The Buffy star who loves our county
- Credit: Archant
WORDS: SHAUN CURRAN
Anthony Head has had a hugely successful acting career on both sides of the Atlantic, but Somerset is the only place he calls home. The star of cult TV hit Buffy the Vampire Slayer talks to Somerset Life about his love of the region.
Actor Anthony Head is well known, both on-screen and off, as a charming, traditional English gent, so it is no surprise that the actor has forged such a close connection with the Somerset region.
He’s battled legions of bloodthirsty vampires across the ‘Pond’ in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and fought off the amorous advances of David Walliams in Little Britain, but regardless of what twists and turns his career has offered, he has always found a safe haven in Somerset.
“It has the most beautiful countryside and it’s one of the most beautiful counties in England,” he says. “It doesn’t matter if it’s raining – ok, maybe after too much rain it gets a bit muddy, which can get be a bit tedious – but Somerset basically loves all types of weather. And there’s something about the Mendips, the rolling Mendips,” he sighs, “that are just stunning; there’s a real sense of peace.”
During the mid 1990s, at the end of the long return trips to America, Anthony undertook to film Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the familiarity of home served as a comfort blanket. “When I used to come back from Los Angeles fairly regularly, there would be a point where we’d come off the M4 and we’d be on the A46 and I would just wind down my window and breathe in the Somerset air. Not that he spends his time in Somerset idly. Several years ago, the family purchased Tilley Farm in Farnborough near Bath, a 96-acre farm that hosts classes, teachings and events. It houses ponies, horses and donkeys and keeps the family’s hands busy (and very dirty). “We’ve had a farm there for about six years and it’s the centre of my partner Sarah’s work; she works with animals. She teaches, rides and sees clients there. We have about a dozen horses and a few donkeys. We bought the farm with some money that was left to us by a dear friend of Sarah’s who died a while back. So we wanted to use the money for something constructive.”
Activity at the stables means that even when Anthony fancies some peace and quiet, he still finds himself being lured into working during his downtime.
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“That happened to me after the recent Comic-Con. I was on my way home and the driver said very sweetly ‘well Mr Head, you’re going to spend a couple of days putting your feet up and getting over the jetlag’. But that afternoon I was down the stables mucking out the donkeys. Because actors do need to be grounded. We need to shift the odd pile of poo just to remember who we are.” He starts to laugh. “Because otherwise, it is easy for you to get caught up in the ‘la la’ ways.”
Affable and good-humoured, the 52-year-old has recently taken on some much darker roles, including David Whele in sci-fi drama Dominion and voicing Flash in The Unbeatables. Speaking to him, he seems far too nice to play the bad guy.
“I do seem to be playing a few baddies at the moment,” he laughs. “What I normally try to do to enrich the role is think about why he’s bad, what makes him bad and what drives him. Because no one really gets out of bed and thinks ‘I’m going to be bad today’; it’s something that people become and there’s a reason they become that way. Nothing is that that black and white.”
Like the majority of Anthony’s work, though, his recent dramatic output should appeal to all different age groups. With the exception of Little Britain, which could be infamously and unremittingly coarse, the likes of Merlin were shows that could be enjoyed by the whole family.
“I do like that, I like the idea of the whole family sitting down to watch a programme. Merlin was like that; it was truly a family show. Everybody who comes up to me says they loved watching that show, and I especially loved that I could sit down with my kids and watch it, and I see stuff that the kids don’t. It’s just the best.
“And that’s the success of the shows like that. Even Buffy had that as well. I used to have men in their 40s come up to me and tell me that they watched Buffy but not to tell anyone because they were embarrassed by it. But I used to tell them there was nothing to be embarrassed by. It was a show for everyone.”
Anthony’s appetite for producing family-orientated TV is an obvious extension of the stock he puts in his own family life.
In the past, he has expressed regret that he missed such a significant portion of his daughters’ childhoods during the eight years he spent back and forth filming Buffy. Now grown up, Emily and Daisy are both actresses and can count on him for full support. That wasn’t always his attitude, however.
“I made little noises when my daughters first said they wanted to do it. My partner said ‘back in your box!’. The bottom line is, who knows what they want to be when they’re 25, they may want to be an actress or they might not. But you can be absolutely sure that when they’re 40 or 50 and they suddenly regret not having done it, you will be the person who gets it in the neck. All I can do is support them, which I will.”
But while his family values are a vital part of who he is, don’t expect Anthony to swap life in front of the camera for full-time life on the farm any time soon.
“I could give it all up but the thing about acting for me is that I’m extremely fortunate to do what I do, but I do it because I’m passionate about it, I love it. And I think if that was missing from my life I might get a bit boring.”
If there’s one thing for sure, his acting career will continue to be anything but.