Serena Scott Thomas

by Eirik Knutzen | May 3, 2001
Serena Scott Thomas On the first night of shooting the new series "All Souls" - a truly frightening hospital drama incorporating chilling paranormal incidents - a reluctant Serena Scott Thomas was led to a fifth floor morgue at McGill University Medical Centre in Montreal.

"It scared the hell out of me," says Scott Thomas, 38, who portrays tall and sleek Dr. Nicole De Brae, the tough chief of medical staff at Boston`s 300-year-old All Souls Hospital. "The room was like a huge, white-tiled gymnasium with a half-dozen circular sinks with faucets in the middle - it looked like they might be for washing something fairly ghastly."

Trying to introduce a measure of levity to the bleak room, Scott Thomas asked a crew member, "Is this where they cut up the bodies?" The man nodded affirmatively.

"Where are they?"

"Behind the screen over there."

She laughed if off, then prepared for a scene that called for her to smoke a cigarette on the fire escape. Taking two steps up to hit her marks, she was able to look over the top of the sterile screens.

"Sure enough, in nice tidy rows on gurneys, were all these dead people," she recalls incredulously. "Oh, God, it was horrible. I`m working in a room full of dead people! Five floors up and smoking a cigarette, I nearly passed out. I literally had to lie down with an oxygen mask over my face. But it was so funny, because our (Canadian) crew just sat around chatting, smoking and drinking like they usually do. And some of them had even taken a peek."

The elegant former fashion model felt a bit more at ease after "All Souls" switched location to Reddy Memorial Hospital in Montreal.

"It`s actually a mental hospital, still there and full," Scott Thomas explains. "These poor patients would be wandering in and out of shots ... there was not a lot one could do about it. There will be shots when you`ll see real people who are mentally ill.

"There was one lovely shot where we were talking while walking down a corridor," she continues, "with this little old lady walking in and out of the shot, rummaging in the trash cans and singing to herself. It was quite colorful, but also distressing working there, because you see the kind of shuffle that the drugged have. At the same time, some of them are so child-like in their own worlds that they are inspiring. We mingled (with the patients) and they were very sweet and excited."

"All Souls" has a Stephen King/Dean Koontz-like flavor, working on the notion that the often-tortured ghosts of former patients and physicians roam the halls freely, according to Scott Thomas.

"I love the show, but it`s hard to pinpoint its concept. It`s kind of a mixture of medical drama, gruesome occurrences, spiritual incidents and supernatural happenings with a little sci-fi thrown in."

Scott Thomas considers herself attuned to paranormal phenomena, but hates the word "psychic" because it often implies a bit of eccentricity or weirdness.

"But I`ve had a few close encounters which have left me wondering about what is the truth," she muses. "I`ve had many, many experiences where I would be thinking of something and the person next to me would either do it or say it. Or I would slow down, anticipating a car blocking the road around the corner."

Her strangest personal encounter took place a decade ago at the London Film School in Covent Garden.

"I was doing a student film and part of the set was a bed," she recalls. "I laid down on the bed to take a nap at lunch time, just lying there staring at the big spotlights attached to the ceiling.

"They had `barn doors` - metal sheets weighing several pounds to regulate the amount of light - on them. I kept thinking one of those doors would cut my head off if it fell. I debated with the voice in my head for about five minutes. Stay, or get off the bed. I finally got up to move away and at that second, whack! a barn door fell down where my head had been. Take it with a grain of salt, but that`s exactly what happened."

The younger sister of actress Kristin Scott Thomas ("The English Patient"), she was delivered by midwife in 1962 in a tiny Dorset village. Her mother studied at LAMDA to become an actress when she met her father, a British Royal Navy pilot, who died in a plane crash two years later. In 1970, her aviator stepfather died under similar circumstances, leaving her mother to raise five children on her own.

She toyed with the idea of becoming an actress while taking part in school plays, but also gave serious consideration to becoming a veterinarian or spying on the Russians. An academically inclined linguist, she was expected by her family to study law and leave the acting to her older sister. Rebellious, she "sort of ran away from home" at 17 to live for two years with a German boyfriend, running a recording studio on the Spanish island of Ibiza.

"My mother, who deserves a medal as well as sainthood, very wisely said to me, `Come back when you`re done.` If she had said any other thing, I probably wouldn`t have come back," she says, laughing.

Grim living conditions on Ibiza, where she lacked hot water and electricity, drove her to modeling in Barcelona and Paris during the 1980s. Lucrative print assignments took her all over the world. A movie-director friend finally convinced her to take up acting, resulting in a walk-on part in the BBC television production of "The Green Man" starring Albert Finney.

Her acting career had a major uptick in 1993, when she portrayed Princess Diana in the four-hour miniseries "Diana: Her True Story," based on the then-racy book by Andrew Morton.

"I wasn`t invited to tea with the Royals anymore."

She gave Hollywood a go six years ago, which led to a number of high-profile roles, including Don Johnson`s sexy ex-wife, Kelly Weld, during the first season of "Nash Bridges" and sexy Dr. Molly Warmflash on "The World is Not Enough" (1999), the latest James Bond film.

Scott Thomas also found time to marry American attorney Scott Tepper and give birth to 4-year-old daughter Tallulah. A competitive equestrienne who once fox hunted with the Blackmore Vale Hunt in Dorset, she lives on wide-open horse property on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

"Tractor therapy calms me down," she says, only half-seriously. "I have two riding arenas in my back yard and prep them with my little John Deere tractor, making obsessive, neat, tiny little lines in the sand. It is highly recommended."

(c) Copley News Service

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Author: Eirik Knutzen


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