Welcome Home Sandy! ... continued

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Roger Tonge

Roger wasn't even a professional actor when, working at the Birmingham GPO for 8 a week in 1964, he saw a story in the local press about a new series called Crossroads, concerning a Motel run by two sisters.  He noticed that while everyone else had been cast, no-one had been discovered so far to play Meg's son.
 
"I was in the GPO dramatic society and they hadn't given me a part in two years when I saw this story.  So I cut out the story and went along to ATV.  It was about six o'clock at night and after work.  There were all these beautiful secretaries walking about and I thought, God Almighty, I can't go in there!"
 
But eventually Roger plucked up his courage and presented himself at ATV, to be told that the casting director of Crossroads wasn't interested in seeing him.  Then, as she left the building, she did consent to see him.  "She came out with a script in her hand and said 'What have you done?'  I told her, nothing and she said 'Take this, learn it, and come back tomorrow.'  I thought, 'If I don't like this I won't come back,'"  Only Roger did like it.  He learnt the script and duly reported back to Crossroads.  The rest, as they say, is history.  From the very first episode on November 2nd, 1964, Roger Tonge has played Sandy Richardson.
 
Of course, just because Roger has been in Crossroads for a dozen years, with the exception of a short break in 1967 when Sandy was visiting Canada, it doesn't mean that his role hasn't gone through many changes.  As adolescence progressed Sandy started to have girlfriends, a big development from his teenage frolics.  But then, as now, Sandy was never very lucky in love. 
 
"He hasn't been very lucky, really," says Roger Tonge.  "The last girlfriend but one had a brain tumour, then there was Liz Clarke whom Sandy was going to marry until he had his illness, and now there's Faye Mansfield who seems to be as much of an emotional cripple as he is a physical one.  She doesn't like men touching her and the reason she could relate to Sandy was because he was physically handicapped.  When he gave her a big kiss she had the sock of her life!"
 
Inevitably the greatest change that has come to Sandy Richardson, and thus to Roger Tonge, was the day when it was decided that Sandy should be confined to a wheelchair through illness.  "After the accident, not only was he paralysed and confied to the chair for the rest of his life, but he was also made the Assistant Manager of the Motel.  So, from being this essentially lightweight character - almost a comic figure - suddenly people like David Hunter were actually taking him seriously.  The Head Chef at Harrods even wrote asking for a job in the Crossroads kitchen.  It became almost like playing a different character.  I had to re-think it altogether."   
 
 
But the psychological changes in Sandy are not the only things Roger Tonge has had to contend with.  The pure physical fact of acting from a wheelchair has made an enormous difference to Roger Tonge's Crossroads career.  It has made him, for instance, tremendously sympathetic to the plight of the many unfortunate people who are living in wheelchairs in real life.  Whenever there is a new development in helping paraplegics, Sandy Richardson will invariably be one of those pioneering it.  "Whenever anything new is discovered, we use the show to introduce it to as many people as possible.  For instance, when the new type of calipers replaced the old leg irons, I had a set manufactured specially for me - Cosmetic Calipers they're called - and now I use them during the show." 
    

Welcome Home Sandy! ... continued