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Worrell, Trix (1960-)

Writer, Producer

Main image of Worrell, Trix (1960-)

Trix Worrell has been one of the most successful black British television writers of his generation. Born in St. Lucia in 1960, he came to England when he was five. He wrote and directed his first play, School's Out in 1980, which was staged at the Royal Court Theatre. He became a trainee on the Arts Council's theatre director's course at the Albany Theatre in South London, where he had also worked as a teenager. Subsequently a graduate of the National Film and Television School, he was keen to write because, having been an actor, he was less than impressed with the parts that were being written and offered to black actors.

In 1984, Worrell won Channel 4's 'Debut New Writers' competition with his play Mohicans, broadcast on the channel as Just Like Mohicans in 1985. In 1989, he co-authored (with director Martin Stellman, previously the Albany's director) the feature For Queen and Country, about a disaffected Falklands War veteran. In 1990 he was the executive producer on cult sci-fi film Hardware (d. Richard Stanley).

But it was on the small screen that Worrell was to make the biggest impact, creating one of Channel 4's most successful home-grown comedies. Although fairly inexperienced as a television comedy writer, Worrell's proven writing talent, coupled with good timing, led to a brilliant opportunity. On his way to a meeting with producers Humphrey Barclay and Farrukh Dhondy at Channel 4, Worrell was drawn to a black barber's shop when the bus he was on pulled up outside it. It reminded him of his local barber's shop in Peckham. Inside, he saw three barbers pressed up against the window ogling at a handful of passing schoolgirls. This chance episode led to the hit Desmond's (Channel 4, 1989-94), which Worrell went on to write and produce. It ran for five years and seven series, a remarkable achievement both for an ongoing presence of black representation in peak-time television and also for a British-produced sitcom.

Recognising an opportunity to represent black people in more progressive ways, Worrell determined to use Desmond's, which starred the British-Guyanese actors Carmen Munroe and Norman Beaton, to highlight the diversity within the black British community in terms of both heritage and generation. Unlike so much 'black representation' that had preceded it, Desmond's was not problem-led, managing instead to portray the ups and downs experienced by any ordinary, hard-working family in an affectionate, familiar and comedic way. It proved popular not just in Britain, but also in the Caribbean and America. Importantly, as it developed and secured a loyal fan-base amongst both black and white audiences, Worrell took on a bigger directing role, introducing more serious issues. There was also an increased emphasis on developing black-British production talent; by the fourth series, new writers were introduced, most of them women. In spite of such successes, in 2004 Desmond's only came 70th in the BBC's poll to find 'Britain's Best TV Sitcom'.

When Desmond's came to an end in 1994 following Norman Beaton's untimely death, Worrell decided to build a new sitcom around Augustus 'Porkpie' Grant (Ram John Holder), one of the series' most popular characters. Again produced by Barclay and written by Worrell, Porkpie (Channel 4, 1995-96) followed its eponymous hero after a big lottery win, as he wrestled with his new wealth. Despite a largely favourable critical response, Porkpie ended after two series. It had, however, helped to extend the black British presence in the comedy genre in which Worrell had played such a formative and central role.

In the same year that Desmond's ended, he set up the film and television production company Trijbits Worrell with Paul Trijbits (later a leading player at the UK Film Council), which spawned a number of projects. Later, Worrell established his own production company, A Box of Trix, focusing on new musical and writing talent.

In 1998, Worrell received a lifetime Achievement Award from the Royal Television Society. In the BFI's '100 Black Screen Icons' competition in 2007, he was the highest placed Briton in the 'Technical Icon' category, with just under ten per cent of the vote.

Further Reading
Pines, Jim (ed.) (1992) Black and White in Colour: Black People in British Television since 1936, British Film Institute

Sarita Malik

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of For Queen and Country (1988)For Queen and Country (1988)

A young Falklands veteran faces a hostile world back home

Thumbnail image of Desmond's (1988-94)Desmond's (1988-94)

Comedy series set in a Peckham barber's shop

Thumbnail image of Just Like Mohicans (1985)Just Like Mohicans (1985)

An attempted burglary leads to a discussion about black aspirations

Related collections

Thumbnail image of Black TV WritersBlack TV Writers

Small-screen pioneers

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