Dad's pride in his two TV star daughters

Dad's pride in his two TV star daughters

Ken Tointon with newspaper cuttings about his famous daughters

Rising star Hannah Tointon

Kara Tointon was in EastEnders until 2009

First published in Features by

KARA and Hannah Tointon may be beautiful, successful, prime time TV stars now – but they still need their dad.

When Ken Tointon wants to see his two daughters all he has to do is turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper these days.

Dad Ken, now a semi-retired accountant, and mum Carol, brought the children up in Leigh. The girls both went to St Michael’s in Leigh and St Hilda’s in Westcliff.

The two were the first in the tight-knit family to get into acting and now they are in two of the biggest shows on TV.

Kara, 27, is a contestant on the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing and Hannah, 22, stars on the Bafta award-winning sitcom Inbetweeners on E4.

When I meet Ken, he gives me strict instructions that I’m “not to get him into trouble with his daughters” with anything he says.

However, the glint in his eye tells me there is not any real danger of him doing that.

Episode one of series three of Inbetweeners aired on Monday, September 13, on E4 to an audience of 2.6million viewers – the highest ever viewing figure for a show on the channel.

The show, which follows a group of sex-obsessed teenage friends struggling through sixth form at school, can be cringingly funny and sometimes close to the mark.

I ask Ken how he feels watching the show.

“It is a great show and I’m not shocked by it,” laughs Ken.

“They are always bringing home scripts and getting me to read through them and I’m reading the lines swearing at them and all sorts. I think ‘what am I doing?’.”

However laid back Ken is, it doesn’t stop him getting a little nervous seeing Kara perform on Strictly, on Saturday nights.

During her first performance Kara was wearing a plunging, leopard skin-print dress which caught in her heel as she danced the cha cha with dance partner Artem Chigvintsev.

Ken says: “When I saw the dress I thought ‘that is a dress that is going to be trouble.’ “It was a fantastic outfit and perfect for the dance, but I could see it was going to get caught.

“Afterwards, Kara said when she was walking down the stairs all she could see was my face and I looked really upset because I was worrying about the dress.”

With his girls constantly in the headlines, Ken takes a minute to explain recent stories that Kara had suicidal thoughts after being dropped from EastEnders 2009.

“My girls are self-effacing to the point where it drives you mad,” laughs Ken.

“They will always be the first to put themselves down.

“I know she might have been down after she left the show, but she would never have killed herself. It is hard for actors at the moment. There is less work around, but she knows she’s lucky to be where she is and she appreciates what she’s got.”

One positive that came from leaving EastEnders was Kara had the chance to explore an issue that has affected her throughout her life. The show Don’t Call Me Stupid will air on BBC3 and follows Kara’s own experiences and those of others learning to cope with dyslexia.

Ken says: “Kara was about seven-and-a-half when she was diagnosed with dyslexia. We thought everything was fine. Then we went to see the school and found out she was about 25 books behind everyone else in the class with her reading.

“She had become very good at hiding the problem and when we read with her at home she would memorise the words rather than read them.”

Kara was taken to a dyslexia clinic in Chelmsford to be diagnosed and then had extra help, such as one-to-one tuition.

Ken says: “Kara was lucky because she was diagnosed early but not everyone is as fortunate. It annoys me when people describe it as a disease that can be cured. You wouldn’t say the same about being colour blind.

“It is something people have to learn to deal with. For Kara, this means sometimes having to get the scripts ahead of time to read through, rather than sight read.”

After her diagnosis, Kara’s parents encouraged her to excel at other things. She competed to a high level in gymnastics and in national diving competitions.

Ken, who is in his fifties, says: “She excelled in so many other ways because we did extra curricular activities and it gave her a confidence boost.

“When Hannah got older we thought gymnastics would be something they could do together that wouldn’t be too expensive – but the leotards cost us a fortune!”

Kara started to go to speech and drama lessons aged seven and played Brigitta in the Sound of Music, at the Cliffs Pavilion, Westcliff, for a local amateur dramatic society.

Her first paid job was in the panto Snow White, also at the Cliffs, aged 11, where she was one of the child dancers.

Ken says: “After the show everyone was saying she really stood out and what was she going to go and do next?" explains Ken.

“It was flattering for all of us because none of the family was theatrical and I think it gave Kara a confidence boost.

“Someone mentioned Sylvia Young to me. We managed to get Kara on the agency’s books and she got steady and work.”

She went on to do a series of kid’s shows, theatre roles, adverts and extra roles – including her first TV appearance in EastEnders in 1994, as an extra, playing Sonia’s school friend.

“It was great for the whole family, because we would all go to London, go for a meal and then on to the show,” says Ken.

“Because of the dyslexia she didn’t always have very high self esteem and the work gave her a bit more confidence.”

In 2000, after leaving school, she got a part in the Channel 4 drama Teachers. In 2002, she appeared in Dinotopia, followed in 2004 by a role in Mile High and she then joined the cast of Dream Team until 2005. Almost as soon as she left Dream Team it was announced she was to join EastEnders.

Seeing her sister’s career take off Hannah decided to try to get on the agency’s books.

Hannah went on to appear in the West End production of Whistle Down the Wind in 2000 as one of the leading child roles, Brat, and her first appearance on TV was in the CBBC sitcom Kerching!, where she played Tamsin, alongside C4 Skins actor Mark Holt.

From 2007 she played Katy Fox in Hollyoaks, before starring in the Inbetweeners as Tara.

Ken says: “Hannah has always been very savvy about what she wanted to do with her career. She also learnt from how we were with Kara to see what she could get away with.

“Now she is finding her own way and the girls are doing different things so they aren’t in competition. I am proud of the girls, but it is no more than any parent is proud of their children and the fact that they are doing something they enjoy."

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