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Billie Piper talks Netflix drama SCOOP

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Billie Piper talks Netflix drama SCOOP

The drama on the real events behind the scenes at Newsnight began streaming today…

SCOOP is the inside account of the tenacious journalism that landed an earth shattering interview – Prince Andrew – played by Rufus Sewell – and his infamous BBC Newsnight appearance.

From the tension of producer Sam McAlister – played by Billie Piper –  and her high stakes negotiations with Buckingham Palace, all the way to Emily Maitlis – played by Gillian Anderson – and her jaw dropping, forensic showdown with the Prince, SCOOP takes us inside the story, with the women who would stop at nothing to get it. To get an interview this big, you have to be bold.

Billie Piper talks about the story of the Netflix adaption and her role as Sam McAlister

What is the story told in Scoop?

The story of Scoop, very simply put, is about the four women behind the Newsnight interview between Prince Andrew and Emily Maitlis. [Sam McAlister, Emily Maitlis, Amanda Thirsk and Esme Wren]. It’s about who those women are, how their interview made its way to screen, how it was signed off; all the process of getting it up and running. But mostly it’s about people, I think — the unsung journalists behind the scoop itself.

Who is Sam and where do we find her at the beginning of the film?

At the beginning of the story we find Sam living her life in London as a single mum and a paid journalist at the BBC. The BBC is in something of a crisis because they’re having to let a lot of their staff go, and there are questions about who that will be. For Newsnight, there’s a question around working with Prince Andrew on what they would call a ‘puff piece,’ but then very quickly it becomes something more.

Sam, who is incredibly tenacious, realises there’s more to this story than just his work on his personal charity, and she starts pursuing that.

What was it that initially attracted you to getting involved in Scoop?

I think there’s two things that clinched it for me when I read the script. The first thing was I was very invested in the story generally. After the Newsnight interview I then followed the story at large, and felt very passionate about it and very angry about it. So this was something that piqued my interest. And then there was learning about Sam herself: we don’t have a dissimilar background, we come from the same sort of worlds and there are similarities there, so it’s always good to have something you can relate to in the characters that you play.

What is the real Sam McAlister like?

Unlike anyone you’ve ever met. Playing her I don’t know that I shared the same pressure as say, Gillian [Anderson] in terms of playing a real person, because people don’t really know her outside the world of journalism and the BBC. It meant that I didn’t have the stress, frankly! But also that I could put on the more human aspects. I suppose it’s about selecting the things about the person that fascinate you the most, and there’s quite a lot with Sam.

She’s a real force of nature, she’s formidable and high energy, and I wanted to take a lot of that into my performance. She is so persistent, but there is something gracious and warm and curious, and kind of child-like about her and her love of what she does. A lot of that would be reflected in things like her walk and her mannerisms. And the costume was a big part of it: there’s something so structured and uniform about what she wears every single day that that gave me a lot to work with.

What was your reaction to watching the real interview when it aired on Newsnight?

When I first watched the interview, I didn’t watch it live: I sort of saw fragments of it on the news. And then I watched it quite a while afterwards and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I thought to myself at the time how shocking it was — but I’m not sure I will ever see anything like that again in my life. I think half of the challenge with taking on the role and making this film was this idea of how do you make a movie about something everybody has seen? How do you gear an entire movie towards this one moment that everyone knows so much about and has been meme’d, you know, until the end of time.

How do you make people care again, make something that isn’t laughing at it but expresses the seriousness of the content. I hope we’ve succeeded.

SCOOP is streaming now on Netflix

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