Cult Faction got the chance to chat with Tony Sands the actor behind everyone’s favourite Victorian kitchen boy Tom (short for Edward) from the legendary children’s television series Moondial.
What has Tony been up to since Moondial? Find out below…
You trained at Anna Scher’s Theatre in Islington under the tutelage of Anna herself and Charles Verrall. What was it like training there?
There was a great atmosphere there, Anna and Charles are wonderfully intuitive and intelligent people. I learnt a lot there, gained a lot of confidence in my abilities and as a young person. I honestly can’t speak highly enough of them. If you look at their track record of developing talent, I think that speaks for itself.
Did you feel any pressure due to their past alumni?
Perhaps, in the past. But, there’s no point, is there? An incredible amount of talent walked through their doors and I was lucky enough to spend time with and get to know a few of them. You can’t measure your own life by the achievements of others. We each have our own paths and we each find happiness and success in our own ways.
Did you meet any along the way?
I knew a few, I won’t drop any names though hehe.
Any stories from your time there?
I cant actually think of any that stand out. In the main it was a hugely positive experience for me. Met good, talented, people and it helped shape me into who I am today.
In 1988 you got the role of Tom in Moondial. How did this come about?
It was my 3rd ever audition and Colin Cant, the director, luckily saw something in me that he liked.
What did you think when you read the script?
I was young when I made it. It was a great story, not sure I entirely understood it, but, it was good. Helen was a really nice lady too.
How did you get on with the rest of the cast:
Very friendly cast. We all got on really well. I’d say the same of the crew. It was a very happy experience. I was a young kid living out my dream.
What was it like filming at Belton House? Rumour has it there were some filming restrictions due to it being a National Trust site?
If there were restrictions I knew nothing about them. It’s a beautiful place, Belton House. Very cool location. Colin and the crew did a brilliant job there.
Moondial was not like a lot of kids shows at the time, it left some loose ends and let you interpret what had happened. What was your view on the plot of the show?
I think it’s nice to leave some ambiguity there, you should never treat your audience as fools and I feel ‘Moondial’ was a little daring in its approach. It was pretty dark and moody. It’s themes weren’t exactly bright, the kids were all damaged in some way. But, I like a little darkness in storytelling. I don’t think kids need to be pampered. We like a few frights here and there.
Any stories from the set?
Wish I could pull out a few for you, but nothing springs to mind really.
We were due to film on the day of the great storm in 1987. We attempted to shoot a bit, but the tail of the storm defeated us. I remember waking up that morning and seeing all the devastation in London on the news. That was pretty surreal.
Following Moondial you made appearances on The Bill and London’s Burning. How did it feel moving from what was perceived as a kids show to more “mature” programmes?
I was always just happy to get work, whether it was kids, mature, radio, tv or film. I just enjoyed acting. I never really thought about the age group it would be watched by.
Later you made a couple of appearances in Eastenders. What was that like?
That was cool. It was hectic, but good fun. Nice group of people there.
Being such a flag ship show for the BBC did you find any differences in your preparation for it?
No, I just treated it like any other job. You always want to give your best, whatever the job/role is or whomever you’re working for.
In the early 1990’s you popped on the big screen in The Krays and Let Him Have It. Both films are based on real events. Was this a factor in you accepting the roles?
None at all. I was lucky enough to snag a role in The Krays after auditioning for a completely different part. Peter Medak even told me he felt the part he was seeing me for wasn’t suited to me. However, he found another role for me. Then he invited me back for ‘Let Him Have It’. Really nice guy, very good director.
Let Him Have It in particular drew attention to a case long forgotten in the UK. What are your views on it?
Ah, I dunno. I think the film represented the story incredibly well. Who knows what truly happened, but it does seem like an injustice was done.
Was preparing for a film role different from your TV experiences?
Again, not really. You turn up, you give it you’re best. Take onboard what the director would like and take it from there.
You later took a break from acting and worked extensively in Special Needs education, what led you to make that decision?
The acting thing was the result of a number of things that happened. I won’t go into it, but not all of it was by choice. I’m not complaining as it took me on a different path and I ended up working in an area I never expected to find myself.
Did you work in a specific area?
Profound physical and severe learning disabilities mainly and also autism and moderate learning disabilities.
Your work led to you co-founding STEP (www.stepfootball.co.uk) a football Charity for adults with Learning Disabilities in 2004. What led you to forming STEP?
I’ll try and keep it short. I was working with a young lad who was leaving school. He has severe learning disabilities, but is quite emotionally aware and just a really lovely guy. Anyway, he was very worried about leaving, really didn’t want to. He’s a huge football fan so I thought I’d reach out to the London FA to find a team for him, thinking that if he had a football team to train and play with his transition from to school to college would be easier for him. There were no suitable teams for him which basically saw me opting to set up STEP. Had some great support to enable me to achieve that and here we still are in 2017. I’ve loved it too. We have met some of the most beautiful people you could wish to meet. It’s all voluntary and one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life.
STEP is still going strong today, how does it feel when you look back at everything STEP has done?
I hope we have changed lives for the better, I think we have. I’d like to think we’ll continue to do so for many years to come. It’s not just about football, it’s about building confidence, self esteem and the ability to work together to achieve together.
In 2014 you re-emerged as a writer and director, is acting in the past now?
I still take on the occasional role, but I don’t actively seek acting parts. I’ve acted in a couple of projects in the past few months, one with a lady called Barbara Tochi in a short she wrote and directed. That’s more as a pitch for a feature she hopes to get made. She’s talented, so there’s no reason it can’t happen. Before that I played a role in ‘Echoes of The Passed which I also scripted. That was directed by a guy called Scott Lyus. Really talented fella and a good friend now.
What differences did you encounter on the other side of the camera?
Writing is far more fun, no pressure on remembering lines!
Tell me about the Whisper of Elderon…
That came about through a guy called Terry Marriott. He had a feature script called ‘Elderon’ which he was looking for a writer to help with. I was introduced to him by writer/director Mary Mullan. I did my bit on the script, mainly rewriting dialogue and refining characters, then the idea to expand the universe by making shirts came up so I penned a few of them. Terry then made a couple in Vancouver, Canada where he’s now based.
What else have you been working on?
I’ve got three scripts currently in post production. ‘The Clean Up’ which stars myself and Mac McFadden, ‘The Bench’ and ‘Echoes of The Passed’.
Also I host a talk show called ‘Hanging With’ which is geared towards talent within the indie horror scene and I chair a panel quiz called ‘What’s The Bloody Question?’
Looking back now how do you feel about being remembered as “Tom from Moondial?”
Oh, I love it. It’s nice to be remembered in a positive light.
Why do you think Moondial is remembered and reshown so much when other shows have faded away?
I’d like to say because of the outstanding performances! It’s a series that took risks and was lovingly made, that’s probably the real reason. Saying that, there was talent in front of the camera too. Maybe, not mine, but everyone else was great!!
What is next for you?
I’m continuing with ‘Hanging With’ and ‘What’s The Bloody Question?’. We’ll be looking at getting the films I mentioned screened at festivals etc. I’m working on a feature script that I’d love to see get made and my ‘Hanging With’ production partner, Ivan Troopa is working on another project at the moment which could prove to be very exciting. I won’t say anything about that just yet.
You can visit Tony’s Sands Official Website HERE.