Kieran Vyas: Artistic Director of Urban Young Actors

Urban Young Actors has had a special place in my heart since I started leading workshops there in 2016. I teach professional actors, drama school students and youth theatre all over the UK but there is an incomparable electricity and a certain homeliness to this drama school for young people in Leicester. It’s for this reason that I couldn’t be happier to announce that I’ve now taken over the company as owner and artistic director. Alongside me at the Urban helm is my partner – award-winning actor and practitioner Katie Burchett – who joins me as co-owner and director to steer Urban into the new chapter of its life.

What is Urban Young Actors?

Urban provides weekly acting workshops for young people in Leicester as well as producing multiple theatre and film projects every year. Our alumni include Mahalia (Brit & Grammy Award-Nominated Artist), Jurell Carter (Emmerdale, ITV), Owen Warner (Hollyoaks, Channel 4), Dilan Raithatha (West End playwright) and Devesh Sodha (award-winning composer).

We run several groups in Leicester City Centre and Barkby that are split by age: 8-11, 12-16 and 16-21. In the past our larger projects have included stage productions, short films, festivals, competitions and a feature film that premiered at the Odeon cinema.

Looking to the future

We’re taking over Urban at a time when all of us are desperate to return to normal life and the arts will play a crucial role in repairing some of the damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. We have big plans, we’re very excited for the future, and development for a film project in late 2021 has already begun.

Get involved

If you want to find out more information about Urban Young Actors or apply for a free trial session then head over to

On Set at Urban Young Actors

Rob Mallard Interview: On Set For Coronation Street

Rob Mallard is best known for his role as Daniel in Coronation Street which he began in 2016 and continues to play as a regular, much-loved character on the soap. In 2017, Rob was awarded Best Newcomer at The British Soap Awards, and following a harrowing but poignant cancer storyline at the end of last year that centred around Rob and his on-screen wife, Sinead (Katie McGlynn), Coronation Street has received a BAFTA nomination for Virgin Media’s Must-See Moment of the year.

As well as being a phenomenal actor, one of Rob’s most striking qualities is that he is a genuinely lovely person, and it’s easy to see why he’s found great success in his career so far. The world of TV soaps is unique from other experiences of filming for screen and Rob was kind enough to share his insight after four years working on Britain’s longest running soap.

What does a typical week look like when you’re filming for Coronation Street?

We get the scripts two working weeks before we film them and you can be working across many ‘blocks’ of scripts at once, filming episodes from different weeks. Each block has a director and often the actors will move forward and backwards in the storyline several times a day which means moving between directors and the place in story. We don’t have the luxury of always filming in sequence so you’ve got to understand your storyline in order to make sense of where you are each time you go on set. The benefit of this is that you become skilled at switching between extremes of situation/emotion. It keeps you in a state of creativity which I enjoy.

What are the biggest challenges of working on a soap?

A full 9 hour day on one set can make it hard to keep your focus. If you know you’re going to be there for a while you learn how to conserve energy. The temptation to have a laugh in the morning is outweighed by the prospect of being knackered by 4pm. You’ve got to save it.

How do you approach preparing for a scene and learning your lines with such a quick turnaround?

I don’t over-prepare. I read the scripts a lot, work out where the character has just been, what they want and then do it. Line learning is just a skill, you get better at it the more you have to do it.

Could you share some tips or tricks you’ve picked up for working on screen?

Stay still. Think, don’t blink. Know what the shot is. Stand where the camera can see you.

The shots are the remit of the director but it’s important to know if you’re in close up or a wide so you know how big or small your performance can be. I’d ask either the first assistant director or the camera operator.

How has life changed for you now that you’ve become a staple character in a major soap?

Not going to lie, it’s changed a lot. People react towards you depending on what your character is going through on-screen. For instance, when Daniel pushes Ken down the stairs people would near enough hiss at me in the street. Then when Sinead died I was showered with the sympathy of strangers. It’s funny.

Rob Mallard

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I think I’m another decade or so off calling it my career, I’ve only been working for six years! Without a doubt the cancer storyline on Corrie is the work I’m most proud of due to the ‘Goody Effect’. There was an increase in women getting smear tests as a direct result of the storyline we were telling on Coronation Street. Katie McGlynn, my on-screen wife who died from cervical cancer, received lots of messages from women who had managed to catch cancerous cells early because they saw the show and went to get tested. 

