If you have young children, then you may be familiar with Amy Thompson (Drama, 2003). A proud University of Hull graduate, Amy helps young people up and down the country start their days in her role as presenter of Channel 5’s Milkshake!.
In this interview Amy tells us why she chose the University of Hull, how her experiences in Hull helped to kick-start her career, her career both in theatre and as a children’s television presenter, and how it feels to play ten characters in one play.
I wanted to pursue my interest in theatre after 6th form college and visited lots of Unis around the UK including Bristol, Birmingham, London and Lancaster. Hull university just stood out to me because of the facilities and the warm, friendly atmosphere. I’ve lived in Hull most of my life so I’m obviously biased but there’s something really special about the city. I’m so glad I decided to continue my education in my home city. I regard my 3 years at Uni as some of the best of my life. I had so much fun. I made sure I had the full university experience though and lived in student accommodation. I always went home to my mum’s for Sunday lunch though! Best of both worlds!
I have such fond memories of my time at Hull Uni. The friends I made there are friends for life. We worked hard and played hard. The drama dept is so close knit, you spend all your time together. You’re given the freedom and encouragement to create your own work outside of the curriculum and it’s experiences like that that have stayed with me the most. We had a fully operational theatre space to play with and at the time no other university offered this. It’s a really special place and Hull is a special and unique city. I believe it was voted the friendliest university in the UK!
I fell into TV presenting really, as I started out as a theatre actress working at Hull Truck Theatre. I grew up reading John Godber’s plays (Teechers is one of my favourite plays). In my first year of uni I got a job as an usher at Hull Truck. During my time there, I heard John was casting a new show. I approached him and begged him to give me an audition. He did and I got the job. I had just turned 19. He has been a huge influence on my career as I have worked with him numerous times now over the years. I am so grateful to him for all the opportunities he has given me, including my first professional contract. If I hadn’t decided to continue my studies in Hull, this would never have happened. I’m a big believer in fate.
One of my fav roles has been playing Gail in Teechers by John Godber. This play made me want to be an actor. So when John asked me to be Gail it was a real pinch yourself moment. There’s only 3 cast members in the play and between you, you play around 30 characters. Physical comedy and multi role play, where I can change my accent or physicality in the click of a finger, is the most exciting work for me and I just adore working with John Godber. This play has always been special to me so that was a standout moment.
6 years after I had graduated, the opportunity at Milkshake came up. I believe all the singing and dancing I had done as a child and all the theatre experience I had gained helped me to secure the contract. Channel 5 we’re looking for an all-rounder that could perform in their theatre tour as well as be comfortable on screen. I had performed in 3 of Hull Truck’s Christmas shows for children and this was invaluable experience for when I had my meeting to be a kids presenter.
I’m very fortunate to get paid to do what I love. I’m so fortunate to earn a living from what is essentially my hobby. However it’s an extremely tough industry, the highs are really high and the lows really low. I feel lucky that for 15 years I’ve managed to sustain a career. There has been tough times though and depression is very common within my industry. We need to speak out more when we are struggling and support each other through the difficult periods of unemployment.
Performing at Glastonbury with Milkshake in 2016 was a real highlight too. I got to fulfill my popstar dream! Theatre performance and TV work is very different. You have to be much bigger on stage. The immediacy and the buzz of a live audience will never lose its magic for me. Theatre will always be my first love. There simply is nothing like it. Live TV is also very exciting, as anything can happen and you can’t go again if you make a mistake, just like on the stage. But they are very different mediums. I love seeing the Milkshake audience at our live shows as you can interact and see how happy the show is making them. They copy the dance routines and wave at you which is so special. Equally though we get some lovely emails and tweets when we’re on TV so we can interact in a different way. I’m so fortunate I get to do both.
I’ve recently been cast as Mandy in the UK/ Ireland tour of the Full Monty. It’s one of my fav films and as a Yorkshire girl I’m thrilled and honoured to be a part of it. My advice to current students wanting to work in the performing industry is never give up. You need a really thick skin, as rejection is a huge part of the job. You should never take it personally. So many things come into play when you audition for a role. Height, hair colour… so many things you can’t control. I just think, learn your lines, do your best and if it’s meant to be, it will be.
When you do get an acting job, turn up on time, know your lines and be kind. These 3 simple things are so important and honestly it’s the most valuable advice I can offer. It’s a tiny industry, everybody knows everybody. That runner that you’ve just been rude to can actually be the producer in disguise! This actually does happen!
I meet so many people in the industry who are graduates of Hull and they are the nicest people ever. You’ve already made a great choice by choosing to study in Hull, so get out there and chase your dreams! Good luck!