The London-based actress Eloise Thomas talks about happy school days in the capital, her love of drama and that first epic school disco

Where did you go to school?

I was born and raised in north London, so I went to Cuckoo Hall Primary School, Edmonton County and then Fortismere for sixth form.  

What were your schools like?

Primary school was amazing. We had gospel singers come in, teach us gospel versions of Christmas songs and put on a gospel Christmas concert. We also learned Bollywood dancing and put on original musicals, it was honestly endless – so much was going on. That was all down to our teachers really making the experience feel so magical and full of creativity.

Edmonton County was a very social and eclectic atmosphere. There were a lot of people in my year who loved dance, sports and music, so there was always so much vibrancy. Friends in my year group came from all over the world, so growing up I was very lucky getting to experience different cultures through food, music, language and traditions. Fortismere was a lot more academically focused and because of that, sometimes I felt a bit like an outsider, but I had teachers who were incredibly passionate about their subjects, which made me love coming in to school.

Did you love school, or hate it?

Most of the time, I enjoyed school and learning. I guess you’re in education from the age of three or four until at least 18, so looking back it does make sense that there were periods when school felt rocky, but overall, I had a great time.

What were your favourite subjects at school?

Definitely English Literature, and in sixth form I grew to love Sociology. Funnily enough, I never did GCSE or A-level Drama, I kept it very separate to school and that made me always look forward to it at the weekends.

The Making of Me – Eloise Thomas on happy London school days
Eloise Thomas. Photography: David Reiss; Styling: Katy Cutbirth; Hair & Makeup: Charlotte Yeomans

Who were your most memorable teachers?

My English teacher in secondary school, Miss Haralambous, was so intuitive with young people and always made the lessons something to look forward to. To be honest, everyone I knew at school loved Miss Haralambous. I also went to Sylvia Young Theatre school part-time and had a drama teacher called Bryn Williams who taught me from 13 onwards. He was all about realism and always incorporated these crazy stories into the classes. His approach to acting was what made me want to take it seriously, and he played a huge part in introducing me to the acting world.

Where was your favourite place at school and what did you do there?

It was probably the football pitch through to about year 8. I was very sporty and loved kicking a ball around. After that, in the morning before classes I loved meeting with friends at ‘the benches’ just catching up and joking around right before the day would start. Even though I was seeing my friends five days a week for five years it never got old, and I always looked forward to seeing them all first thing in the morning.

What beliefs did your time at school give you?

Always staying true to who you are and never letting social pressure make you feel embarrassed or stop you from having your own interests and passions. Also, not listening to teachers who doubt your potential!

What was your proudest school moment?

A friend of mine from primary school had a diabetic attack on the first day of summer school (a pre-week before Year 7). I knew straight away that he needed sugar and told the teachers what to do. Looking back, I’m quite proud of 11-year-old Eloise on the first day of summer school switching into emergency mode and supporting her friend.

What was the most trouble you ever got into at school?

I was a bit of a goody-two-shoes, I don’t think I was ever disruptive in class, but I was a bit sassy at times, so I probably did get a bit of a telling off about that.

Were you ever ‘too cool for school’?

Definitely not. I was a bit of a weirdo, but looking back I’m happy I was because I didn’t let the pressure to be ‘cool’ sway what I was interested in. As a result, I was surrounded by people who had their own unique passions and quirks too – and who are now doing amazing things. My best friend used to be a massive film buff at school, which people deemed as ‘nerdy’. Now she colour grades for films and commercials as a career, which is incredible.

What is your most vivid memory, looking back?

Probably the school disco in primary school. I remember we got to bring in our own outfit to wear for it and I accidentally dropped mine in a puddle so had to wear my school uniform. I felt so embarrassed but then being and 8-year-old I quickly dismissed it and I remember going crazy over the Capri-Suns, the rainbow parachute and the 2007 pop hits.

When and how did your interest in acting begin?

I was put into a Saturday stage school at around four and I absolutely loved it. I think doing all these drama games as well as dancing and singing about at such a young age is why I’m a bit of a silly person now. It gave me so much confidence as a kid, but I must admit I was also a bit of a drama queen because of it. I then ended up doing a few part-time musical theatre classes and eventually joined Sylvia Young. I was initially super intimidated by the acting classes there because it was a lot more advanced and everybody was so talented, but eventually getting used to that vulnerability and leaning into the work made me begin to really love acting and envision a career in it.

What other key passions shaped you growing up?

Definitely cinema, I would watch films over and over again as a kid and pretend to be my favourite character. I still adore film and go to the cinema all the time. I was also very passionate about sports, I was a 100m sprinter, a figure-skater, a horse-rider, a dancer. I feel so lucky that I had the opportunity to be put into all of these things. It certainly gave me a competitive edge.

What have been your recent projects?

I recently finished a role on an HBO show called True Detective: Night Country, where I flew out to Iceland to film. It was an insane experience going to a unique country like this, let alone to do an American project. I am also playing the role of Izzy in season four of The Bay, which I finished filming last summer. I had had the best time and learned so much from the cast and crew.

How would you sum up your school days in three words?

Vibrant. Energetic. Curious.

* Eloise Thomas appears in the crime drama The Bay on ITVX

Further reading: Danny Mac on school days in Sussex and his journey into acting