📷 : Bernadette Baksa
At the end of 2009, it was announced Liam Bergin had joined the cast of Eastenders as Danny Mitchell, later leaving and reprising his role for a couple of months from December 2016. Earlier this year, he could be found on stage at Vault Festival playing multiple characters in the stage production, STUD, a show about a football prodigy. Catching up with Liam last week, we discuss his role in Eastenders, playing multiple characters on stage and future STUD plans.
What was it like being a part of Eastenders?
Surreal. It felt like six months of ‘firsts’: The first time I walked onto Albert Square… The first time I realised there was no bar, or set, or anything (!) behind the Queen Vic doors… The first time I realised the interiors where all filmed in a studio… The first time I was in a scene with Phil Mitchell! The first time I met Dot Cotton! The first time I got a “duff duff” (last person on screen as the credits roll)… The first time I got told NEVER to call the actors by their character names!
On my first day Julie Crampsie (the brilliant head of casting on ‘Eastenders’) showed me around and introduced me to the writers and producers, then she walked me down to where all the actors dressing rooms were… The dressing rooms look like porter cabin classrooms. We turned the corner and it was like that moment from ‘Reservoir Dogs’; Barbara Windsor, Samantha Womack and Rita Simons were walking towards me. It was terrifying and exciting in equal measure. Unbelievable. I’ll never forget that. From that moment on, I felt welcomed and part of the family, albeit a quite scary family!
What did you enjoy the most about playing Danny Mitchell?
I played a scene with Barbara Windsor… Barbara Windsor! Have to repeat it, I still can’t believe she was my Aunty. As if. Peggy had come to get Danny out of the police station, I can’t remember what he’d done wrong, but I remember wanting that scene to last forever. Everything happens so quickly at ‘Eastenders’ but Barbara is so warm and generous, she made me feel completely at ease… she’s bloody funny too.
More recently, I worked with Danny Dyer and that was another special experience… The guy is hilarious! I’ve never worked with someone who makes words on a page live quite like him.
How was it returning to the show after a six year break?
Even more surreal than the first time round, and way more unexpected.
📷 : Bernadette Baksa
Did you attend acting or theatre school?
Yes, I went to The Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
Can you tell us about the theatre show STUD that you recently appeared in?
‘STUD’ is the story of ‘Tom’ a seventeen-year-old football prodigy who has the opportunity to ‘go pro’ – but just before the Chelsea scout comes to watch him play, Tom realises he is gay. Tom has to choose between his dreams; as in the current climate of professional football, you can’t have both. ‘STUD’ tackles (see what I did there) toxic masculinity in a touching and hilarious way. It’s mad, there are literally no openly gay footballers in UK.
‘STUD’ is written and directed by Paloma Oakenfold. Paloma is the epitome of what I have always dreamt of working with: a mercurial artist with a distinctive voice, who understands the actor. Paloma is a poet, comedian and a killer storyteller. I love speaking Paloma’s words. I also got to share the stage with a super talented actor in Joey Philips. ‘STUD’ was brilliant.
‘STUD’ was on at the Vault Festival in March, we’ve been offered transfers but haven’t accepted any yet – nothing has been quite right.
Did you always have a desire to perform on stage?
Did you enjoy appearing at Vault Festival?
📷 : Bernadette Baksa
What was opening night like?
Terrifying and exhilarating. Joey played ‘Tom’, the protagonist and I played all the other characters: His dad, his coach, his love interest etc. It sounds like a pathetic thing to moan about but I had so many lines – I really struggled to learn them. So I was frightened I’d go blank or come on as the wrong person. Sob sob.
I hadn’t been on stage for a long, long time and on opening night I was reminded how much I love it.
How was it playing multiple characters in the show?
Incredible. One of the biggest inspirations for becoming an actor when I was growing up was, NO not ‘Eastenders’, but a play called Stones in His Pockets. I saw it like five times in the West End in my teens. People my age were going to watch Spice Girls or Take That… and I went to the theatre with my mum. Long story short, ‘Stones in His Pockets’ was performed by two actors who played fifteen parts between them. It was my idea of perfect theatre. ‘STUD’ was my first experience of attempting to echo the magic I saw on stage during my childhood. I want more more more!
Do you know if there are plans for STUD to be shown at other theatres?
Hopefully. Paloma and our producer (Hannah) are in talks with venues and would love to do a UK tour next year.
Did you watch any other shows at the festival?
Yes, although I saw a lot less than I hoped to as we were so busy doing ours. The festival absolutely flew by. I got to see Paul Westwood’s ‘And the Winner is… ‘ performed in a Caravan. It was absolutely excellent. He squeezed almost as many performers into the story and the space as there were audience members. The story was based on #MeToo so it was topical and brilliant.
📷 : Bernadette Baksa
Had you performed at festivals previously?
Nope. I directed a couple of plays for Edinburgh Fringe a few years ago, but not acted in a festival until now.
How different are festivals to general stage work?
There is less money involved, so way less time to rehearse and as I am way slow at learning lines; in my opinion festivals are way hard! But the audiences are way brilliant.
What’s been the best piece of advice you’ve been given in your acting career?
A big part of the acting training at Guildhall focuses on ensemble, teamwork and co-operation. Towards the end of my training Alistair McGowan directed me in a play and he told me “don’t be scared of stealing the show”. I’m a show off at heart, so I liked that bit of advice.
Have you got any stage or TV roles coming up?
Nah. Back to the day job.
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