Former UCLan student Niamh Longford is making waves on the BBC with her new roles on Eastenders and Doctors

The Eastenders star credits her training at UCLan for preparing her for her professional career.

By Aimee Seddon
Tuesday, 22nd March 2022, 12:30 pm

A University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) acting graduate is currently making a name for herself in the industry, featuring in numerous BBC shows this year.

Most prominently, 23 year old Niamh Longford from Skelmersdale has been playing Eastenders’ “fiery” Melody Wiles on our screens since February 17, and promises “we're going to see a bit more of Melody” soon as she’s set to “stir things up.”

Niamh, who graduated from UCLan in Summer 2020, said: “It's been a whirlwind being on EastEnders. I never actually expected that so soon in my career. When I got the call, I actually cried.

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Lancashire actress Niamh Longford credits UCLan with helping her prepare for the professional world. Left: headshot by Tom Barker. Right: Niamh with one of her prized pet pigs.

“But it's been amazing I was so nervous for my first day, and the second I walked in, the nerves just went away. It's such a well oiled machine, everybody knows what they're doing, and they know how to make you feel welcome.”

Last week Niamh also appeared as the central character in a hard hitting Doctors episode, where the rape of her 15 year old character, Sally, results in an ectoptic pregnancy.

“I feel so blessed that I was entrusted with such an important storyline”, she said.

Niamh’s next confirmed role on our TV’s will be in the Christmas special for BBC1’s Shakespeare and Hathaway, with Jo Joyner and Mark Benton, and Niamh says “my favourite part was definitely just being on set with them, hearing their stories, their banter, it was like being in a master class with comedy geniuses.”

This year Niamh is featuring on Eastenders, Doctors, and Shakespeare and Hathaway: Private Investigators.

The budding actress graduated two years ago with a first class degree from UCLan, and says her training at the university put her in good stead for her career.

Niamh, also a former West Lancashire College student, said: “The tutors at UCLan, I can't recommend them enough, they're literally phenomenal. I think they create an environment that's so supportive, and that can be rare with acting training.

"A lot of actors will say drama schools can be quite scary and quite cutthroat so UCLan’s way of teaching [us] how to be professional in the industry… [was] just a really nice environment. You're all there learning and supporting each other together, as opposed to seeing each other as competition.”

In particular Niamh credits the head of UCLan’s drama department, Terence Mann for preparing her the most for her professional career, as he taught Biomechanics, a form of movement training for actors, which was “the reason” she went to UCLan.

Niamh, whose manager Janet Hampson also works with the UCLan acting programme, explained: “The thing that's incredible about UCLan offering Biomechanics is that Terence was taught by Gennady, who was taught by Meyerhold, who created it in Russia, so you're not getting it clearer than that, and for me coming into my acting training, having started off as a dancer, it was what I needed to really connect me truthfully to my physicality when acting, so I’m not a dancer on stage, but instead it feels natural to me.”

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Immediately after graduating, Niamh landed her first professional role in the BBC’s ‘The Break’ which aired in April 2021 and focused on the difficulties that minority groups face in the UK, with Niamh’s character being visually impaired, like herself.

Niamh said: “I couldn’t have asked for a better starting place in the industry, it was so welcoming, and so nurturing. I had a director called Aurora Fearnley who really looked after me, and the break was a collection of shorts, so my episode was just me, like a large monologue, which was incredible, because it gave me the opportunity to really go on a journey with a character.

“Plus for me personally playing a visually impaired character, being a visually impaired actor, it was brilliant, and for the whole set to be filled with such a diverse and inclusive cast of people, it was really nice to see the changes in the industry reflected.”

Going from where she began her career, to asking where she wants to go in the future, Niamh told the Post she did not want to get ahead of herself.

She explained: “Everything in this industry happens so fast, and you could think you have a trajectory of going to do Shakespeare or getting into film but it can change so quickly, you can't bank on just one thing, and at the moment, I'd like to say I'm building a good reputation within the industry, and I'm steadily climbing up, and I think anything could happen, I'm just taking opportunities when I get them and seeing where it takes me.”

To end her interview, Niamh offered some advice for other actors at the beginning of their careers, emphasising the importance of self belief and determination.

Niamh said: “At the end of the day, your directors and your tutors are there to guide and help, but it's really down to you, you're responsible for the performance you put on. I was a lot more of a perfectionist early on, so I put a lot of that pressure on myself, and that's fizzled out now, into a healthy resilience within myself, and I need that in this industry, because there's a lot more nos than yeses, so you need to just be self motivated and keep going.

“If any actors, who are still waiting for their break in the industry, are feeling a bit down about it, it's easy to say, but things can happen, and you never know when they're going to happen so if your situation allows it, stick it out, for as long as you can.”