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Sam Swainsburyin rehearsal for The Twilight Zone (c) Marc Brenner

An interview with actor Sam Swainsbury

5 December 2017 Katie Da Cunha Lewin

Originally from Essex, Sam Swainsbury has had a host of roles across theatres in the UK as well as recent turns on screen. This December, Swainsbury stars in the first ever theatrical adaption of the infamous TV show The Twilight Zone, adapted by Anne Washburn of Mr Burns fame, and directed by Richard Jones.

London Calling: Thanks so much for talking to us. Do you want to tell us about your role in the Almedia’s The Twilight Zone.
 
Sam Swainsbury: The show has been adapted around six or seven episodes from the 1960’s television show The Twilight Zone. I’m one of ten actors and we all play four to seven characters each; I’m not actually allowed to tell you what parts I play because it will give the episodes away! I think it will be a really exciting theatrical experience for people who know The Twilight Zone and are fans and for those who have never heard of it before.
 
LC: How has that been performing in an ensemble of ten?
 
SS: It’s been great! It’s something I’m very used to doing because when I first started out as a professional actor I did a lot of ensemble work. It creates a really great camaraderie, a really nice tight-knit family. Everyone in this production gets on so well.  We’ve all got each other’s backs and we are doing similar things in the show so there’s no real hierarchy.


Image credit: Sam Swainsbury and John Marquez in rehearsal for The Twilight Zone (c) Marc Brenner
 
LC: Were you a fan of the series before you started working on the show?
 
SS: Well, everyone obviously knows the famous theme tune! I knew of the show, and I’d seen a couple of episodes, probably the later incarnation from around 2002. I’ve always been a sci-fi fan, and I was a huge fan of The X-Files, which is obviously influenced by the Twilight Zone. It’s been interesting watching episodes from the first incarnation in the late 50’s/early 60’s . Even though it has a particular style of editing that’s definitely come on since then, so many of the stories are relevant today. They are really clever, and I think that now: imagine watching them when they were originally on television. I think they would have blown people’s minds!
 
LC: Have you been going back and watching all of the episodes then?
 
SS: I’ve been dipping in and out. Sometimes it’s useful or sometimes a bit less so to watch the episodes we are actually doing. I’ve watched a few just because I enjoy watching them but some of the guys really haven’t because they want to come fresh to the material.
 
LC: This is the first time the play has been adapted from the television to the stage. How has it been working on material that was originally in a different format?
 
SS: I was so struck by how engaging it was, in a similar way to the original Twilight Zone. I think Twilight Zone fans will be really excited by the sensitivity and affection of the adaptation [by Anne Wasburn].  It will keep the audience active throughout the whole show: you are going to be disoriented, intrigued, weirded-out, even a bit scared. It’s really cleverly done.  I’m not sure why it hasn’t been done before really!
 
LC: You’ve been on television a lot over these last few months – starring in Mum on the BBC and Fearless on ITV – how does being on stage compare to working on television programmes?
 
SS: We finished series 2 of Mum in July, which I did fairly closely to Fearless so I was really itching to get back to the theatre. They are two very different ways of working. On stage, you have a much closer relationship with the actors that you are with because you are working with them everyday, for the same hours, and in the same place. With television, you are only called in when you are needed so it’s a different kind of camaraderie. You get to go to really exciting places and meet exciting people when you work in television. If you can have a healthy mix of both then that’s the perfect world.  They are both exciting and challenging in different ways.
 
LC: What’s it been like working at the Almeida? Have you worked there before?
 
SS: I’ve never worked here before, and I’ve only been there for the first time this week! I saw Albion, which was fantastic! But it couldn’t be more different to what we are doing. It’s testament to the theatre as they aren’t afraid to put on two completely different shows next to each other. I’m delighted to work here, I’ve wanted to for ages. And working around Islington is so lovely, so many nice places to hang out in after rehearsals.


Image credit: The cast in rehearsal for The Twilight Zone (c) Marc Brenner
 
LC:  Have you got any places in London that you like to hang out in?
 
SS: I’m always slightly reluctant to tell people, because they can get so popular! I love South East London. And I think more and more creative and freelance people are moving down that way, because it’s that bit more affordable.  The Model Market in Lewisham is always a favourite, which is a pop up full of bars and eateries, and there’s lots of music.  The Catford Constitutional is another favourite place.  The Blythe Hill tavern is a great old school boozer, they’ve got the perfect pint if you like that sort of thing. The canal walk down to Sydenham is a really lovely thing to do on a sunny day.
 
LC: What London cultural events are you looking forward to?
 
SS:  I starred with Lesley Manville in Mum; she’s going to be in Long Day’s Journey into Night in the West-End, with Jeremy Irons. I’ve never seen her on stage, so I’m really looking forward to it. She is just an extraordinary actress.
 
Sam Swainsbury is in The Twilight Zone at the Almeida until 27 January 2018.
 
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