Actress Antonia Thomas believes she’s been denied plenty of exciting parts over the years simply for being a woman of color.
“In my own career, especially back in the U.K., the roles that one can play have been limited. For the last 10 years, I’ve had to choose really carefully and wait for better opportunities to come around that were more immediately available to some of my Caucasian counterparts,” said Thomas, recently in The City promoting the hit ABC drama “The Good Doctor” with costars Christina Chang and Paige Spara.
The English actress, who plays Dr. Claire Browne on the show set at San Jose’s fictional St. Bonaventure Hospital, appeared at a special screening followed by a panel discussion at The Wing SF on Thursday.
The episode, which aired Oct. 3, was important for Thomas’ character; it shows how she’s given her first opportunity to act as a lead surgeon when a young teen needs her gallbladder removed immediately.
When Dr. Brown confides to her superior Dr. Audrey Lim (Chang) that she’s nervous about leading her first operation in one particularly poignant scene, the chief surgeon advises her to just suck it up like a bitter pill.
Women surgeons of color, which Dr. Lim calls a fabled species even among unicorns, don’t get the luxury of public insecurity and have no time to second-guess themselves, even as they work twice as hard as their male and Caucasian counterparts, for less recognition.
Both actresses felt a sense of relief in hearing their characters’ struggles as women of color put into words by the show’s writers.
“Looking at it differently, there is also this really nice idea of the belief in oneself,” says Thomas. “You have to work so hard to get to where you are, so you have to trust in your ability. I think there’s something really beautiful and positive in that, too.”
Thomas, who appeared in British TV shows “Misfits” and “Lovesick,” was pleased to join “The Good Doctor” cast because its diverse characters, including young, gifted autistic surgeon Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore), support each other.
As roles for women continue to expand in Hollywood and U.S. business, Thomas hopes that those who once struggled to compete for the few plum jobs available (and resented those who got them) can begin to celebrate each others’ successes.
Thomas says, “What I’m really proud of with the show is the strong bonds developed between a very diverse company of women, with our very different backgrounds and age groups. So I’m really excited to come to The Wing to see a community of likeminded women who are supporting each other.”
IF YOU WATCH
The Good Doctor
When: 10 p.m. Mondays