Thomas M. Wright.
Thomas M. Wright cheerfully acknowledges he is far better known in the US and the UK than in his native Australia.
That’s because the character actor, who made his feature writing and directing debut on Acute Misfortune, has worked predominantly in international TV series and movies in the past six years.
Wright flies to Quebec next month for his next acting gig, a recurring role in Barskins, a National Geographic drama series based on the Annie Proulx novel about a group of outcasts living in New France — the part of North America controlled by the French — in the 16th century.
That will be his third US series following WGN America’s Outsiders and FX network’s The Bridge, and his first acting gig since he played racist station owner Mick Kennedy in Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country.
Wright is not complaining about his relatively low profile as that has enabled him to play a wide variety of characters. Demonstrating his range, he played murdered journalist Brian Peters in Robert Connolly’s Balibo, an alcoholic, opiate addicted deputy sheriff in Outsiders, a lone wolf trying to survive in a near-lawless borderland in The Bridge and Australian mountain climber Michael Groom in Baltasar Kormákur’s Everest.
One of his co-stars in Everest was John Hawkes, whom he greatly admires. Despite Hawkes’ stellar CV which includes the Deadwood TV series and upcoming movie, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Winter’s Bone, Lost and Lincoln, Wright observed that the American can walk down the street without being hassled. “That’s the kind of career I would see for myself,” he tells IF.
In Barskins he will play Elisha Cooke, a cutthroat English barrel maker who has schemed his way into New France, set on growing the crown’s stake in the region. He was offered the role by the show’s creator Elwood Reid, with whom he worked in The Bridge.
The cast includes Marcia Gay Harden, David Thewlis, Christian Cooke, James Bloor, Aneurin Barnard and Tallulah Haddon.
Thomas M. Wright in ‘Outsiders.’
One attraction for Wright is the first opportunity to work with Thewlis, whose break-out performance in Mike Leigh’s 1993 comedy-drama Naked is one of the reasons which inspired him to want to be an actor. Another is the director David Slade, whose interactive Netflix series Black Mirror: Bandersnatch greatly impressed him.
Playing the boyfriend of Elisabeth Moss’ character in the first series of Top of the Lake was a game changer for the actor. “That certainly it is the reason that I am working overseas now, because of the support of Jane Campion and Garth Davis,” he says.
Wright is very pleased with the critical acclaim and audience responses to Acute Misfortune, his biopic of troubled Sydney painter Adam Cullen, which Robert Connolly’s CinemaPlus is distributing.
He could not be prouder of the performances of Daniel Henshall as Cullen and Toby Wallace as journalist Erik Jensen. “The actors I appreciate most are those like Dan and Toby who can have the ability to completely transform themselves,” he says.
Wright worked on the script while he was shooting Outsiders and Cédric Jimenez’s World War II drama The Man with the Iron Heart, in which he co-starred with fellow Aussie Jason Clarke, Rosamund Pike and Jack O’Connell.
He’s a long way into development on another film he is writing and will direct, a large-scale crime drama.