BA Performing Arts, 2000
Lucy Trodd graduated with a BA in Performing Arts from Middlesex University in 2000. She has since gone on to star in 'Doctors', 'The Dick and Dom Show' and 'Fast and Loose' for the BBC, as well as 'Random Acts' on Channel 4. She is a founding member of The Showstoppers! and with writing partner Ruth is one half of comedy duo Trodd en Bratt. They recently adapted their Edinburgh Fringe show 'Trodd en Bratt say 'Well Done You'' for BBC Radio 4 and Lucy has also been filming 'Fool Britannia' with Dom Jolly.
Why did you choose Middlesex University for your degree?
When I went to Middlesex and had my audition I had a very strange feeling that it was the place I was going to go. I was so confident that I was going to get in that I opened my letter in front of all of my school friends at sixth form and was mortified to read that I hadn't got a place. I was placed at the top of the queue and then someone who had been accepted dropped out a week into the course, so I took their place.
What were the facilities like on your course?
The facilities were brilliant. The first time I ever went inside a TV studio was at Middlesex and we also had a great theatre with a stage and a dance studio.
What did you enjoy most about your course?
What I loved about the course was that it was so intertwined with other courses. There was a huge society of like-minded people you could collaborate with and we learned how to do everything, from costumes to lighting to sound. It was also the first place that I ever did any writing, so it was a great place for me to grow really.
Where did you live when you were at University?
I met a bunch of boys who I'm still friends with now and ended up living with them in this amazing party house. Having not known anything about how to survive on my own I suddenly found myself living with five boys from very different parts of the country and we just did a lot of experimenting and growing up. We lived together for years even after we left university.
Did you join any clubs or societies while you were at University?
I had a brief stint in the ultimate frisby team, but I mainly went because there was a boy there that I fancied. I thought being tall might give me a physical advantage, but if you're slow and tall it's not a good thing. You just stand out.
What are your fondest memories from your time at Middlesex?
I have a lot of fond memories about the shows that we did. It was a very practical course so we got to try lots of new things. Trying new things like stand-up and writing was great and you could do a lot of things that were not assessed so there was a lot of freedom. That's one of the words I'd associate with my time at Middlesex, freedom.
Do you think you need to study performing arts to have a career in the industry?
It was important to me but it might not be to someone else. It's realistic that you'll need training if you want to be a performer or an actor or a writer, but you can always learn those things in different ways. You can go to drama school, to university or you can learn them by being a runner and working your way up.
What advice would you offer to people hoping for a similar career to yourself?
One piece of advice I'd give is that you might not get paid very much for a part but you can always learn from it and you might meet someone who later down the line could have a job for you. Another thing is not to get a reputation for being difficult to work with because it will never go away.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself at graduation?
Make your own work as much as you can, get yourself a website, get yourself good headshots, a showreel, and a voice reel. It is important to have every marketing tool possible.
How did you get your first break?
There are many answers to this question, because there are breaks you perceive yourself and then there are breaks where other people go 'ooh, she's doing well' - like when you're in an advert that's being shown all the time.
My first casting after university was for an advert that the Sun and Coca-Cola - the evil arch enemies - were doing called Music for You. I split my trousers in the audition and went home crying but then I got the job and was paid £6,000. Those jobs don't happen very often and I think I perhaps took it for granted at the time. After that I got a part in a drama called Attachments, but then I didn't get any more TV work for about nine years until I got a small part in Doctors.
What did you do during that time?
It can be very easy to get distracted from acting because money doesn't come along very easily unless you're lucky so I got involved in a production company. I was temping for a day but ended up staying there for years and worked in lots of roles including PA to the boss and PR officer.
While I was working for the production company a friend of mine advised me to do some workshops and at one of these I met a guy called Ken Campbell who changed my life. Through Ken I met a bunch of people and we have been working together and collaborating ever since. We started Showstoppers – an improvised comedy musical – and I also met my husband.
Is it important to have an agent to get performing jobs?
You can get work without an agent but when it comes to the big jobs you will need an agent because they do the negotiating for you. I'm working on something at the moment and they effectively tried to get some extra work out of me for free so my agent is working with them to renegotiate the deal. That is something I couldn't do because I don't have the business skills.
Can you talk us through your writing process?
I write with Ruth on a Monday but I write by myself in the evenings. We have to be a bit more organised now we have a show that we're working towards, but previously it would just be a case of 'I've got this funny idea' and then we'd sit down together and write it all from start to finish. Now we've changed our writing style because of time constraints, so we flesh out an idea and have templates for the scripts so it's much easier to send things back and forwards by emails. We write character-driven rather than idea-driven comedy so we usually just stick on a hat and put on a funny voice and see what comes of it.
What is it like being a professional comedian?
It's a real privilege to be able to pursue a career in performing. I struggled to find the significance of it for years, in the sense that some people are saving lives or fighting wars, but comedy can bring people together and make them feel better about the wars and the death. If you can make people laugh it's a gift and an honour, though it also comes hand in hand with the daily torture you put yourself through about being good enough or funny enough.
What are the pros and cons of being a performer?
The great thing about acting, especially things like the job that I'm doing with Dom Jolly at the moment, is that you feel kind of like a special agent. You get given your brief and you go away and learn your piece and then you go in and it's like being part of a hit team. It takes you different places and you meet amazing people, though you have awful experiences too.