Exclusive: British actor Samuel Anderson talks the differences between theatre and TV production and working on Doctor Who

It’s not very often that a new supporting actor on Doctor Who manages to make enough of an impression to be voted the best male guest star in the series for that year. But when Samuel Anderson joined the cast as teacher Danny Pink and love interest for Jenna Coleman’s Clara Oswald, he set hearts aflutter and minds astir. But besides his brief travels through time and space, he’s also tread the theatre boards and gives an interesting insight into what he sees are the differences between the production styles. We sat down for a quick chat with Samuel whilst he was here as part of the Oz Comic Con Melbourne lineup.

Over the course of the last decade Anderson has starred in a number of small roles such as in the soap opera Emmerdale, or the medical drama series Casualty. Surprisingly though after a fairly standard audition procedure Anderson then scored his role on Doctor Who. He admits that on some subconscious level he drew upon inspiration from his teachers and their ways in order to help him with his portrayal of ex soldier now turned teacher Danny Pink. However for a young actor, it’s the thrill of getting to work on a large production like Doctor Who and to perform alongside veterans like Peter Capaldi that bring him the most excitement.

“It’s just a dream come true, working with guys like that you can only improve. It forces you to up your game. But also you get to see a master at work, you get to see someone who knows his way around. Doing his thing, up close and personal, and first before everyone else.”

The introduction of Danny Pink into Clara Oswald’s life brought with it the start of a new and interesting relationship. We get to see the awkward but endearing beginnings of their courtship as they tried to actually get that relationship off the ground. Anderson loved working with Coleman but believed that Clara’s troubles stemmed from an inability to choose between the two men in her life.

“Oh man she’s (Jenna) so hot, it’s great just to be next to her, it’s fantastic but yeah it was a little awkward. Clara just couldn’t quite make up her mind. She wanted the best of both worlds. Which you know why wouldn’t you, I was very surprised that Danny was that bothered. Let her run around the world if she wants to, that’s how I would be personally.”

Funnily enough though we also see how the involvement of Pink in Oswald’s life impacts upon The Doctor. It sometimes resulted in The Doctor being a third wheel which would then flip over to Pink being the third wheel as Oswald tried to juggle both her real life and her adventures. However Anderson coyly admits that “getting to rub The Doctor the wrong way, and standing up to him” was another thing he enjoyed about his character.

samuel anderson

However Anderson isn’t just a television star, he’s also tread the theatre boards. Having starred in the 2004 National Theatre production of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys. That subsequently he ended up performing the same role in the Broadway, Sydney, Wellington and Hong Kong productions. For Anderson he finds there’s a very distinct difference between being on stage versus being in front of a camera.

“Yeah, I love the rehearsal period (of theatre), it’s like going to school and studying your favourite lesson for a month. Then the performance is just like, I’ve never done one, but I imagine it’s like doing a parachute jump. You get up there and you think “Have I packed my bag properly?” I’m not sure if my parachute is going to work, so the only way to find out is to jump on that stage and go I’m sure I prepared well enough. And just having that immediate reaction is fantastic. It’s a different kind of magic to television. I love doing TV, it’s great but it’s a different game.”

One of the things that many actors comment on particularly with the difference between theatre and television is the immediacy of the audience reaction you get with theatre as opposed to the delayed reaction with television.

“When I say reaction I’m not talking, I don’t mean in terms of whether they like it or not. I just mean you can “feel” in the room whether a scene is funny or tragic. There’s an energy that you can’t really replicate. It’s (television) just a different beast, you have to work in a different way. It’s the same thing but you have to work in a different way. You’re more on your own, with an audience you can tell we haven’t got them we need to move in this direction or we need to try this and you don’t always get them every night. That’s the beautiful part of the challenge. Obviously you do get reactions out of the television crew, but sometimes they’re not even watching the performance.”

When talking about theatre, it’s clear from Anderson’s reactions how much he enjoys it so it feels only natural to quiz him on what production he’d enjoy working on given the chance.

“They did a play at the National with some blues musicians (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom by August Wilson) and I didn’t even get a look-in. There are so many but I would love to do ‘Waiting For Godot’, I love Beckett, but I mean I’m relatively early in my career so there’s plenty of time.”

With Anderson being both young and as he puts it “early in his career” it’s a given that we can expect to see more of him. Hopefully he will be able to make it back to Australia for another theatre production like he did with The History Boys. Or maybe we will see him at another convention regaling us with more tales of his time on Doctor Who.