Ex Hollyoaks star talks about his passion for teaching
14 December 2022
Whenever UEL lecturer Majid Mehdizadeh-Valoujerdy comes across the phrase "those who can, do; those who can't, teach", he has a chuckle to himself. The line, taken from George Bernard Shaw's 1905 stage play Man and Superman, is often directed at educators, a derogatory dig to suggest that the profession primarily comprises those who have failed in their chosen vocation.
Of course, in most cases it is widely off the mark, with some of the greatest minds such as Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, JRR Tolkien, Marie Curie, Stephen Hawking … the list goes on … having at some point taught a class. And it certainly doesn't apply to Majid, who joined UEL as a senior lecturer on the BA (Hons) Acting for Stage and Screen course at the start of the new academic year.
The professional actor, writer and director has a string of credits to his name, including a four-year stint on Hollyoaks, the Chester-set soap opera, in which he played the role of Jesse Donovan.
"I've been teaching since I graduated from drama school, long before I joined Hollyoaks. It is something that I am absolutely passionate about," said Majid. "I enjoy it just as much as acting.
"UEL is recognised as being industry facing; we want our students to benefit from professionals who are working in the sector. Being able to practise my craft alongside teaching was one of the things that attracted me to UEL. I was actively encouraged to continue with my acting and directing. It is essential to the University's careers first objective.”
Majid was encouraged into acting by his mother at a young age, but it wasn’t until his second year at Manchester School of Theatre that he finally acknowledged he wanted to be a professional. On graduating, he started to teach part-time and then landed the prized part in Hollyoaks. For many actors a role in a soap is the dream, happy to follow in the steps of Coronation Street's Bill Roach and stay in situ until long-past retirement age. But not so for Majid. After four years, he asked to be written out of the show.
"It was an amazing time in my life. I met my wife. I bought my house … But it wasn't what I wanted long-term," said Majid, who goes by the professional acting name Luke Jerdy.
"When I went into Hollyoaks, I wanted to do three years. I went into acting seeking a variety of parts, that's your training at drama school. You are trained to transform and to become other people. So I never wanted to be in something for life; it always had an end goal for me."
Stepping away from the soap enabled Majid to explore more professional and teaching opportunities. He won a place on the Liverpool Everyman Theatre's coveted playwriting programme; wrote, directed and toured his own one-man show, Y'MAM: Young Man's Angry Movements (pictured above); and taught at Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA).
It is now this breadth of knowledge and experience he brings to UEL students, shaping and creating career-first modules for the new BA (Hons) Acting for Stage and Screen.
"I want to be a great teacher and director," said Majid. "Acting is such a complex, detailed craft. You have to be comfortable on camera, know the difference between acting for stage and screen. I want to share my experience of being a professional actor, writer and director with my students. It's why it's great to be able to help develop the course.
"For me, it's about asking those questions: How can we prepare our students for the industry? How can we help them to be successful without the traditional structure of a drama school training? The answer is to be streamlined, working out what the key things are to focus on in order to be successful. Having experience of being in the business can help shape that and give our students the skills they need to succeed."
Hear Majid in action
Majid Mehdizadeh-Valoujerdy – stage name Luke Jerdy - can currently be heard in Convenience Store Woman, a new radio drama for BBC Radio 4’s Working Titles season. Adapted from the international bestseller by Sayaka Murata and directed by Nicholas Jackson Convenience Store Woman follows Keiko, a 36-year-old who has never had a boyfriend and who has worked in the same Tokyo convenience store for 18 years. Although credited with playing the role of the manager, Majid, takes on a number of voices in the radio production which is available to listen to on BBC Sounds until 7 January, 2023.
Contact us for press and interview requests