Marsha Thomason on joining 'The Bay' as new lead cop DS Jenn Townsend

The Bay
(Image credit: ITV)

The first two series of atmospheric, Morecambe set crime drama The Bay followed the turbulent work and home lives of Family Liaison Officer Lisa Armstrong (Morven Christie), as she supported two traumatized families during police investigations into a pair of missing twins, and a solicitor killed on his own doorstep.

As the show returns for The Bay season 3, Lisa has moved away and her replacement, DS Jenn Townsend (Marsha Thomason) has arrived in town with her two children, ready to start a new life.

But before she has time to catch her breath, it’s in at the deep end as the body of promising young boxer Saif Rahman is found in Morecambe Bay. 

Despatched by boss DI Manning (Daniel Ryan) to look after the bereaved family with colleague DS Karen Hobson (Erin Shanagher), the apparently confident Jenn is still dealing with past trauma, and facing family challenges of her own as she moves in with a new partner and his rebellious teenage daughter. 

We caught up with new recruit Marsha Thomason, a Mancunian actress who appeared in Pie in the Sky and Where the Heart Is before crossing the Atlantic to work on US series including Lost and Las Vegas, to find out more... 

The Bay

DS Jenn Townsend (Marsha Thomason) investigates the death of young boxer Saif in series three of 'The Bay' (Image credit: ITV)

Marsha, had you watched The Bay before you joined the cast?

"Yes! When the first series launched in 2019, I was back in England shooting the first series of [Sky One drama] Cobra, and I watched it and loved it. So I was familiar with the world of The Bay, and excited when I was given the opportunity to audition."

How did you feel about taking over the lead role? 

"This is the best role I've ever played! It gave me the opportunity to be in almost every scene, and to follow Jen in her work life and personal life. I’ve been doing this job for a very long time, and I've never been the lead in anything! So I was ready for this challenge and opportunity."

Did you do much research for the role? 

"It intrigued me. I had an understanding from watching the series of what the work of a Family Liaison Officer entails. I did some research online, and I talked to Dan Ryan [who plays Jenn’s boss DI Manning], who I worked with on BBC crime drama Messiah many moons ago, as well."  

The Bay

Jenn Townsend (Marsha Thomason) is the new recruit on the Morecambe police team of DI Manning (Daniel Ryan, second from left). (Image credit: ITV)

What was it like coming into an established show?

"Well, it's funny because my life was mirroring Jenn's, as I was joining an established team, and I was nervous. But they were all so welcoming, and even before my first day of filming we had a WhatsApp group called ‘Bay cops’! There were first-day nerves, for sure, but once we got the ball rolling, I felt like I'd always been there."

What can you tell us about Jenn’s first day on the job? 

"It starts with a car accident, and then she’s straight into a case, so it's a lot to deal with. She's lost confidence in her ability as, even though she's good at her job, she's in a bit of a crisis when we meet her." 

What makes Jenn a good FLO? 

"She doesn't have to think too hard about the job, as it comes naturally to her and she's very empathetic. She’s found her calling, and she cares about the families and wins their trust, which cannot be easy in these circumstances." 

Could you do the work of a FLO? 

"I honestly don't know. I think I would just be burned out after one case! I don't know how they do it, and the work they do is really incredible."

Are there any similarities between you and Jenn? 

"We’re very similar in certain ways as I'm very empathetic, and I care about people and their stories. Like Jenn, I’m from Manchester, and I haven’t lost my accent in all this time!" 

Where and when can I watch ‘The Bay’?

Series one and two, starring Morven Christie as Lisa Armstrong, are available on the ITV Hub.

Series three, starring Marsha Thomason as Jenn Townsend, will broadcast on ITV HD from Wednesday 12 Jan. 2022. We don't currently have a US broadcast date.

Ian MacEwan
Senior Writer

Ian writes about TV and film for TV Times, What’s on TV and TV & Satellite Week magazines. He co-hosts the weekly TV streaming podcast, Bingewatch.