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.
You recently performed on stage in STUD, can you tell us about the show?
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 the 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 Phillips. STUD was brilliant.
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 did you find the experience 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!
How much did you enjoy having a run at the Vault Festival and have you performed at festivals previously?
LOVED IT. I directed a couple of plays for Edinburgh Fringe a few years ago, but not acted in a festival until now.
Were you able to watch any other shows while there?
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.
Did you always know you wanted to perform on stage and how different do you find performing at 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.
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. We’ve been offered transfers but haven’t accepted any yet – nothing has been quite right.
What was it like being a part of EastEnders when you joined the show as Danny Mitchell in 2010?
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 were 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 porta 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?
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.
You returned to the show to reprise your role in 2016, how was it returning after a six-year break?
Even more surreal than the first time round, and way more unexpected.
Did you attend acting school and what’s been the best piece of advice you’ve been given that has stuck with you through your career so far?
Yes, I went to The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. 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 acting roles coming up that you can tell us about?
Nah. Back to the day job.
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