Actor Tom Coulston's journey from Sheffield gym to the silver screen

Tom Coulston
Tom Coulston
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Tom Coulston's acting CV reads like a roll call of the most acclaimed British films and television series of recent years - Bond movie Skyfall, Alan Bennett's The Lady In The Van and BBC sitcom Motherland among them.

But now the Sheffield-born actor, who swapped a career as a personal trainer and boxercise instructor for a life in drama, has completed his biggest role yet.

Tom Coulston, left, in Motherland. Picture: BBC

Tom Coulston, left, in Motherland. Picture: BBC

Teefa in Trouble, a 'romantic action comedy', was shot in Lahore and Poland, and stars some of the biggest names in Lollywood, the oldest film industry of Pakistan.

Tom, aged 33, plays an important character called Andy, and hopes his part could be a springboard to even bigger things.

The movie is scheduled for release this summer and is the directorial debut of Ahsan Rahim, previously known for producing music videos and TV commercials. Tom was introduced to him through a former client, and was soon flying out to Pakistan to begin work on set.

"It was filmed back to front," said Tom. "I did a scene where I was meeting the love interest for the first time, with about 30 extras in the background. I did the scene, walked away and got a round of applause. I'd never had that before. This, for me, was confirmation of the fact I was in the right place, doing the right thing."

Alex Jennings as Alan Bennett and Maggie Smith as Miss Shepherd in The Lady In The Van. Picture: BBC Films

Alex Jennings as Alan Bennett and Maggie Smith as Miss Shepherd in The Lady In The Van. Picture: BBC Films

Teefa in Trouble stars Ali Zafar - "He's like the Tom Cruise of Lollywood, he does all his own stunts" - and actress Maya Ali, who is also 'really huge out there', Tom said. Little is known about the plot, but the producers promise a story 'designed to entertain from the very beginning... we hope you laugh, but we'd also like you to shed a tear and feel the emotions'.

Tom grew up in Greenhill and was a pupil at Meadowhead School. He was a keen footballer, playing for the Junior Blades, and went to Norton College, where he studied sports science. He then took a job in the gym at what was the Sheffield Park Hotel - around the same time, he started to dabble in modelling, and secured a transfer to London where his employer had bought a new hotel.

His interest in acting began in 2012; he was an extra in Skyfall, Daniel Craig's third Bond movie, released the same year. "It was certainly an introduction. I thought I'd like to give it a go."

Two years later Tom was made redundant and began taking acting lessons in the capital with Michael John Gonzales, a tutor who is normally based in Los Angeles.

A detail from Teefa in Trouble's poster. Picture: Lightingale

A detail from Teefa in Trouble's poster. Picture: Lightingale

"He's quite under the radar, not a lot of people know about him but he's got quite a lot of clients," he said. Gonzales moved back to the States last year, but he and Tom keep in touch via Skype.

In 2013 Tom was cast in Top Dog, a crime drama directed by Martin Kemp of Spandau Ballet and Eastenders fame. "I turned up on the day, went through my lines with Martin - I didn't do anything special - and he said 'I just want you to do it like that'. From then I had little bits and pieces."

He appeared in Motherland, playing a disgruntled parent in an auction scene, and had a part as another father in the most recent series of Man Down, the Channel 4 sitcom created by and starring comedian Greg Davies.

"It was amazing. I really felt part of the team which was nice," said Tom. "Motherland was from a simple self-take and I got the job. It took a couple of days to film."

Tom Coulston with Greg Davies in Man Down. Picture: Channel 4

Tom Coulston with Greg Davies in Man Down. Picture: Channel 4

The Lady In The Van - adapted by Leeds writer Alan Bennett from his stage play about an eccentric woman who lived on his driveway in Camden for years - was especially memorable.

"I played a mourner - Alan Bennett's character is a gay guy and it's the funeral of Maggie Smith's character, Miss Shepherd. He's standing at her grave and glances over to me, and gives me a bit of a smile, so Miss Shepherd says 'You should be thinking about me, not eyeing up the talent'."

A role in 100 Balfour Road - about the controversial British pledge in 1917 to establish a ‘Jewish national home’ in Palestine - and work as an extra on Mission: Impossible 5 have also kept him busy, but Teefa in Trouble represents a breakthrough.

"It's definitely my biggest role, I would say, to date," he said. "I was happy working in the gym in the hotel, I was just ticking along and when I got made redundant for some reason I got the feeling something needed to happen. I might have settled for what I was doing. But I threw myself into acting and thankfully it's paid off nicely."

Tom lives in Ealing, but often returns to Sheffield, and was back only last weekend visiting family.

"I would love to get a little stint in Emmerdale, being a Yorkshire lad. My overall dream would be to do America."

Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall. Picture: Eon

Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall. Picture: Eon