Interview: Phoneshop’s Martin Trenaman

Hi Martin! Can you tell us about your role in Phoneshop?

I play Lance, the manager. He shouldn’t really be there, he’s a bit old for it. The show isn’t a million miles away from a family sitcom – Lance is the dad, and he’s got the two errant sons (Ashley and Jawayne), the stroppy daughter (Janine) and the cousin who comes to stay because his parents have been killed in a tragic fishing accident (Christopher).

What attracted you to the role?

The scripts really attracted me to it, and the fact that it was work! Also, Phil Bowker was producing and writing it and I’ve worked with him before. He’s brilliant, he really understands comedy. And Lance is a proper fun character, he’s a proper tit. Lance gets involved with escorting in the first episode and gets more caught up in the madness. I love that – in the first series, Phil Bowker tried to anchor it in the shop itself. But now it has a bit more confidence with the characters being established to go out of the shop.

Are there any similarities between you and Lance?

Oh I’m a proper tit too! No, I don’t really think so. Only that Lance has a bit of humanity to him, he’s quite warm.

What was it like to be part of The Inbetweeners?

It was extraordinary really. As an actor, you’re happy to be working, and I took the part of Alan Cooper, Simon’s dad, who was another really funny character. Again, another tit! Maybe I’m being typecast as a tit! I’ve always played idiots. You don’t know something’s going to be that much of a hit. You read the script, which is great fun, but you have no idea if it’s going to be any good or not, so it was a huge surprise. I went to the premiere of The Inbetweeners film and people were just going mad, it was wonderful, but very odd.

What has been your career highlight to date?

There’s a career moment that’s sort of a highlight. I was singing the hokey kokey in German with Bill Bailey at the Hammersmith Apollo for his DVD. I go back a long way with Bill, I was in a band with him. So that was quite a moment, singing ‘das hokey kokey’ in German for his DVD, that was a bit nuts.

Are there any actors you have particularly enjoyed working with?

I really enjoy working with Sean Lock, who’s brilliant. And to be honest, and this sounds terribly fucking cheesy, but the Phoneshop cast, all of them, are the best cast I’ve ever worked with, there’s no question about that. They’re at the top of their game; they are brilliant.

You have been successful in both writing and acting, but which do you prefer?

They both have their benefits but I have to say that acting probably tips the balance. I’ve been busier acting than I have writing in the last few years and I’ve really enjoyed that, so probably acting.

What was your experience of being a student like?

I didn’t go to university – I went to school in Southend-on-sea and left school at 16. My first job was on a ghost train in Southend pier – so my dad was over the moon with my education! I went into various jobs, and then I was in a band and got kicked out of that, and then I did stand up comedy for six years. I’d been circling comedy for some years and used to run a comedy club in Southend so I was always really into comedy. I’d given up my job to be in a band, so when I got kicked out of that, things all went a bit tits up, so I thought I’ve got to do something. So I got into stand up comedy and from that into writing and acting, and I’ve been acting for about 15 years now.

What is your favourite TV show?

Goodness me, probably Seinfeld, although I’m a big fan of Family Guy. I’m sort of into American comedy, but we make some great comedies over here too, like A Day Today, Brass Eye... I think silliness is embedded in British comedy.

Have you got any upcoming projects?

I’ve got a few things in the pipeline for next year with a BBC Radio 4 series, telly and films. There’s the possibility of a mad movie which might be filming in Bosnia but I don’t want to jinx it!

 

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