Nickelodeon’s Fresh Beat Band

Thomas Hobson always dreamed of being an entertainer. Even as a young child, he was developing putting on little concerts for his parents. Today, he is living the dream as a member of the Fresh Beat Band. Hobson plays “Shout” on Nickelodeon’s live-action preschool music series.

“I’m sure my parents are glad that all the concerts that they had to sit through are paying off now,” he says. “It’s funny because now, they are at every concert that they can be at so apparently they weren’t too scarred by it. It’s what I’ve always wanted even from my youngest moments. I’ve always wanted to entertain people and now I get to do that from this sort of massive scale.”

The Fresh Beat Band performs Aug. 22 at the St. Augustine Amphitheater, the first destination on the 40-stop summer tour. “The great thing about The Fresh Beat Band concert is that it’s a concert,” he says. “A lot of kid’s shows do an episode on stage. For us, it’s like bringing your kid to see a real show. I think the best thing about it is the surprise the parents get at how much fun they are having. Their joy has been factored into our process of putting a show together because our creators are parents and they created something that they wanted to watch with their kids.”

Hobson loves looking out from the stage and seeing the excitement of his fans both big and small. During filming, he is not able to connect with his fans but performing live allows him to enjoy how much joy they are getting from the show.

“For me, that has been the most unexpected part of touring. I didn’t think about that,” he says. “I didn’t think about seeing the audience actually having fun and that sort of validates all of the work that we put in before the concert and all the work that happens to make the concert happen.”

While Hobson gets face time with his fan base, performing live also provides the opportunity for his tiny fans to come face to face with their favorite characters. Hobson says the youngest Fresh Beat Band fans often have trouble processing that “Shout” actually exists outside of their television. That realization usually goes one of two ways.

“It’s so funny. Their reaction runs the gamut from ‘I-love-you-so-much-that-I-am-never-going-to-let-go-of-your-leg” or ‘Oh my gosh, they are real so now I’m going to scream and cry’,” he says. “You have to imagine what their little minds are going through. They might not have even figured out that the TV has real people in it and now we’re standing in front of them. These kids need a second just to process it.”

As a performer, it’s always important to connect with your audience in such a way that is relatable. But when your core fan base still needs help to tie their shoes, the material has to do the majority of the work. As a member of the Fresh Beat Band, Hobson says it was always important for all of the actors that each storyline spoke to the kids in a language they could understand without being condescending.

“I think the material has been great in terms of leading us where we all should go. The four of us have always said from the very first day that we would treat every part of this job like we were doing it for ourselves. Hopefully the parents or the kids would never feel talked down to, like we think this is a waste of our time,” he says. “We sit around and talk about scripts and really try to treat these characters like they are important because they are and not phone it in either with the TV show or the concert. John, who plays Twist, always says that ‘for that kid in that moment, we’re their best friends and all that we can hope to do is live up to the expectations that they brought with them’.”

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Hobson began acting at the age of six. Since that time he has appeared in numerous television shows, films, commercials and plays. His credits include roles in the movies Set Apart and Bar Starz, starring Charlie Murphy, and leading roles in Clubhouse Detectives, Fox Family Channel’s Michael Jordan: An American Hero and Disney’s Movie Surfers. He has also had recurring roles on Step by Step and A Different World. After graduating from high school, Hobson attended Yale University and graduated with a B.A. in Theatre Studies. While attending Yale, he worked in both the undergraduate and graduate theatre programs, playing such roles as Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar, Aaron the Moor in Titus Andronicus, Jon in Stephen Belber’s Tape and Eddie in Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love. 

“When one of my friends first told me about the audition, I said ‘I don’t know. I went to Yale. I studied Shakespeare,” Hobson says. “I didn’t even watch kid’s show when I was a kid. What am I doing? Luckily, my friend told me that I’m an actor that needed a job.”

Playing the role of the leader of a fictional TV band has definitely had its rewards. Hobson continues to build as a performer and is learning to flex some new creative muscles along the way. “The most shocking thing is I can’t think of one skill that I learned in my training growing up and in my college years that has not gotten exponentially better doing this job,” he says. “Just because, you have to use everything. There is not a talent that I have that they haven’t used and there are talents I didn’t even know I had that they introduced me to so I think it’s been quite the crash course. I can actually do anything that I put my mind to.”

Hobson is hard at work proving that point as the Fresh Beat Band makes the transition from live action show to the animated cartoon Fresh Beat Band of Spies that will air sometime in 2015. Making the jump from actor to voice over artist has proven to be a liberating experience for Hobson. He is able to enjoy certain freedoms doing voice work that’s unavailable while filming the original show. “When we filmed, we filmed 12-16 hours a day. With the cartoon, the workload is so much lighter and I can show up in sweatpants. It’s great,” he says. “It’s definitely a new arena for me and all the actors we are working with are phenomenal so if you’ve got to learn how to do something, you’re learning from the best there is.”

Fresh Beat Band of Spies is part modern day Charlie’s Angels with a Scooby Doo element of mystery solving each week. “We use our band skills and apply them to solving mysteries as well singing and dancing,” he says. “I thought the scope of the TV show was really grand. I didn’t know how we were able to pull off these grand sequences but with the cartoon, since you don’t have to physically do it, they were able to amp it up even more. I hope people enjoy it as much as we are.”

About Liza Mitchell