10th January 2023
Photographer & Editor-in-chief: Owen James Vincent
Grooming: Jessica McQuaid
Styling: Megan Smales
Interview: Chris Richmond
Cover Design: Emily Curtis
Waterloo Road is back, and Adam Thomas is along for the ride. He’s best known to audiences as Waterloo Road’s resident bad boy, Donte Charles, as well as his almost decade long stint on Emmerdale as Adam Barton, and now he’s back as Donte in the new revival of the acclaimed and beloved series, currently streaming on BBC iPlayer. We were lucky enough to chat to him about his time on both Waterloo Road and Emmerdale, and what compelled him to return to the infamous halls of the notorious school.
Waterloo Road is back after almost eight years. How did you feel when you got the call that not only were they planning on reviving the show, but that they wanted you to be a part of it?
Before it had even been greenlit, it was just an idea that Cameron Roach [the show’s producer] had. Before he approached anyone else or any production companies, I think he just wanted to know first and foremost whether I’d be interested in jumping in for the ride. I just couldn’t believe it - I felt very lucky, very blessed. At the time I didn’t really have a job, especially not within acting anyway. My acting had sort of taken a backseat. I was just concentrating on my businesses and stuff, so it’s just weird how life works out. These things come at just the right time, and this definitely came at the right time. I’d done everything that I needed to do with my business and then yeah, I got the phone call. A couple of months later we got the green light, and it was all systems go. Then everyone else started getting cast, and the momentum started to pick up and then before you knew it, I was in the studio with the rest of the cast and we’re doing a big read through. It’s just mad how things work out. The fact that I was in this show many years ago and I get to go back and reprise the role as Donte Charles and then go back with Katie Griffiths who plays Chlo, and also to be working with Angela Griffin again - it’s just mad. I feel very blessed and very lucky at the moment.
It seems to be quite a trend at the moment to bring things back that were popular ten or fifteen years ago.
People are running out of ideas! The reason they brought Waterloo Road back is because it was just such a huge show. There’s not many shows that are like this, or that have had such a big following with the fans as much as this. I think once they found out how well the show did on BBC iPlayer they had no option but to bring it back because the fans just absolutely adore the show.
Beige jumper - River Island / Green Trousers - All Saints / Green socks - Falke
Rings - River Island Bracelets - River Island
The concept of the show lends itself to a revival. It could go on and on with a revolving cast of staff and students.
Yeah, it’s based in a school and the students grow up and then they move on. That’s what happened to me - I started off in Series One and then by Series Four Donte got older, and then he left school, and I just never thought that he’d be back many years later working at the school. It’s just mad.
The series was released last week on BBC iPlayer. Have you been happy with the response so far?
Yeah, everyone seems really happy with it. I’m getting nothing but good feedback and the producers and everyone at work is really happy with the way it’s gone down. The BBC are really happy - listen, as long as they’re happy, I’m happy. Everyone’s already binge watched the whole series on BBC iPlayer, and they’ve watched it from start to finish. People have really gone to town on it. I feel like we’ve done the old series justice.
Geometric T-shirt - River Island / Blue Trousers - Reiss
Where do we find Donte at the beginning of the series? What brings him back to Waterloo Road?
In the first episode, Donte and Chlo are very much a big, happy family. Life couldn’t be any better for them as a family. They’ve got two beautiful kids, Izzie and Tommy, and they’re just really happy and content. They’re in a very, very good place. Obviously throughout the old series, they had their ups and downs, but it’s nice to pick up where they left off. They’re just so happy. Obviously, it takes a bit of a turn at the end of episode one. After everything that happens, I think Donte is suffering, and wants to be as close to his kids as possible. I think the only way he can do that is by getting a job at the school, and luckily there was a job available. He’s a handyman and he’s a grafter, and there was a job at the school for him to take the role as a caretaker, and I think he took that role just so he could be closer to Izzie, and be with her as much as possible.
What was it that appealed to you about Waterloo Road the first time around?
