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A seaside King of the Strip, oddball B&B owners and an infamous nightclub owner; new comedy series Sandylands is packed with unforgettable characters.
The three-part sitcom follows 27-year-old Emily Verma (Played by newcomer Natalie Dew), who returns to her hometown Sandylands following the disappearance of her father, the self-proclaimed King of the Strip, Les Vegas (Sanjeev Bhaskar).
On her return to the neon-encrusted town, Emily is greeted by a collection of colourful locals, larger than life tour guides and a mysterious investigator who is determined to get to the bottom of Les’s disappearance.
A sunny treat to warm you up in the winter, Sandylands is a bonkers and brilliant treat and below are the cast introducing you to their weird and wonderful characters.
Emily Verma (Natalie Dew)
Emily is at that time of her life where she's trying to figure out what her morals are and who she is as an adult.
She gives off this vibe of ‘I'm living in London and am incredibly worldly’. But there's a touch of arrogance about that. When she comes back home, she's telling people, ‘Have I got stories of London for you! But what's great is that nobody in Sandylands cares. It's wonderful because that brings her straight back down to earth.
She's coming back to deal with the apparent death of her father. That relationship was already quite distant. So, Emily thinks she'll be quite practical and in and out of Sandylands quickly. But when the town starts to pull her back in, any sense of control she had collapses.
When Emily comes back to Sandylands, she finds a sense of comfort that she didn't anticipate. There is so much love for her spilling out from people like her deliciously bonkers neighbours, which she never previously appreciated. She's escaped from Sandylands in order to grow up, but actually all she needed was a good cuddle.
Les Vegas (Sanjeev Bhaskar)
It's quirky in a way that I haven't seen for a long time on TV. The place is populated with oddballs, but it's also very real. It has relationships at its heart. That's what drew me to it.
Les Vegas is flamboyance gone slightly wrong. He represents that notion of old-fashioned grandeur that he hasn't quite earned. He's like someone who buys a doctor's qualifications online or who learns surgery by watching videos. There is something not quite right about him. He's not quite there. But there is an innocence about him, too. He's a sweet guy.
Very much like Les, Sandylands has a faded glory to it. He is a reflection of the town - he's seen better days. And that's one of the reasons why he's never moved away from it. Sandylands is his little kingdom, his little bit of Vegas and of the high life.
Tina Taylor (Harriet Webb)
Tina is the best friend everyone needs, but doesn't necessarily want! When I read the first script, I thought she needed to be warm, fearless and not very self-aware. She gets up to some outrageous things, but in my opinion, just the right amount.
She's a great stooge for Emily. They work brilliantly together. It's a bit of a Saffy and Eddy situation. Over the episodes it’s a joy to see Emily loosening up, but also to see Tina's heart and her genuine love for Emily
I hope Sandylands will give people a warm, fuzzy feeling. That close-knit feeling is something we could all do with more of right now.
I come from a village in the Lake District, and I love the intricacies of that sort of community. Everyone knows everyone, but they're protective of each other as well. That's very special and should be celebrated.
Derek Swallows (David Walliams)
When you get sent a comedy script, your heart often sinks. You think, “I bet this isn't going to be funny.” But this was immediately engrossing. It had great roles with very distinctive characters and a very engaging story. That's what all the best TV has. It makes you want to keep watching. You want audiences to be thinking, "What happens next?" It was a terrific read.
It's a mixture of reality, like Gavin and Stacey, and heightened surrealism. The characters are well drawn. People talk as they do in real life, but it also has this heightened tone, and the seaside setting helps with that.
Derek is an over officious and intrusive owner of a B&B. He has very little sense of irony and virtually no guests. His guesthouse is frozen in time. He's a nosy neighbour and a coward, ultimately. He is one of those men of a certain generation – who are thankfully now dying out – who regard their wife as some sort of servant.
Jeannie Swallows (Sophie Thompson)
One feels that Jeannie and Derek have been together an inordinately long time. A childless couple running a B&B in Sandylands. They are incredibly overly keen, one could say invasive. That's especially true when Emily comes to stay. She's the daughter they never had.
They have a lot of love to give. They’re offering their guests that love - whether or not it's something people want is another matter.
They are local vigilantes. Derek rushes around with a hose protecting the neighbourhood. He’s got a hose and he’s not afraid to use it. Jeannie supports him on every level. She’s the Starsky to his Hutch.
I simply loved working with David. I had worked on one of his projects before, Ratburger, but as is often the way - I didn’t actually work with David on that. Getting to actually collaborate and be his wife was simply a joy for me.
Terry Chino (Craig Parkinson)
When Terry gets introduced as a double act with his wife onto a small stage that he thinks is Wembley Stadium, his first line is, "She's been deported." That tells us so much about the character. When I read that line, I thought, "Yes, I have to get involved with this!”
Terry is quite bitter. At heart, he's a kind man, but he's very disillusioned with what he does for a living. He thinks entertaining a crowd is the equivalent of saving the world.
He thinks he's on a par with Bob Geldof, but he is actually just a mediocre end of the pier entertainer, which, as you can imagine, is a lot of fun to play.
Growing up in Blackpool, I remember seeing those sorts of people all the time at the end of the pier. They thought they were changing the world, but they were just entertaining tourists.
There is great comedy in the fact that Terry takes it so seriously.
Nathan Wild (Simon Bird)
Nathan is probably the most ineffective police officer in the country. He's really not cut out for the force. He's sweet, but definitely not to be trusted with a taser or a pair of handcuffs.
He's a scaredy-cat and whatever the opposite of a ladies' man is. In fact, he's very similar to a lot of other characters I've played! I don’t know what that says about me. Well, I do, but I don’t want to dwell on it. Next question!
There's great potential for more Sandylands. There's a whole world of - I don't want to say weirdos - but weirdos still to explore. It's like Royston Vasey, slightly cut off from the rest of the world. This place is full to the brim with great characters. We've only just scratched the surface.
One-Eyed-Man (Hugh Bonneville)
After the tragic disappearance of Les Vegas, obviously any insurance claim has to be verified. The One Eyed Man is the Investigator.
He's a strange man from another place who comes into town with his telescope to find out what's going on. He has been trained to leave no ‘i’ undotted and no 't' uncrossed. Nothing escapes his notice and he prides himself on being a human lie detector. I particularly enjoyed the air of administrative threat that he brings to his job.
The actor Michael Bates was one of my inspirations when I was a kid. My Mum and Dad knew him. The only actor I think they’d ever met. He lodged with us when he was doing a play at our local theatre in South East London, and I thought he was brilliant and different and interesting. I'd seen a photo of him playing Inspector Truscott in Joe Orton's play Loot in the West End and so I zeroed in on that.
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