THOMAS & FRIENDS STORYTELLER
Mark Moraghan has been narrator for Thomas and Friends since 2012 with his debut in Series 17. Here, Mark shares his insight about his role in the series and his other work.
~ With Ryan Hagan, March 2017
DISCLAIMER: All answers and opinions expressed in this interview are solely those of the Mark Moraghan, and in no way purport to represent those of HIT Entertainment
What inspired you to become an actor, and where did you gain your earliest experience?
I was inspired by old films like Ivanhoe, Robin Hood, and war films , also Laurel and Hardy, Danny Kaye. I started acting in primary school and I was hooked. My first professional role was in a play called Lies for the BBC aged 15.
Aside from being an actor, you’re also an accomplished singer with a couple of albums to your credit as well. How did you get started with that? What styles and genres do you like to work with?
Singing and music was also a big part of my childhood and I’ve managed to combine that along with my acting. I'm a big fan of Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Tony Bennett, and I listened to a lot of Soul music and Funk. Steely Dan however are my favourite band. Soul and Swing are the genres I work in generally.
One of the roles you’re best known for is playing Barry Scouser from Harry Enfield & Chums back in the 1990s. As a fan of the series myself, I’m curious about what memories do you have of working the show and the sketches you did? Any interesting anecdotes you can share?
Harry Enfield's Scousers was great fun to do especially when the Scousers go to D’at Lundon! My favourite sketch, we filmed a part of it at Brands Hatch and met Damon Hill. who was then World Champion. We also got to go around the circuit in a black cab, I bet there aren't many who have done that.
Over the years, you’ve appeared in various British soap operas from one off and recurring roles to being a regular player in Brookside and Holby City. Given the commitment to the roles, how different is it working on a week-to-week serial to other roles with a finite time-span?
Working on a continual drama is a hard slog sometimes, long hours etc it can feel like you’re on a treadmill. In my experience doing one off dramas the pace is often slower giving the actor longer to prepare which helps with performance. If you can work on a soap with its hectic schedules you can do anything.
You’ve toured extensively with Stage Shows such as Priscilla: Queen of the Desert and more recently, Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5. How does this compare to your work on screen and as a voiceover?
Theatre is where I started and it’s the most enjoyable for me personally, you can’t beat a live audience. I have been very lucky to have combined a stage career along with my TV work.
Michael Angelis and Michael Brandon stood down from their roles as the Thomas Storytellers in 2012, what attracted you to the role?
Thomas is such an iconic character so to be asked to audition was very exciting. So when I was offered the role I was elated. As the Storyteller, I have a big responsibility to get it right and I’m very proud to be a part of a great team.
The role of Thomas’ storyteller has been held by some really accomplished talents down the years – with Ringo Starr, Alec Baldwin and Pierce Brosnan being among the A-list stars to take up the mantle. What were your thoughts on taking on such an iconic role?
Following in the footsteps of some big names was amazing, I never thought I would land the role of the Storyteller.
Can you tell us about the audition process to win the role of Thomas’s storyteller?
The audition process was a long one. First, I had to record an episode along with several other actors and as the months passed the we got whittled down to three actors. then I recorded more episodes which were sent to test audiences in America and the UK and fortunately for me my voice came out as the most suited, and I was offered the job.
How familiar were you with the series before you joined the voice cast?
I think most people have come across Thomas at some point in their lives, so yes I was aware of him. My two Grandsons were Thomas fans when they were younger, which is great.
You’re the first person since Ringo Starr to be the series’ main storyteller for all English speaking territories. How do you feel about reaching such a wide audience?
As I said earlier, Thomas is so iconic and has a global following, so it gives me a buzz to know I am reading to millions of Thomas fans around the world.
Could you describe what a typical day is like recording your lines for an episode in the studio? Do you use a video of the episode as a means to cue your lines and set the mood and tone for your storytelling?
A normal day might start at 9am until say 2pm and I may record 3 or 4 episodes sometimes to picture and sometimes without. I much prefer recording to picture but this isn't always possible as they may still be editing and so on.
The format of the series has changed several times throughout its lifetime on screen, from being the domain of a single storyteller to a full voice cast. Would you have liked to have been the sole voice for the series as your predecessors have been, or are you more comfortable just telling the story?
I am happy being the Storyteller and giving the engines their own voice adds colour, in my opinion.
