Interview: Anthony Head, actor and patron of Secret World Wildlife Rescue

Anthony and Sarah at Secret World

Anthony and Sarah at Secret World - Credit: Archant

The actor Anthony Head talks to Bernard Bale about his love of animals and wildlife, and the countryside around his Somerset home

As well as acting, Somerset’s Anthony Head has a passion for animals which is why he is a patron of the county’s Secret World Wildlife Rescue centre.

“I don’t think we can do too much for our wildlife, especially here in Somerset and Secret World is quite amazing,” he says. “Their whole ethos of rescue, rehabilitate and release could not be better. These are genuine people doing something real for our wildlife. That is their prime interest and I am very happy and proud to be a part of that as a patron. They deserve all the support we can give them.”

A little while ago Anthony and his partner Sarah Fisher, who is also a patron of Secret World, were announced as ambassadors for Battersea Dogs & Cats Home and he could not have been more delighted.

“It’s an honour to be named as an official Ambassador for Battersea,” he says. “I’ve taken pride in working with the charity for many years and Sarah and I have had many Battersea dogs come through our doors. Rescuing an animal in need brings you so much joy.

As well as supporting many animal and other charities they also are great champions of Somerset.

“Somerset simply has to be one of the most beautiful counties in England. It has the most invigorating country air and such wonderful places to walk and admire – and not just for humans. Dogs love it too – there are so many great places to explore and so many pleasant aromas to sniff. Dogs read smells like we read the newspapers and there is a lot of great things going on in Somerset.”

Anthony’s rise to fame began – as he is constantly reminded – when he appeared alongside Sharon Maughan in a series of Gold Blend coffee adverts. There was instant fame but since then he has become one of our busiest actors and in demand on both sides of the Atlantic.

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“I think I was destined to become an actor near enough all my life,” he says. “My mother was an actress and actually appeared as Madame Maigret in the original TV series which starred Rupert Davies. The older brother Murray went into acting too. My father was a documentary film director. I must have inherited something because I loved getting into costume from a very early age and wanted to be in every school drama that was being produced.

“Having parents in the industry though was not a door opener, in fact they both basically told me that it would be a good idea to have a second career going as acting was not the most stable of occupations.”

It would be easy to say that the rest is history and an ongoing history at that. Anthony became a big star in America and around the world when he had a major role in the Buffy The Vampire Slayer TV series.

His list of credits is long and very varied both on stage and on screen. He even appeared as Captain Hook for a children’s party in Buckingham Palace.

Away from the bright lights and cameras though Anthony Head is a very down-to-earth kind of guy who likes nothing better than to be at home at Tilley Farm in Farnborough near Bath. It is his haven although it was used for filming some episodes of Buffy.

“The whole family shares a love of animals,” Anthony reveals. “Sarah is a well-known TTouch instructor and behaviour counsellor. She has worked with animals for over 17 years and teaches staff workshops for many of the UK’s top animal shelters including Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, the Mayhew Animal Home, Blue Cross, Wood Green Animal Shelter and Dogs Trust working with their long stay dogs and other animals with behavioural issues. Sarah also fosters challenging puppies for Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and assesses dogs for court cases.

“So we are a close family with the same passions for animals and especially dogs. While I was filming Buffy I lived in Los Angeles for five years, while Sarah and the girls – Daisy was four and Emily was six at the time – stayed in England. I’d try to go home to them every three or four weeks. It was great to be home and I used to take over from Sarah, take the girls to school and do as much as I could before I had to go back. While I was away I missed my family terribly and I owe an enormous amount to Sarah who encouraged me to go for it and said she would hold the fort at home. “We have rescue dogs as well as ponies and other animals. They are a big part of the family. I do my share of mucking out and all that sort of stuff and I love it. Just being out in the Somerset air makes you come alive again even at the end of a long day’s filming.

“There are many great towns and restaurants in the county as well as such a varied terrain and coastline – wonderful.”

Anthony does have strong views on people buying animals as pets.

“It’s great to have animals around, they are fun and loyal and they don’t know you as anything more than part of the family. It doesn’t matter to them if you are on television or head up a major company. They do have specific needs though. I have seen people looking at puppies in a shop and feeling motivated to buy one. I know they are hard to resist but many of those puppies will grow up to find themselves at best in an animal shelter. Basically if you don’t think you can do your best for them and give them a nice life, don’t take them on in the first place.

“Dogs are quite unique and have lived, worked and played alongside humans since we all began. They have so much to offer and they want to give. Some have not had a very fair deal in life, so taking in a rescue dog and giving it a new lease of life and happiness is one of the greatest things anyone can do. The rewards are beyond description. In a sense we owe it to all animals to take care of them and when you do and your dog looks you in the eye and gives you that amazing smile, it makes it all worthwhile.

For more information, visit the Secret World Wildlife Rescue website.