5 Questions: Jim Thomas, news anchor and actor

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comNovember 24, 2013 

You have had a couple of pretty interesting jobs — television news anchor and actor. Which one is more difficult?

Definitely television news anchor. The anchor is the final gatekeeper between the information gatherers and the viewer. You must regard your job as a solemn responsibility to present information correctly in an unbiased fashion.

The pressure to avoid mistakes in live television is enormous. Trusting others to write what you say on air is a form of Russian roulette. A good anchor will write as much of what he reads on the air as is humanly possible.

Then there is the daily production grind. Basically you are playing "Beat the Clock" … writing, checking facts, grammar, pronunciation and creating from scratch a succession of brand new programs several times a day, five days a week.

When the clock hits 6 or 11, you must be there and be ready, no excuses accepted. Then, there is the political pressure within the organization. Because the anchor is the face of the organizational pyramid, lots of people envy your position and will do anything to take you down. Extremely cut-throat profession. Not a place to make friends. I survived for more than 20 years, but it was a battleeach and every day.

Add to that the ludicrously inept methods of measuring public opinion of your work through "Ratings Sweeps" and the mostly inane input of self-annointed "News Consultants" and the whole thing becomes a circus.

I would not recommend it as a career.

Having worked as a news anchor in Columbus and Los Angeles, what is the current state of television news in Columbus?

I don't really have the time to spend watching local news so I cannot venture a truly educated opinion. However, I will say the on-camera talent and news programming on Channel 38 often catches my attention.

On occasion, I have sampled what they are doing and I must say that whoever is running things over there really appears to know what they are doing. Very innovative for this market.

The state of Georgia has offered a lot of financial and tax-break incentives to studios to film in the state. Has that created more work in Georgia for you?

Oh yes. And we've only just begun. Major studios are now under construction in Atlanta, Savannah and Fayetteville. The one in Fayetteville, called Pinewood, is being partially financed by Columbus-based Synovus.

Georgia is already ranked among the top five states in the nation for television and film production. Three hundred and thirty-three productions were completed in 2012 and the number is expected to be much higher at the end of 2013, moving Georgia into the No. 3 position and generating billions of dollars.

I have been considered for roles in major television productions such as Homeland, Army Wives, Teen Wolf, Vampire Diaries, The Originals, Revolution and major films such as 42, Hunger Games, Iron Man 3 and many others. And that's not counting the slew of lower budget independent productions that are being shot all over the state. The new trend in programming is episodic Web Series of which there are at least 10 in production in Atlanta right now.

What is the most interesting role you have played?

I can tell you that in the past year I have played a murderous Russian mobster, a science fiction writer who is killed while encountering an alien from another planet, a shady chop shop mechanic who fences strange and unusual stolen property, a father who is heartbroken over the drug overdose death of his son and a wildly sinful small town preacher who ends up getting what he deserves. I'm also appearing on Atlanta television right now in a comic commercial for the South's largest Ford dealer, Allan Vigil Ford as a shady automobile sales manager. They're all interesting and great fun.

What is the best kept secret in the Chattahoochee Valley?

Probably that our forward-thinking Mayor Teresa Tomlinson has directed the Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau to become proactive in attracting lucrative film and television production to our area. Peter Bowden and Shelby Guest of the bureau are hard at work right now making it happen.


Name: James Edward Thomas

Age: 60

Job: Actor/Voice-over talent

Hometown: Sharon, Pa.

Current home: Hamilton, Ga.

Family: Melissa, my wife. Louise Thomas, my mother-in-law. Ken Thomas Jr., my brother in law. (Yes, Melissa didn't have to change her last name when she married me.)

Education: B.A., University of Georgia

Favorite book: "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich," William L. Shirer

Favorite movie: Tie between "Caddyshack" and "The Wizard of Oz"

Favorite restaurant: The River Café, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Favorite quote: "If I'd known I was gonna live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself." — Micky Mantle

Best concert attended: The Moody Blues outdoors at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.

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