Staff Spotlight: Dermot Daly

By Joseph Foote


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Dermot Daly

Dermot is an actor and performer with experience working in radio, television, film and theatre. He has written, directed and/or produced theatre plays, films, promo spots and music videos. As a filmmaker he has won official selection status from over 100 international film festivals.

Dermot works as a Senior Lecturer on the BA(Hons) Acting, BA (Hons) Actor Musician, BA (Hons) Musical Theatre pathways. 

Can you provide some background to your experience working on stage, screen, and radio drama?

I’ve been working ‘in the industry’ professionally since I was 12 – my first job, would you believe, was in an Opera! Over the years I have worked as an actor in theatre, film, television, and radio and through that work have been afforded the best learning curve (remember, you learn more once you’re working than you do in preparation for it – think about driving…). I have used and built on some of those experiences to create my own work as well as direct, produce, and write (including dramaturgy) for stage and screen.

What are some of your proudest achievements? 

I’m most proud of sticking with it! There’s something to be said, I think, about letting the seemingly impossible become possible. Overcoming hurdles have and are a constant point for me, and as I’m sure I’ve said to every student I’ve ever worked with, “This isn’t something you want to do; it’s something that you can’t not do”. In terms of achievements, it would be easy to say some of the awards or the travel or the people that I’ve worked with (I can bore you with those stories if you’d like) but I think the thing that sticks with me – and I’m nt sure that counts as an achievement – was Rudolph Walker thanking me for a performance that he came to. (and if you don’t know who Rudolph Walker is, google him…) Rudolph is definitely one of my heroes and a man that was part of a trailblazing generation that made it possible for Black actors to act – for him to thank me was odd as I’m pretty sure that if it wasn’t for him and his peers, I wouldn’t have been on that stage to perform in the first place. Special moment.

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What do you enjoy most about working within the Drama industry?

The thing I most enjoy is getting to know people and talking about them. In terms of roles, I’m not entirely sure that I could strip it down. At the moment I’m directing a show with Red Ladder which is the best thing in the world. I get to listen to other creatives and learn from them as we shape the piece together. Directing is a space where I probably learn the most, about the piece, the creatives in (and around) the room, myself… it’s a weird alchemy but one that I thoroughly enjoy. 

That said, working on shows as an actor is beautiful as you get to deep dive into that character for a while and (if you’re me) allow it to infuse your lived experience. As an actor I think that every character you play changes you a little, leaves an imprint of  ‘them’ on you. A few years ago I played Othello at York Theatre Royal and I still think of the flaws of that character and how and why he did what he did… even talking about him as a real person is symptomatic. Climbing into another headspace allows you to analyse and understand your own headspace from another vantage point. But again, so as to not give a simple answer – I love the (initially) solitary pursuits of writing and editing – the bookends of the filmmaking process for me. Seeing something emerge from a blank page and then piecing together the jigsaw pieces at the other end is gorgeous, and nerve wracking, in equal measure. Ultimately, if I’m able to listen to, and tell, stories I’m a happy camper – probably the reason why I wear as many hats as I do!

Why do you think now is a good time to study Drama?

We are the stories that we tell. If we want to understand who and why we are, we need to understand how and why we tell the stories that we do. Studying drama allows you to understand how those stories are crafted, composed, and disseminated. It gives you a toolbox with which to make those stories real and a catalyst for change and discussion. I’m not sure that there has been a time in recent history where storytellers have been more needed.

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What advice would you give to current students who are looking to improve their craft and set themselves apart as performers, writers, producers, directors etc.?

Be good. 

Be dedicated. 

Don’t try to be different, embrace your difference. 

Be on time. 

Be likeable.

Keep learning.

What advice would you give to alumni who have just completed their respective degrees and looking to further their careers within the industry? 

Make work. No one owes you anything and it’s your duty to tell your story. Keep working… that facet that you didn’t quite understand? Work on it. That practitioner that you just didn’t click with? Play with it. That play that everyone’s talking about? Watch it or read it with friends. In an ideal world you leave education and work non stop moving from one job to another until you’re 85, the reality is that there will be periods where you ‘rest’ and learn – never stop learning, never stop being inquisitive. 

What makes Drama so integral to our cultural landscape?

Drama is essential – even outside of the industry stories are how we understand and make sense of the world and, I would argue, in order to make sense of the world we need to understand the stories that are all around us. It would be fair to say that this year has been bewildering for many because it doesn’t follow the traditional story structure – or at least we’re not sure where we are in that structure but it would be fair to say that the inciting incident of 2020 was the advent of Covid-19 and where we are now in that narrative is anyone’s guess!

Find out more about the BA(Hons) Acting, BA (Hons) Actor Musician and BA (Hons) Musical Theatre pathways at Leeds Conservatoire.

By Joseph Foote

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