And on a personal note, landing the job on Corrie full stop has been a highlight. I love it.

If you could introduce a new family onto the Street made up of characters from any soap, TV series or film, who would you pick?

Hmmm… okay… All of The Nolans in a two up, two down. I’d watch!

#PlanetMonologues – The Actors Planet Monologue Competition

The Actors Planet is a support network for actors and creatives that I set up in 2018 with my partner, actor Katie Burchett. In these challenging times, we have teamed up with some of the top casting directors, directors and industry professionals to create #PlanetMonologues – a monologue competition with great prizes and fabulous judges.

To get involved, follow us on twitter @THEACTORSPLANET



Our prize list includes one-to-ones with top casting directors SHAKYRA DOWLING, PETER HUNT, PEARSON CASTING & NICCI TOPPING as well as an extensive consultation with social media expert JAMIE BODY. We’re also running a ‘Self-Represented Prize’ for actors who are not currently represented by an agent. This includes a one-to-one with an agent from COWLEY, KNOX & GUY and three month membership to DRAMANIC.

To top it off, our wonderful judge MEL CHURCHER has offered to give a one-to-one to ALL of our winners. Mel has worked with Hollywood stars like Angelina Jolie, Daniel Craig, Gerard Butler & Keira Knightley.


Mel Churcher

Mel Churcher

Having been an actor, Mel’s now an international acting and voice coach. She’s been resident voice coach for the RSC & Regents Park Open Air Theatre, runs international workshops, and has coached on over 60 major films & TV series ( Her books are: Acting for Film: Truth 24 Times a Second (Virgin Books) & A Screen Acting Workshop + DVD (Nick Hern Books).

Donnacadh O'Briain

Donnacadh O’Briain

Donnacadh O’Briain is an Olivier Award-winning director whose productions have played at The Royal Shakespeare Company, in the West End, and internationally. In 2017 his production of Rotterdam received an Olivier for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre and went on to play at The Arts Theatre (West End) before embarking on a UK tour. His other credits include Always Orange (RSC), PEEP (a unique cross art form pop up theatre show) and the multi-award winning Electrolyte (Wildcard/Edinburgh/UK Tour).

Kate Davies-Speak

Kate Davies-Speak

Kate has been a working actor for 19 years and has worked in theatre throughout Europe. She now focusses mainly on screen work and loves to be involved in and support independent film. She is the founder of Showreel Share Day and is a major driving force behind the online acting community. When not acting, Kate works as a personal trainer and group fitness coach, and occasionally helps out as a casting director.

Laura Neal Interview: From Secret Diary of a Call Girl to Killing Eve

Laura Neal is a British writer whose TV credits include Secret Diary of a Call Girl (Tiger Aspect/ITV2), My Mad Fat Diary (Drama Republic/C4) and Tatau (Touchpaper/BBC). She has also written multiple episodes for Netflix projects including the Idris Elba series Turn Up Charlie and the international hit Sex Education.

Laura has written on the third series of Killing Eve (Sid Gentle/BBC) and has recently been announced as the lead writer and an executive producer for season four.

There are some people whose presence and personality fill the room and leave a lasting impression; Laura Neal is one of those people. I’ve known Laura for many years and it has been no surprise to see her career go from strength to strength. Most artists would testify that making your way in the creative arts industry is no easy task, and that’s as true for writers as it is for actors, directors and every creative in between. When Laura was at an earlier stage of her career, I recall how the all too familiar struggle of being an artist turned her eye to the Met Police. Whilst I have no doubt that she would’ve made a fantastic detective, I’m delighted that her perseverance has paid off and now sees her as an executive producer and the lead writer of BBC’s Killing Eve. I have every faith that her interest in criminal investigation will be satisfied through her work on the show’s MI6 security operative, Eve Polastri!

I was lucky enough to catch up with Laura in between trips to LA.

Could you give us an insight into the process of creating a high-budget TV show in the UK?

If you’re being trusted with a high-budget TV show, chances are you’ll have a few solid credits under your belt already. Even so, there will probably be several months, if not years, of development. You might come up with the idea yourself and pitch it to a production company, or a production company will approach you with an idea or, more often, a piece of IP they’ve optioned. From there, you’ll spend time working together to create characters, storylines and, normally, an episode one outline (or script). At some point in this process, a broadcaster or network will be approached to buy the idea and fund the remaining development. This is a big milestone! Once they’re on board, they can either “green light” the series straight off (rare) or ask for more development (common). Once a green light is granted, the remaining scripts are written (and rewritten!), either by you, the creator, or with the help of a team of writers. Later, directors are brought on board, heads of department are hired, actors are cast and the production begins. For a UK series, the filming process usually takes about three months, followed by a post-production period of a couple of months. The final product might not be on TV screens until two or three years after the idea was conceived!

