When I arrive at the Glasgow private members club 29 to interview Samuel Robertson, our photographer is already there, and the young Dundonian actor is already smouldering down the lens. Due to a miscommunication, he didn’t know he’d be photographed today, but no matter; he’s something of a natural and improvises with aplomb.
Elbow resting on the bar, a black v-neck t-shirt slung preposterously low on his chest and hair defying gravity, he looks a bit like the edgiest, naughtiest member of a boy band. He’s pure pin-up pretty; no surprise considering he came into acting via the modelling route.
“I don’t love doing photoshoots,” he says, as we take a seat on a shiny sofa. “But then I see some other actors doing them and I take to it a little easier than they do. Some actors just can’t do it. It’s really bizarre how they can go in front of a camera and be a character but they can’t go in front of a camera and be themselves.”
For 26-year-old Robertson, things were arguably the other way around for the first few years of his career. He’s clearly perfectly at ease with himself, very open, confident, relaxed. However, he fell into acting by accident after being approached for the part of Adam Barlow in Coronation Street at 19 while he was studying English at Manchester University and modelling part-time, and he spent a long time feeling uncomfortable in the role of an actor.
“I had never really been to acting classes or shown any desire to act,” he says. “It was all really new. To go, within six weeks, from being asked ‘are you interested in acting?’ to being on the set of Coronation Street was a bit much. When I went for it I thought it would be a bit of a jolly, but when I got into it I was like, ‘Jesus, this is a job...’”
Unprepared for appearing on a soap opera that routinely attracts eight million viewers, he found being recognised in the street an uncomfortable experience, one which eventually led him to quit the show and spend a year travelling the world by himself, something he jokingly describes as “career suicide”.
“[Coronation Street] was a whole different world,” he says. “All my mates were students. I was from Dundee, I wasn’t in the acting industry and suddenly I was going to VIP parties. I thought, ‘is this the world for me’? I didn’t know if I fancied it. And then I went travelling for a year and stayed in huts and I thought, ‘yeah I could go back to that red carpet world!’” And instead of being scared or fearful of it I came back and embraced it and realised that it was something I should enjoy and appreciate.”
Once his agent had persuaded him to get back in the game, a couple of small roles came along including one in River City before the one he was finally happy to shout about; that of Flynn in the hit E4 drama series Beaver Falls, which follows three British graduates working at a summer camp in the US.
The programme was an instant hit on its debut last year, and the much-anticipated second series kicks off next week. With a massive following among students in particular, Beaver Falls made an instant heartthrob of its star, whose character is a something of a smooth, handsome, womanising hedonist.
“A few of my friends think I’m just playing myself,” he says with a wry smile, adding with a laugh that Flynn is actually much nicer than he is. So what does he have in common with the loveable rogue? “I’m a bit nomadic and fly-by-night, which can be quite infuriating for some people but it’s just my nature.”
He gives me a for instance; he’s just moved to Glasgow after seven years spent living in Manchester and London, but despite having had his flat for two months he’s only spent three weeks in it. “I’m a bit carefree and I’ve probably been like that with friendships and relationships,” he adds, “which I think Flynn was in the first series as he tried to figure out what’s important to him.”
Flynn is, he admits, “not a massive stretch” for him and he’s still finding out how versatile he is as an actor, still cutting his teeth. Something of a perfectionist, he’s hypercritical of his performances and found it difficult to learn and develop in the full glare of a national soap opera with a massive audience.
“One of my friends said to me ‘I would hate to be you Sam because you’re never happy’,” he says, an incredulous smile on his face. “But I just strive for the best.” He insists he wasn’t particularly good at modelling and is critical of his performance on Corrie. Robertson has been told he’s musically talented and it’s an avenue he’d love to pursue, but he’s such a perfectionist when it comes to writing and recording that it’s proving to be a slow process.
Filming for Beaver Falls takes place in South Africa over the British winter, and there’s talk of a third series, which should keep him occupied come the end of the year, but since playing Flynn he’s been approached about a number of other potential projects, none of which he can discuss, and all of which he’s pretty excited about.
The modesty and the uncertainty remain, however: “I think I need to add a few more strings to my bow,” he says slowly, “but I’m not embarrassed about it. I’m not a young, naïve kid any more. Beaver Falls was the first job that I really felt proud about, that I’d done myself, where I’d done a good job. It was the first time I felt happy to broadcast it.”
Our photographer wants more time with him. I’m not surprised; the camera loves him. He switches effortlessly into a natural pose, completely comfortable in front of the lens, entirely relaxed in the spotlight.
Series 2 of Beaver Falls starts on E4 on Monday at 10pm.
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Friday 24 May 2013
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