Interview with actor Robert G. Slade

In 2009 Thomas fans watching DVD releases of Thomas and Friends episodes were introduced to a new live-action character between segments - Mr. Arkwright, a Sudrian locomotive driver played by Canadian-born actor Robert G. Slade. Robert's warm portayal of Driver Arkwright became an instant hit with the fans. Here, Robert shares his insight about his contributions to Thomas and Friends.
Interview with Callum Walker completed March 29 2012

Robert, how did you become involved with Thomas and Friends?
Like most actors, I attended a casting with many others. I did my best and hoped that I could provide what the producers and director were looking for. Fortunately for me, I had what they were looking for, at the time.

You provided a brilliant British accent for Arkwright, what has been your favourite accent in terms of Radio and TV?
In terms of accents I would have to say I have had a lot of fun over the years with a great many of them. My favourite has always been a very old fashioned British RP - but, since almost no one uses it anymore, there is very little call for it. Living in the UK is a constant delight, as there is a new accent in virtually every district of every county - and woe betides anyone who thinks they've got it right when they don't!

What other TV/Film roles have you featured in?
I have had roles in films like “For the Moment”, “Casino Royale” and “Hyde Park on the Hudson”; and on Television in programmes such as “The Wild West: Billy the Kid”, “Fred Penner’s Place”, “Days that shook the world: The Boston Tea Party” and “Hotel Babylon”.

Were you familiar with Thomas from the Rev. W. Awdry's books and Ringo Starr/Michael Angelis narrating the early series?
I had never read the original books but I had watched the early series with my children when they were young.

If you had a favourite character, who would it be?
I suppose it would have to be Thomas. I know the actor who does his voice and he’s such a nice guy that he brings a lot of his own good nature to the character.

Were you excited to become part of Thomas' world?
I was very excited to be asked to do the Mr. Arkwright segments; I think it was a wonderful experience and a great opportunity.

What were your responses like from your friends and family when they heard about you being a part of Thomas?
When my friends and family heard I was going to appear in the Thomas series they were all very proud and excited - especially a couple of my young nieces and nephews, who are big fans!

What was your favourite DVD Segment to work on out of the two produced?
I’d have to say the fun and excitement of making the cardboard engine for the Fat Controller’s grandchildren was the most “magical” bit.

Mr. Arkwright builds an engine out of cardboard
Mr. Arkwright (Robert G. Slade) builds an engine out of cardboard

What have you moved on from after working on Thomas & Friends?
I’ve been doing a lot of voice work recently and, apart from English Language Training recordings, educational recordings for schools, books on CD and voices for video games; I was very happy to play one of the bad guys –  Foultoe – in an Australian animated series called “The Woodlies”.

Would you be interested, if offered in the future by HiT Entertainment, to be involved with Thomas and Friends again?
Most certainly, if HIT asked me to bring back Mr. Arkwright or do any other character, I would more than happy to consider it.

In 2010, British actor Ben Forster took over as Engine Driver (Mr Perkins) for further Thomas and Friends DVDs, do you think your part has inspired a good actor?
I would have to say that Ben Forster does a wonderful job with Mr. Perkins - I don't know if he looked at any of the Mr. Arkwright bits that I did but I'm sure that all the warmth and charm that he brings to Mr. Perkins comes from his own talent, skill and imagination!

What are your future plans for acting?
My plans are the same as they have always been - to count myself lucky and enjoy every new role that I get and hope that they continue to be as diverse and interesting as they have been so far. Fingers are always crossed that there will be something new and wonderful around every corner.

What has been your greatest achievement in life?
My greatest achievement in life has been my children - they are both actors and somehow they have turned out to be everything I could have wished for: they are more talented, skilled and successful than I have been and, best of all, they are far better human beings. Apart from exposing them to performance at an early age and encouraging them to follow their hearts, they get to take all the credit for all of their achievements. All I've done is watch them and been proud of all they have become.

Finally - Would you like to say anything to your fans that’ve seen your Mr Arkwright segments?
I’d just like to thank them for their interest and hope they enjoyed my contribution.

Driver Mr. Arkwright (Robert G. Slade)


We'd like to once again express our thanks to Robert for sharing his thoughts, and to wish him all our best with his present and upcoming acting projects. At the same time we do hope to see more of Robert's Mr. Arkwright in the future! Fans can learn more about the scope of Robert's work on his website.
 
Fans wishing to see Robert's segments as Mr. Arkwright can still purchase DVDs featuring the character from Amazon - direct links provided below. (Please note that UK links are for NTSC Region-1 imports)

Team Up With Thomas DVD (2009)

Team up with Thomas
available from
Amazon UK and US

Percy and the Bandstand DVD (2009)

Percy and the Bandstand
available from
Amazon UK and US