching Jodie Comer, thinking, ‘[Villanelle] is such a dream role.’ She gets to do everything. And when Bea came along, I thought, ‘Is this my Villanelle?’ So as cheesy as it sounds, I might be living the dream role at the minute without realizing it. But there is definitely more out there.”

THE IRREGULARS IS NOW STREAMING ON NETFLIX

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