From Doctor Who to Grimsby: A Conversation with Samuel Anderson
Affable Birmingham-born actor Samuel Anderson, 31, is best known for playing Danny Pink in Doctor Who.
Now, the former Emmerdale actor (he was police officer Ross Kirk) and star of sitcom Trollied has dipped his toe in the world of British gangsters with his latest project, indie flick Pleasure Island.
Director Mike Doxford’s gritty offering is set in Grimsby, where protagonist Dean returns home after a stint abroad in the Army – and very soon he’s drawn into the dark underworld of a once vibrant seaside town, in which light relief is provided (in one of the film’s standout roles) by Anderson as a loser amusement arcade worker with some unwittingly philosophical one-liners under his belt.
The Fan Carpet‘s Shelley Marsden spoke to Doctor Who alumni Samuel Anderson about his role of Nate…
Drizzle, dodgy gangsters, strip joints – are all British seaside resorts so seedy?
Er, no?! I’ve been to a few – the Butlins and the Havens I’ve been to aren’t quite so tough. And Brighton’s not so bad! I thought Pleasure Island being set in Grimsby was fascinating – this town that used to thrive as a port town had literally overnight come to a standstill. The work was sold to other countries. Looking back at old photos, this thriving seaside town in the 50s and 60s, it was buzzing. No other gangster film has been set in a town where such sort of politically-induced bad luck has been thrown upon it. I wanted to do something gritty, but with this place, what a difference a day makes, really.
The main character Dean is a man of few words, the ‘strong, silent’ type – does your character act as a foil to his?
Where my scenes have been placed by the director, I tend to come in after something dark has happened. It’s the perfect balance, to bring a bit of light relief. My favourite scene, between me and Connor, comes right after the scene where Gina’s character was assaulted. It works that way throughout the film.
Did you enjoy playing Nate?
It’s the first time I’ve done that kind of role. It was a lot of fun. I got really into playing that kind of character – I made sure I had a really bad night’s sleep the night before the audition. I went in looking rough, man. On set we could improvise quite a lot with the script, so it was nice to play this really odd character that seems brainless but comes out with things about life that often make sense.
Are there a lot of guys like Nate out there – playing Jonga, smoking weed and hanging out with teenagers in amusement arcades?
For sure. I know a few Nate’s, to be honest. I grew up in inner-city Birmingham so I spent plenty of time on estates in someone’s council flat with characters who are, unfortunately, probably not going to move on.
Did you grow up on a council estate?
When I was born my parents lived in a tiny, red brick estate which wasn’t too bad but some years later when they left, we’d been broken into several times and the situation wasn’t so cool. I remember being off sick from school one day, going into the kitchen and seeing some cracked-out crazy guy trying to break down the door, you know? Another day I remember one of my mum’s rockery bricks come flying through our living room window. You hear all the stories about ghettos and inner-city kids doing what they do – it’s only when you get older and look back that you realise yeah, they really are kids doing all this. At the time, I guess it was just normal to me. My parents did a good job making sure I didn’t get involved in any of that though. I always say I’m from the ghetto, but I’m not very ghetto!
Your Mum’s Irish and dad Jamaican, right?
Right. My mum’s from Dublin, her family from Cork. I mean, my mum came over to Britain from Ireland at a time when it was hugely difficult for Irish here. They’d learned good ways and came over and sort of had the ghetto thrown upon them. I’m half-Irish, half-Jamaican – I’m the Black Paddy. Can you imagine me trying to get in anywhere in the 50s? Haha.
When you were little, you wanted to be the first Black James Bond – you might have competition in the form of Idris Elba, what do you think?
Ah there was always going to be competition! I used to love sport and I love a good competition, but it’s always friendly. We’re actors, we’re all out here doing our best and whoever gets a good role, good luck to em. But I’m still in the running, you know?! I love Colombo, I really do. I’d love to do something like that, or Silent Witness. I want to keep busy. There’s been talk of a spin-off of Nate and Connor’s character so that would be kinda cool.
You cut your teeth on Emmerdale but you were a relative unknown until Doctor Who – was it intimidating show to come into?
I was just excited really. I had no idea of the magnitude of the show I was joining, which was probably a good thing. The secret world of Dr Who is amazing – I was told I was auditioning for one episode, and then once I found out I’d got the job I realised it was 7, 8 episodes. I didn’t realise my Twitter account would suddenly jump by thousands of followers! Doctor Who fans are something else – I feel like part of a pretty special family now.
You were also in The History Boys years ago. Do you still see the lads from that?
The director usually holds a Christmas party every year, so we normally see James [Corden] and Dominic [Cooper] there. I occasionally play a game of football with Andy, or Dom if he’s in town. But a lot of these guys have families now, we’re not young men anymore! I was the young one, I’d just come out of drama school so I’m a bit younger than the rest of them. I’m not quite ready for a family yet!
So, where can we see you next?
On the telly, I’ve just finished filming Trollied season five. We’ve literally hit the 50th episode which is quite a landmark for a comedy these days. That’ll be broadcast in November. We’ve got a Christmas special and I think they’re looking to push forward with it. The style of comedy has changed very slightly, I think it’s tighter. Scenes were very short before, whereas in the new series the arc of the stories is far more interesting. There’s some cheeky competition in town. That’s all I’m saying.
PLEASURE ISLAND IS OUT ON DVD FROM AUGUST 31