From Sex Education to TV football role – Sam’s enjoyed a rapid rise since leaving uni
With a part in a hit Netflix comedy and a starring role in a new television football drama, Sam Brown has had a whirlwind first year as a professional actor.
After graduating from the Acting & Creative Practice course at the University of Northampton in July 2019, Sam quickly landed a supporting role in an episode of Netflix’s much-lauded bawdy comedy, Sex Education.
He was then snapped up to play a lead in forthcoming footy drama, The Window, which is due to hit the small screen worldwide in 2021.
Sam was cast to play Jordan, an up-and-coming young footballer from Merseyside, who tries to navigate his way through the world of a billion-pound industry.
Reflecting on his quickfire success, the 23 year old, from the little North Yorkshire seaside town of Saltburn-by-the-Sea, said: “I do still have to pinch myself that things have started so well for me.
“I attended recall auditions in London, and had to travel there and back on five occasions on a bus, that took seven hours each way, because I didn’t have much money.
“It was a really long process over a couple of months, so when it was finally confirmed I was going to be in The Window, I admit I had a little cry with my mum and dad.
“Growing up in Saltburn, there’s nobody from around here that I know of who has gone on to be an actor. It’s just not what happens.”
Now back living with his parents, after months of filming – including on location in Malta – for The Window, Sam has had time to reflect on how his childhood helped him to land the role of a football prospect.
He said: “I’m a Middlesbrough fan, through and through, so I know about the game, and I used to play football all the time, when I was growing up.”
But Sam still have to overcome some obstacles when he got the gig.
“For a start, my character’s from Liverpool, and that’s one accent I’d never even attempted,” he said. “I was pretty bad at it, so my old coursemate from the University of Northampton, Joe Roberts, took the time to teach me, as he’s a Scouser. He was brilliant and helped me to nail it.”
Accent aside, Sam also experienced a touch of imposter syndrome when he first met the show’s creative team, including producer Rolant Hergert, creator James Payne, who has written episodes of ITV’s award-winning Mr Selfridge drama, and more than 70-odd episodes of EastEnders. Bafta-winner, Adrian Shergold, meanwhile, was The Window’s director.
“I was so nervous meeting them because they have big reputations, and here I am, fresh out of uni and thinking I might not be able to do the job, I might not be up to it,” said Sam. “But they were lovely, and did everything they could to help me, and after initially feeling out of my depth, I began to feel right at home.”
Filming on location was something of an adventure for Sam, but it wasn’t without its hitches, thanks to the pandemic.
He said: “It was all going really well, but in April, we had to stop everything, because of the pandemic, which was really frustrating. Luckily, we were able to get back on location in July, to film the final two of the 10 episodes.”
Looking back at his time on the Acting course at the University, Sam feels the training he received – for life both off and on camera – helped him to have such a great start to his career.
“I don’t think I could have done a single scene without the training I got at uni,” said Sam. “I owe everything to the team who taught me, and not just for the technical training, but they made sure I was ready to work in the industry. They tell you how to behave, how to prepare, how to be professional and adult about things. It’s this advice about how to get on in the industry that’s invaluable. They drummed it into me that you wouldn’t get very far if you could only act.”
Things began to snowball for Sam during his final year at Northampton, when he was nominated for the Spotlight Prize – an award which aims to find the best emerging acting talent in the UK and Ireland.
Although he didn’t win, the nomination meant he got to showcase his acting talents to a panel of top industry professionals – and that led him to securing an agent, meeting the casting director Carol Dudley for The Window, and gaining his first role, in Sex Education.
Sam said: “The Spotlight experience went better than I could have ever imagined. It led to the Sex Education role, which saw me play somebody selling face masks in the first episode of the second season. That was quite strange, as it was filmed well before the pandemic, and now everybody’s wearing masks.
“To be a part of such a huge show was a brilliant experience, and then to progress to another TV production was a dream come true.”
The Window is now being edited, and will shortly be launched to international TV and video on demand markets. Sam is keeping his fingers crossed UK viewers will get a chance to watch it.
“I think it’s really suited for the UK market” he said. “But now I am focusing on what to do next. I’d love to be in something of the same ilk as the BBC drama Normal People, that would be the dream.
“It has some really natural and heartfelt acting, covering so many topics, including mental health – that’s the sort of thing I would love to do.”