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Writing and acting tips from EastEnders / E20 at the Hackney Academy

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Nickie | 18:56 UK time, Thursday, 21 June 2012

Do you dream of being a writer or actor? 

We went to the EastEnders & E20 Scriptwriting workshop at the BBC Radio 1 & 1Xtra Hackney Academy to bring you tips and expert advice on how to achieve your dreams.

The workshop was run by EastEnders & E20 Writer and Actress Emer Kenny (Zsa Zsa), EastEnders Story Producer Deborah Sathe and E20 Assistant Producer Rajiv Nathwani.

... Joined by Himesh Patel (Tamwar), Tameka Empson (Kim) and Ricky Norwood (Fatboy) who acted out scripts that our talented workshoppers had written in the session (pics below). And gave advice to people like you who want to get your foot on the ladder.

Shall we begin?

A warming up game: KILL OR KEEP

Play Executive Producer and think about the characters you'd keep. Then the characters you'd kill. Why do you love some characters and not others? HOW would you kill the characters off? Think about the ways that would most satisfy an audience and keep them watching. Everything you do must be compelling.

Character Types

You can learn a lot about characterisation by looking at the different character types in EastEnders...

The Tart With A Heart

Bad on the outside, good on the inside. At first contact, this lady is crude, unapologetic, brash... We half fancy her and are half repulsed by her behaviour. But she can always be counted on to do the right thing and deep down she's vulnerable. With this girl, what you see is NOT necessarily what you get - that's what makes her so interesting. Think: Kat or Stacey

The Matriarch

The mother figure. EastEnders is a matriarchal show. This is one of the pivotal characters. She's powerful, drama emanates from her. She can be a port in a storm, but she has the power to generate her own storms too. Think: Dot, Cora, Zainab, Pat, Peggy.

The Victim

This is a character who STRUGGLES. Who we will to win - just for once. It's also the most difficult character to write/play. To make us root for them rather than feel frustrated by their inability to rise out of their situation. Think: Ronnie, Little Mo.

The Bad Boy

The loveable rogue... who isn't as loveable as he thinks he is. His flaws are often linked to his self-confidence/arrogance. He's rarely classically good looking... and does some very bad things... but is somehow strangely attractive... or is that just us? Think Max, Dirty Den, Sean Slater

The Macho Male

Macho males are egotistical brutes who are simple and direct. A macho male is always hard - he's born hard and will die hard. It's all he knows. Don't let him cry... at least not more than once a year! See Phil, Grant...

The Villain

The person with no moral code. Who loves to do bad. An out and out wrong un' who must ultimately be punished (but only after they've had their fun). Think: Archie, Yusef, Nick

The Heroine

Alpha females. They're active, strong, and can be relied upon to sort out a problem. Think: Roxy, Shirley, Bianca, Zsa Zsa.

Loveable Rogues

The Wheeler dealer, the charmer. Big chat, big ideas, bit heart, big optimism. He always believes that things will come good tomorrow... He's the moral code of the show. The heart. Think: Alfie, Fatboy.


Who's missing? What type of character would you create? Is there a type that you've never seen? They must be flawed, but good at heart. Create conflict - are they at odds with their environment? This makes them interesting. Do you want to see them on screen - if you don't, no one else will either. Got an idea? Create it! Write it!

How To Make It In The Industry

This is one of the toughest industries to get into. Be prepared to WORK HARD. Learn your craft. Practice. The opportunities only come when YOU look for them.

But how do you take that first step?

Get Out There

Deborah, Ricky and Himesh all started out in Community Theatre. They recommend anything which enables you to meet other people who are doing what you want to do. Himesh watches actors he admires, and reads about the craft. While Ricky reckons, "You learn loads from books but the best way I learned was working with actors. Improvising... Get together with other talented people. Create something to get noticed." Get a job that's closest to the thing you love - even if it's an usher in a theatre, so you get to see the plays, the actors up close.


Tameka: "Keep yourself disciplined. If might look easy. But there's a lot of work that goes into it. You have to work."

In order to get noticed, you need PROOF that you're worth noticing. If you're a writer, you need ideas, scripts. If you're an actor, hone your craft, work, get better, get better again. Talk to other actors, talk to other writers, make mistakes, learn from your mistakes. But no excuses. Like Tameka says: "Just do it. Sit down. Write it. Say, I'm going to write for 2 hours and see what happens."

Don't Give Up

The one thing that you can be certain of, is that it's not going to be easy. "The two years before I got Easties were the worst in my career," says Ricky. "You have to go through struggles."  

Actors! Learn Your Lines!

Emer's number 1 tip is: "Learn your lines! Then walk away... Come back. Learn them again. Then learn them again..." The best actors are the ones who know their lines so well that they don't have to think about them. That's the moment when you stop reciting words and start living them. Ricky adds that it's important not to rely too much on the script so that all you can do is try to remember your lines and stage direction. "When I get a script I think what my purpose is. What's the reason for this scene? What's Fatboy trying to achieve? Oh, he's going to rescue Lucy. OK. NOW I learn my lines."

Have Fun!

This is what you want to do right? Enjoy it! As an illustration, see some pics of Himesh, Ricky and Tameka taking the scripts written by our talented workshoppers with the tips above, and err... running with it...


And finally....

There are a million different ways into the industry. But here are some suggestions:

Most major broadcasters have trainee schemes. Apply.

Community theatre - find one near you and join. Write for them, perform for them, learn from them.

Writers: BBC Writers Room and Ideas Tap are two of many great resources/support groups for writers

Watch Ricky Norwood's top acting tips

Study: Find writers or actors that you like and study what they do.

Who We Met In Hackney...

We asked a few workshoppers what the most important thing they learned today was...

Ashley J, 27: "Persistence. Know your abilities. Be open to learning. And enjoy the journey."

Kobina, 19: "You need to have the right ingredients to make a character. And you need to keep yourself occupied. Keep working to make yourself better as an actor."

Isla, 14: "The thing I learned? Just be yourself."

Tanya, 27: "I thought it was good advice to find work anywhere in the industry - like being an usher in the theatre. I've been acting since I was 16 - casting after casting. Instead of a job in retail, get a job in theatre..."


  • Comment number 1.

    I've been writing my own little charceter just from this advice okay so here it goes: carra johns ha had a hard life but she's not all perfect her mum ha left her in Waldord but has got a mystery dad she is well known for her steeling ... When you think nothing can get any worse she just goes and steals from easy target abi branning what could she be after ....
    What do you think I really want to be an author or script writer I'd love to know your feed back

  • Comment number 2.

    @Me Yes, I like your idea. Why don't you write a short story or a few scenes with your character in? Just for yourself, to practise writing, because the more you do, the more you develop and improve :)

  • Comment number 3.

    Totally agree with rachel. Write it up and see what happens. Throw Carra into situations, put her in scenes with other characters and see how she reacts.

    To be a writer you have to write. And the more you do it, the better you'll get!

  • Comment number 4.

    ive always thought about having a realistic badboy in eastenders, i had an idea of a character who has his fingers in a few pies, hard to explain its based on someone ive met who i always thought "woa, different" he gambles, smokes, drinks, dabbles in illegal activities but is a nice person not like derek branning he literally has a heart of gold someone screws him over he just shrugs it off but he is as dodgy as they come, the sorta guy who you know is dodgy but you cant hate him if that makes sense

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi. I am a trained actor/experience singer also..never had the chance to act roles on tv. I would love to though as i have achieved a merit-which i am extremely proud of///love to attempt script writing as i am very creative. Any actors have advice at all please. Thank you so much :))


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