Erik Thomson arrived in New Zealand from his native Scotland at the age of seven, and set about adapting to his new home. Thomson's teacher often got pupils to sample plays from the School Journal, with each child reading out a part. "I used to love getting to that time of the day and the whole acting and drama thing made me comfortable and allowed me to feel accepted into a new place and culture. I just carried on doing it."
Thomson studied Drama and English Literature at Victoria University, graduating from the NZ Drama School in 1990. Though he worked prolifically in theatre, Thomson was most recognised in this period for a series of ASB bank advertisements in which he played husband to Lucy Lawless and father to Stanley.
Thomson's first experience of television involved spilling a glass of champagne during a big crowd scene for 90s resort drama Marlin Bay. He had won a small but recurring role as a waiter. Later he played an American GI in acclaimed Sonja Davies biographical drama Bread and Roses, a policeman in Plainclothes, and small parts in forgotten surf and crime show High Tide.
Thanks to legendary casting director Diana Rowan, Thomson appeared in an early episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. This led to an invitation to play Hades on Hercules episode The Other Side, during the show's second season. Thomson bought a "neurotic Woody Allen" interpretation to the overworked God of the underworld, both on Hercules and spin-off show Xena: Warrior Princess. His Hades appearances began to reduce in 1996, after he won a role in Australian glitz and sand soap Pacific Drive, a show Thomson admits taking partly because the Gold Coast location was "a surfer's paradise".
Pacific Drive marked the first of many Australian TV projects for Thomson. The role which won him wider notice was that of doctor 'Mitch' Stevens in long-running medical drama All Saints. Thomson also headlined as a former rock singer in The Alice and hosted a season of travel show Getaway. The time away from acting made him realise what he missed; that acting is what makes him "tick".
In 2004 Thomson began adding further feature films into his screenography, spearheaded by an impressively understated performance in acclaimed coming of age story Somersault, the breakout film for young Australian actor Abbie Cornish. Thomson won an Australian Film Institute best supporting actor award for his role, as older family friend to Sam Worthington's character, who has Cornish (and possibly Thomson) in his sights. Thomson was nominated in the same category four years later for drama The Black Balloon, another AFI award-winner for film, direction and script. This time he played soldier father to the main character.
In 2007 Thomson returned to New Zealand to star in SPP feature We're Here to Help, recreating Christchurch property developer Dave Henderson's battle with the tax department. Lumiere reviewer Simon Sweetman praised the "superb" casting, and Thomson's NZ Film Award-nominated performance for expressing "a playfulness, a cheekiness that could be hiding something".
Thomson is currently appearing in hit Australian family drama/comedy Packed to the Rafters. The show debuted in 2008 and continues to draw large audiences in Australia. Thomson's character of father Dave Rafter is "an everyman suburban bloke", familiar to the actor from his own Tauranga upbringing.