Would you like to provide a character voice for the series, and have you been asked to do so yet?
I would like to play one of the characters... maybe a new engine.
Among the existing cast, are there any characters you would have liked to have provided a voice for?
The voice artists all do a great job with their respective engines. It’s a great cast to be part of.
Do you have any particular favourite stories or characters from the series?
I enjoy doing the Christmas episodes and the full length feature films are great fun and have more of an epic feel to them. Sodor’s Legend of the Lost Treasure is a personal favourite. As for favourite characters, I’d have to say Cranky the Crane. I think we can all relate to how he feels sometimes!
Given that Michael Angelis had been in the role for twenty years before you, and Ringo Starr had set the style in the beginning – were you encouraged to put your own spin on the storytelling of the series or to emulate your predecessors?
I tried to keep an essence of previous Storytellers, while adding my own interpretation. as long as HIT and the fans are happy that's all you can ask for.
The role of Thomas’s Storyteller is one that’s got a strong association with Liverpool – largely thanks to Ringo Starr and Michael Angelis. What’s your thoughts on Thomas’s association with your home city?
Obviously being a Scouser helped me land the part, I am fiercely proud of my city and it’s connection to something as iconic as Thomas. Maybe I could voice a Scouse engine called Ringo? Now that would be fun!
From what I can gather from your CV, Thomas & Friends is your first role in a children’s TV Series, how does it differ to working on other shows you’ve done?
I have worked on a few children's series in the past. Wilderness Edge, The Lodge, but nothing like Thomas.
There’s a real enthusiasm in your storytelling style, which really adds to the whole experience, and from interviews you’ve done, it’s clear you’re enjoying being part of Team Thomas – what have been the biggest highlights for you?
It is a pleasure to record the show and the atmosphere in the studio is great. I genuinely care about how my voice comes across, my enthusiasm is real and I’m so pleased if that comes across in the show. My biggest highlight was seeing my name on screen for the first time. Told By Mark Moraghan!
We love hearing stories from Behind the Scenes – do you have any funny or special moments to recall or share from your time in the recording studio with your fellow cast members?
Unfortunately I don't get to see other cast members very often, so I don’t have any tales to tell.
What would you say is the special appeal of Thomas & Friends that keeps on bringing you back to the role year after year?
Thomas has an old world charm. Who doesn't love steam engines? there isn't another series like it. and hopefully he'll be around for 70 more years.
Do you prefer voice acting or feel more comfortable appearing in front of a camera or on stage?
Theatre is probably my favourite as I said earlier, but I enjoy everything I’m fortunate to be offered.
Would you say that your involvement with Thomas and Friends has had a positive impact upon your career as an actor?
Whenever I mention Thomas, people smile. So I hope Thomas has had a positive effect.
From very early on in your work with Thomas, you have been very friendly and welcoming with the fans, and we’ve always enjoyed a great dialogue with you – do you feel it’s helped with your work on the series?
It's always nice to connect with your audience as without them you wouldn't have a job, so I always say hello if I can.
Prior to his departure, Michael Angelis was the storyteller for a series of Thomas & Friends audiobooks, narrating the Rev. Awdry’s Railway Series stories – is this something you’ve been approached about yet? If not, would you be open to it?
A lot of my work on Thomas includes the You Tube Channel and Apps, games etc so if I was asked to do books I would be happy to.
As I’ve mentioned previously, you’re a talented singer. Have you ever been approached by the Producers to collaborate with the series’ musical composers on a Thomas song for the series or a special?
There was talk of me singing on one of the songs but we haven't discussed it further. Again if I’m asked I’d love to.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline at this point in time that you can tell us about?
Maybe later this year. I have been cast as Severus, Head of the 20th Roman Legion in Victrix The Valiant, along with Brian Blessed, so watch this space!
Do you have a favourite role from your career, be it TV, radio or stage?
My favourite role would have to be between Colonel Slade in feature film Allies or J R Hart in 9 To 5 the Musical.
Can you give any advice to anyone who may be interested in following in your footsteps as a voice actor?
Voiceover work is very hard to break into, you need a good voice reel and a good agent.
Finally, do you have anything you’d like to say to the fans of the series who enjoy your work?
I would just like to say a massive thank you to the many Thomas fans for all of your kind comments and support since taking over as the Storyteller. I hope you continue to enjoy the series!