Could you take us through the journey that brought you to where you are now?

I always liked drama at school, and did both acting and writing (but I was better at writing). I did the Royal Court Young Writers Programme in my teens, followed by various schemes for new writers run by places like the Old Vic and Paines Plough. Around this time, I also went to Bristol University to study drama and carried on writing there, both for university societies and for theatre companies back in London. One of the first full-length plays I wrote had a rehearsed reading in London, which some TV producers were at. Afterwards, they offered to mentor me and, months later, gave me my first TV commission on Secret Diary of a Call Girl. That commission, combined with completing some other more screen-focussed schemes such as Channel 4’s Coming Up, secured me an agent. After I graduated university, I carried on writing (and waitressing!) until I built up enough momentum to write full time. Gradually, my number of professional credits grew and now I work both in the UK and America, on shows such as Sex Education and Killing Eve.

Fiona Shaw as Carolyn Martens, Sandra Oh as Eve Polastri - Killing Eve Season 3
Fiona Shaw as Carolyn Martens, Sandra Oh as Eve Polastri – Killing Eve Season 3 – Photo Credit: Nick Wall/BBC America

How much/often do you get to work with actors? And what does that entail?

Traditionally in the UK, TV writers don’t have a huge amount of interaction with actors. The scripts are generally written in advance of production starting, so conversations with actors are often done by the director or executive producers. If you’re the creator of your own TV show and you hold an executive producer credit, you’ll have much more involvement but for your average jobbing writer on a TV show it’ll be minimal. However, this is beginning to change. British writers are having increasingly greater exposure to the American system, where writers are much more involved in production… and that idea is beginning to take hold here. 

Here’s a hypothetical: I’ve written a TV pilot that I believe has huge potential, what do I do now?

Firstly, make sure it’s in the best shape it can possibly be in. Leave it for a few days. Read it again. Rewrite it. Get other people to read it. Rewrite it. Know what happens after the pilot finishes. What is it about the series that’s unique and different? What journeys will your characters go on? How does the series end? Is there a series two? Three?! When you know the answers to these questions, send your script out! If you have a literary agent already, get them to read it and distribute it. If not, there are several schemes out there designed to give new writers a leg-up into the industry. Kudos, BAFTA, Channel 4 and the BBC all have them. These schemes are often the best way to get an agent. The BBC Writersroom website is also a valuable treasure-trove of advice and opportunity. Don’t give up. If this script doesn’t yield results, write another one. It’ll be better than the last.

What has been one of the highlights of your career so far?

Getting a job as a writer on the third season of Killing Eve and being able to write lines for Fiona Shaw, who I love.

Who and what inspires you?

Early on in my career I was inspired by playwrights like Lucy Prebble, Sarah Kane, Dennis Kelly and Anthony Neilson. Once I started working in TV, I was inspired by the people who mentored me through my first jobs; great executive producers such as Roanna Benn and Jude Liknaitsky and writers such as Tom Bidwell. Great producers make a huge amount of difference to a writer – they can help bring an idea from your brain onto a page, they can advise on structure, characterisation and plot and, most importantly, they’re responsible for actually getting the thing made! When I started watching American TV, I looked up to show runners (writer-producers, who do both the job of a writer and an executive producer) like Vince Gilligan, Jenji Kohan and Liz Flahive. Nowadays, I’m inspired by shows with great female characters, dark humour and unique takes on the world, like Killing Eve and Sex Education. I’m also, like everyone, obsessed with Succession. If I could create and write something like that, I’d die happy.

Finally, if you were assembling a team of superheroes, which TV characters would you put together (no actual superpowers required)?

Offred from The Handmaid’s Tale for her bravery, Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation for her can-do attitude, and Midge Maisel from The Marvellous Mrs Maisel for her GSOH. Oh, and the Hot Priest from Fleabag just… because.

Jodie Comer as Villanelle – Killing Eve Season 3 – Photo Credit: Des Willie/BBC America