It was one of my first ever jobs when I was seventeen or eighteen years old. I’d done a few other bits before, but this was my first ongoing series. Obviously, you don’t know what you’re walking into. You don’t know how it’s gonna go down, but at that time, at that age, my mindset was that I was just happy to be working. I wasn’t necessarily thinking about the bigger picture - I just wanted to be working and to get paid doing what I love. It was incredible from the get go, getting to work with so many incredible actors, these guys that I looked up to for so long, such as the likes of Angela Griffin. I got to work with Neil Morrisey. There was so many people - I got to be a sponge really, and watch and learn their approach to acting, and also the way they held themselves on set. They were such a great example to all the young ones, and I sort of tried to take that on later down the line when I’ve gone back to Waterloo Road. It was a great opportunity for young actors. If this show was never made, I probably never would be where I am today. I’ve got a lot to thank this show for, and I think everyone has. We learned so much. It’s like a drama school, in a weird sort of way. It was for me especially. I think the best way to learn is on the job. I learned so much, and you look back and see how many people have been and gone through Waterloo Road, like Jodie Comer and Jack O’Connell, or Phoebe Dynevor from Bridgerton - there’s so many people that have gone through the Waterloo Road Academy. It just goes to show what a great show it is. I was very lucky at the time. Very, very lucky indeed.
Navy Pink Suit Jacket - Moss Bros / Navy Pink Suit Trousers - Moss Bros / Pale Blue Shirt - M&S / Chelsea boots - Asos
When did you realise that Waterloo Road had become something of a phenomenon?
I remember watching the first episode with all my friends around me at my Mum’s house, and I just remember we sat down for the first time and watched it. I was eighteen and it was my first taste of fame. All my life, I’d always get mistaken for my older brother [actor Ryan Thomas] who was in Coronation Street at the time. I always got called Jason. But then everything started to change. People started calling me Donte, and then people started calling my brother Donte. It’s mad how the tables turned. I’m just very thankful that I got the opportunity to be in such a great show that was so loved and adored.
How has Waterloo Road changed since we last saw it?
It’s the same, but different. If you loved the old show, you’re definitely gonna love the new show. It’s got everything that the old show had, even some of the same characters. It’s just bigger and better than ever. There’s a lot of topics which I think are important to discuss right now like racism and homelessness and the cost of living crisis. I think it’s important to have those storylines, because it gets people talking and asking questions.
Aside from Waterloo Road, your other most notable role is in Emmerdale, where you starred in 971 episodes.
How many was it? No way! I should have left on a thousand.
Grey suit jacket - Hawes & Curtis / Grey polo shirt - Boss
Would you ever return to Emmerdale?
Yeah. After Waterloo Road, I pretty much went straight into Emmerdale. I think there was a six month gap or something. My brother was in Coronation Street, and he’d been in it for so long, and I just wanted a piece of the pie. To be in such an incredible show, a show that’s been going for so many years, I just jumped at the chance. There was a big audition process. I had to have a couple of auditions, and a screen test with Danny Miller who played Aaron Livesy in the show. I just remembered waiting for months to hear something back, and then I finally got the call that I was gonna be in the show. At the time it was only a year contract, and they just kept renewing my contract for a year and then another year and then another year. Before I knew it, I was there for eight or nine years. I shared a dressing room with Kelvin Fletcher and Danny Miller. It was an amazing part of my life, and I just enjoyed every minute of that show. I hold a special place in my heart for the people and the cast and the crew that work there - they’re just the best. That’s what I miss the most, I think.
Brown floral T-shirt - Reiss / Blue Trousers - Reiss / Brown socks - Falke
In the future, what sort of roles would you like to play?
There’s so many different characters that I’d like to portray. I’d like to portray someone a little bit more dark and twisted. I love all these dramas on TV about serial killers. All the characters that I’ve played so far are quite similar to myself, but I really wanna go left-field on something and really go to town on a crime drama where I play a serial killer. I’d love to get my teeth into a script like that. Something a bit dark and twisted.
Adam can currently be seen in Waterloo Road which is streaming on BBC iPlayer now.