The Crowded Room Tom Holland Myra Ali

Myra Ali – a tribute

Myra Ali – a tribute

Her inspirational life and career

We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Myra Ali. She was a hugely talented journalist, who fought her challenges with EB so bravely. Myra is an inspiration to us all.

Here is one of her interviews she did for us, with her characteristic charm, humour and tenacity.


Playing Danny Sullivan in The Crowded House was something of a departure for an actor best known for his boy-next-door charm in Spider-Man. But Tom Holland has certainly risen to the challenge. His new series, in which he has also worked as executive producer, is compelling and dark – and Tom is excellent in the lead role.

In the new Apple TV+ drama, Tom plays a man who is arrested after a shooting in New York in 1979. The story is based on the book The Minds of Billy Milligan by Daniel Keyes, which covers the incredible true case of William Stanley ‘Billy’ Milligan.

The 10-part series, which start 9 June, is told through a range of interviews with interrogator Rya Goodwin (Amanda Seyfried) and flashbacks to Danny’s past where we are given more insights into his mysterious life.

So, how did Tom find the experience of taking on the role? He tells us: “I’m always looking for a challenge with my work – I always ask if a project will stretch me as an actor and as a person. The Crowded Room was arguably the biggest challenge I’ve had to date. I was really excited to take it on. Yes, it is a much darker role, and a much more mature role than anything I’ve done in the past. But I am so happy with how it has panned out. It has been an amazing experience.”

When an actor takes on such a powerful character, it must surely impact them in some way – Tom says: “It’s an interesting one. I try not to let it affect my personal life but sometimes it is just impossible to not have it bleed into your home life.”

“I’m very new to television and having made films for the majority of my career I’m used to working on a character for four months, maximum. With The Crowded Room we were 10 months into the shoot and I felt the parallels between me and Danny blurring at times.”

It didn’t help that he had to take on a new look for the role, growing his hair long. “I had this crazy haircut and I would look into the mirror and see Danny in myself and it was a really crazy dynamic. As time went on I got more used to it but as soon as the show had wrapped I cut my hair immediately and I felt great again. It was good to get back to my normal life.”

He says the impact it has had on him has more to do with the process of making the show than the actual character of Danny. “I have learnt a lot about myself in terms of what I can put up with and my capabilities as an actor. And about things that set me off, and down the paths I perhaps should be avoiding.”

In the series, we see Danny in high school. What was Tom like at school? “I was quite a fun kid during primary and had lots of friends. When I started working and went away and then came back to school I wouldn’t have said I was a particularly popular kid. That was something I related to with Danny. Not to the full extent obviously… but being a quieter kid at school, who didn’t necessarily fit in… I really enjoy those aspects of Danny in that he is so vulnerable and so empathetic while also being so dangerous and having this true dark side within.”

Tom also explored a dark character in Cherry, playing an Iraq War veteran. Our reviewer Ben Peyton wrote: ‘In Cherry Tom Holland is exceptional. Showcasing an intense vulnerability, wreaking of desperation and with an arrogant, reckless contempt for his life and those closest to him, his character’s descent into addiction is a compelling watch.’

Says Tom: “I wouldn’t say I’m seeking out roles that explore this darker subject matter. They just seem to find me – which is ironic as I am quite an optimistic, happy-go-lucky person.”

He says his next role is a happier one – playing dance legend Fred Astaire, and Tom will be ‘tapping’ in to his dance training.

The star, who grew up in Kingston Upon Thames, started out dancing aged seven, taking a hip hop dance class at Nifty Feet in Wimbledon. He was later noticed by Billy Elliot talent scouts when the group appeared at Richmond Dance Festival, who thought he had the potential to audition and so began his training in other forms of dance – he would head to his school gym at lunchtimes (he attended Donhead in Wimbledon) to practice ballet. He went on to Wimbledon College before going to Croydon’s famous BRIT School For Performing Arts.

Tom was just 12 when he hit the stage in the West End production of Billy Elliot. He first played ballet-loving Billy’s best friend Michael before taking on the lead role. Tom’s early roles included the TV series Wolf Hall where he played Thomas Cromwell’s son and The Impossible, which centred on a family caught up in the Indian Ocean tsunami. Time & Leisure interviewed Tom back in 2008 when he was first starting out – read it here.

Tom has three brothers, twins Sam and Harry, and Paddy. His mother is photographer Nikki Holland (check out the video on her Instagram of Tom as a toddler dancing! The post is ‘liked’ by Tom’s girlfriend Zendaya), his father is the comedian Dominic Holland. They live locally.

At just 27, Tom has achieved a lot. While The Crowded Room has seen him dig deep for the dark role, he has relished it.  “As a young kid there were a handful of films where I thought I would love to achieve what a particular actor has achieved. With The Crowded Room that definitely ticked a lot of boxes for me. When I first sat down with our showrunner, we talked about the responsibilities of telling this story, the hardships of this character, the pressures we’d be under to make it authentic. It was all music to my ears. I’m so proud of what everyone has achieved with this project.”