Harry Trevaldwyn is gearing up for a star-studded, world-class launch party, the premiere of the first television series in which he appeared. “I’ve been loaned this amazing red suit,” she says. “I wonder if I could also use it for the wedding I’m going to this weekend. Actually, he would probably be too worried about spilling something out there. Navigating this red-carpet world is a new experience for the self-deprecating 28-year-old who, in just two years, has gone from posting comedic skits from his London flat on social media to appearing on The bubblea Hollywood film, and Ten Percent, the British remake of the successful French series Call My Agent!
Bored with his temp job in 2019, but quietly soaking up all the idiosyncrasies of the people around him, Trevaldwyn began posting hilarious two-minute character sketches on Instagram for his 31,000 followers. Highlights include Office Chat Guy (“Oh, you brought a packed lunch! You’re so good”) and The Guy’s Girl (“I recently started rapping, but not in a culturally appropriative path; culturally suitable path”).
But his greatest creation has to be Smug Mother. Raised by the real-life mothers of some of the children she was also tutoring at the time, Smug Mother is an insufferable snob who takes every opportunity to brag about her outstanding children and her loving husband Hen, all the way. time being a total monster for Natalie. , her off-screen stepdaughter from Hen’s first marriage. Poor Natalie, I have to tell Trevaldwyn. “I know!” he says. “Even now, I’ll be announcing that I’m making a movie and people will be like, ‘But where’s Natalie?’ I’m thrilled that you can create a character that doesn’t even have a voice but somehow exists.”
That’s largely due to Trevaldwyn’s talent for creating entire worlds around his characters. We all know these people – we’ve all been trapped in our own circles of hell with them, or been forced to have an excruciating pep talk with them at a party.
Trevaldwyn comes from the school of online comedians who rose to fame during lockdown, when we were all starved for living culture and tethered to our phones in an attempt to distract from the ongoing global disaster. In the US, the likes of Jordan Firstman, Benito Skinner, and Meg Salter published character-driven observational studies; and in the UK, Munya chawawa, alistair green and Trevaldwyn similarly began to make a name for themselves by creating eerily accurate caricatures of people we all love to hate.
This form of comedy is likely to become synonymous with the pandemic era. Trevaldwyn has his own theories about why this style of humor took off the way he did: “I think people were missing out on those kinds of interactions; those people you would find waiting for the microwave. I also think a lot of comedy and talent was online anyway, because it’s so much easier to do stuff online than it is to raise money to do a show in Edinburgh or something. It’s more of a level playing field now. The pandemic definitely accelerated that.”
Though it may not have been on the public’s radar for long, Trevaldwyn’s newfound success has been a long time in the making. “If you ask me if I was always a braggart as a kid, then yes,” she laughs. He first tasted fame at age seven when he played the Bloodbottler in a school production of The BFG: “It wasn’t the biggest part, but it was pretty fun. And when I heard people laugh, I was like, ‘Do you like this? OK, well, I’ll do more.’”
Hailing from a small town in Oxfordshire, he wasn’t well-positioned for fast-track fame, which led him to take matters into his own hands, such as when he saw an open audition call for Skins. The Channel 4 show about partying and drug-addicted teenagers was not an obvious choice for Trevaldwyn, he admits. “This is one of my deepest shames. I told my mom: ‘I have to go to this, this is my big chance!’ But it was so far out of my life as I loved authority and did well in school.” Thinking the Skins kids were “edgy,” he decided to use one of his grandfather’s old bandannas as a bandana and, for some unfathomable reason, put on a West Country accent when he auditioned. “Spoiler alert,” he adds. “I did not understand”.
Despite appearing in plays at the Edinburgh festival two years running and appearing, with one line, in the 2019 film. The king, Trevaldwyn was still blank on how to break into the industry. So he took the iPhone from him, he turned the camera on himself and hit record.
Agents and people in the industry soon started slipping into their DMs. Then came a call to audition for Judd Apatow’s new partial improv film, The Bubble. Trevaldwyn was cast as Gunther, a health and safety officer for the film-within-a-film, set in the UK. “I got a text from my agent saying, ‘You have a Zoom with Judd.’ It was the most panic-stricken four hours of my life, and then he offered it to me. I could not believe it. I didn’t sleep the entire time until filming because I thought something bad was going to happen. On my first day I probably had real manic energy. I was like, ‘This is too much.’”
Walking to a set with David Duchovny, Leslie Mann and Fred Armisen was overwhelming for Trevaldwyn. “First of all, all Hollywood stars have amazing skin,” she says. “Leslie walked into our reading and I was like, ‘You’re an angel that shines like a beacon!'” Did you feel pressure after your unconventional path to acting? “Yeah, I definitely felt that impostor thing,” she says. “Definitely. I think I didn’t handle it very well. I remember doing the reading on Zoom and thinking, ‘This is only on Zoom, but these are some of the most talented actors I’ve ever seen.’ It won’t help at all.’ They decided to go with me, so I just have to do my best and fake confidence.’”
While filming The Bubble, he was also auditioning for Ten Percent. Trevaldwyn took on the role of Ollie, Herve, in the original, a celebrity-obsessed acting agent’s assistant. The new series, developed by John Morton, writer of W1A – leans heavily on the stories of the original, but has a slightly different tone. The characters are a bit more goofy, passive-aggressive and, well, British.
Trevaldwyn says: “Parisians are so good with their emotions whereas in England we are terrible. So my character, you’ll see the way he deals with loving someone, or being in love, and he’s the most British thing in the world. He is so much fun to play as it rings true.”
One area where the British version excels is the line-up of celebrities playing fictional versions of themselves: Helena Bonham-Carter, Dominic West, Kelly Macdonald, not bad for Trevaldwyn’s early TV co-stars. “There was one time I was in the makeup chair and Helena and Olivia Williams were right next to me and I was like, ‘Eeeeek!’ Olivia was showing Helena my videos and I was melting in my seat, she was so embarrassed and pleased. She was just making all kinds of weird sounds.”
Next up for Trevaldwyn are a couple of projects he’s working on but, in true celebrity fashion, he can’t tell me anything. However, he can tell me that he is working on a comedy show for Channel 4 called Billi, which he will write and star in himself. Billi is “a 20-year-old who has top energy and is a horrible narcissist, but strangely charming,” Trevaldwyn tells me. When I ask him what else she has planned, he jokes, “I’d be very surprised if they didn’t cast me as Bond! But now I’m doing what I love, writing and acting. I feel very lucky right now.”
If this all sounds like a dream come true, that’s because it is. “A few years ago my cousin and I had a few glasses of wine and took these prank Instagram photos of me leaning over a fence and captioned: ‘Gucci Style.’ Fast-forward a few years and I’m actually dressed in Gucci for a magazine shoot, leaning against a fence. Maybe I have some kind of strange and ironic manifestation. That is my magic power: I make a concise post on Instagram and three years later it becomes a reality!”
As he leaves the interrogation room, he is stopped by a girl in the hallway. “I follow you on Instagram,” she says. “You are hilarious!” “Oh thanks!” she responds warmly. In his Instagram bio, he has wryly written “very shy national treasure.” There’s a good chance that the last part of this will come true as well.