Changes: Samantha Morton
The audio version of this episode is available here.
Annie [00:00:03] Hello. Welcome to Changes. It's Annie Macmanus here and this week I am delighted to welcome double Oscar nominated actor Samantha Morton. Samantha is a hugely celebrated actor born in Nottingham. She has forged a career in Hollywood and in British independent film and is respected for her art wherever she works. She's won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Myra Hindley in Longford and has been nominated for another three BAFTAs and an Emmy. She won a BAFTA for the first film she ever directed, The Unloved, and last year she won the Richard Harris Award at the British Industry Film Awards for Outstanding Contribution by an actor to British film. She is quite simply exceptional. Maybe you've seen her in the films Emma or Jane Eyre, or starring in Steven Spielberg's Minority Report with Tom Cruise or Woody Allen's Sweet and Lowdown. She was in Elizabeth The Golden Age with Cate Blanchett. Recently, she starred in the TV series Harlots and The Walking Dead. Last year, she starred in the film She Said as an assistant to Harvey Weinstein. That film was about the New York journalist who broke the story on Weinstein being a sexual predator. It's a very full circle role for her, given that Samantha was one of the few young actors to publicly speak up about Weinstein's bullying behaviour, way before the Me Too movement began. And this year, she stars in The Whale alongside Brendan Fraser, a hugely hyped movie. And she has a second series of the TV show The Serpent Queen on the way, where she plays the 16th century Queen of France. Katherine Dimitri. Justin Haythe, writer of The Serpent Queen, says of her, I think Sam has a depthless quality to her that makes you look and look and look. There's a quality of outsiderness to Sam. She's always singular. Samantha Morton has a unique story. She was taken into care as a baby, and from then until she was 16, she was moved between foster homes and children's homes. She suffered sexual and physical abuse and got into substantial trouble with the police as a young teen. Her directorial debut, The Unloved, was inspired by her story and the stories of other girls she met in care. She described it as a censored version of what she experienced. We do discuss her experience here and some of the abuse she suffered, so please be aware. She got into acting at around 13 years old after she was picked to join Nottingham Central Junior Television Workshop. It was there she got her first roles, and as a successful actor she has used her voice ever since to highlight the issues with social care for children in the UK. She herself has three children and lives with her husband in East Sussex. Samantha is incredibly strong, clearly very kind and so compassionate and a really giving and just lovely interviewee. But what are the changes she feels have defined her life? Let's find out. Welcome to Changes, Samantha Morton... Just to start off with you as an actor at the moment, I know I've watched The Whale in preparation for this, I've watched She Said in preparation for this. I've had the best time researching this interview, seeing some amazing films, I've watched The Unloved. You have played all sorts of different roles. What makes you say yes to a role these days?
Samantha [00:03:25] Sometimes it is literally because I've got to work. I'm not going to lie. I'm 45 and at a certain point after my third child, I had lots of hormonal issues with endometriosis and adenomyosis and so- a mirena coil because I had super heavy periods. And I gained about three stone, I was huge. And I was working out all the time and I was eating correctly, but I gained a lot of weight and that coincided with like, my late thirties. And it was brutal, I couldn't get a job.
Annie [00:03:53] What because of that?!
Samantha [00:03:54] Oh, it's brutal. When I was younger they were like, you're fat. And I was then- when I was really young, like we're talking like 20, 21, 22, they said I was overweight in Hollywood. We're looking back at the 2000s now and the late nineties where you had to be a size zero.
Annie [00:04:09] Yeah, it was heroin chic, wasn't it? It was like, Kate Moss.
Samantha [00:04:10] And I'd been a gymnast as a kid and then a dancer, so I've always had muscle, you know.
Annie [00:04:15] Yeah.
Samantha [00:04:16] And strong. And certainly if you look at- when I look back at me in shows like Band of Gold or whatever, I was not fat, but they called me fat. So I was fat then, my forehead was too big, my teeth were too crooked. There was always a reason. And I kind of- you get over that because you're like, hopefully talent will prevail and it does. And I was working alright. But then you hit another age as a woman and you're literally just forgotten. There's no roles for you. And then the wonderful team at Monumental were casting a show called Harlots and yeah, they had offered the lead role to Helena Bonham Carter. She didn't want to do it. And so we have the same agent so she was like, Sam, this things come in, the parts written for an older woman but I want you to take a look at it because I think you'd be great. And so when I read it I was like, yeah! It was amazing. And at that point I'd be like, at the gym, you know, trying to lose the baby weight or whatever and all the kind of hormonal stuff that comes with having this coil thing and dealing with illness and things like that. And so I just plodded along. So it's different Annie, at certain times you just got to pay the mortgage and you try to take the best of a bad bunch and you can't- When I was younger, I was really picky. I didn't care about money, so long as me and Esmé were okay and, you know, had an overdraft, it was all about the art, like the director, the story, the script. And then I had three kids and a mortgage and I was like, shit, I need to do the best work that's available to me. And also back then there were, you know, this thing of being a difficult actress when really now I'm considered not a difficult actress because the things that I was difficult about are considered like, okay now... *laughs* you know what I mean?
Annie [00:05:59] Like what? Give me examples.
Samantha [00:06:00] Ohh as a younger woman I was difficult, when I was 16 years old because I wouldn't come out of the trailer because I was doing a sex scene and the writer had written that Tracey, my character, would be giving a client a blowjob- I played a young prostitute in Band of Gold TV series in the UK, and it was male directors mostly, and it was their- It wasn't kind of, if you like, written as coherently as now it would have been, you know, like. And so I'd arrive on the set to rehearse and the director would be like, okay, well, you need all that off. And I'd be like, what? All my clothes? And they'd be like, yeah, we need to see, you know? And so I'd go back to the caravan that I was sharing with three other women and be floods of tears. I was 16, 17 years old doing some of these shows, and the lovely wardrobe girls would be like, if you just put corn plasters on your nipples, then you'll be naked. But then the camera can't do that, because this is the days before digital technology where they can't airbrush things out, you know. So that meant that I had a reputation for being difficult on that particular show. And then it was about saying no. I remember doing a movie in Israel with a director who I was doing a scene, a love scene, and he said- with a megaphone, coming out, he was like 'take off your bra. I want to see your nipples'.
Annie [00:07:14] In front of the whole crew?
Samantha [00:07:14] Of the entire crew. And I just said no, I'm not comfortable. And there was a lot of kind of, you know, bullying going on. And I just went up to him and I just said, fuck off, this has got to stop. You know, if you want these things you discuss them with me prior to me arriving on set. You talk to me in rehearsal or you talk to me when you're casting me and we talk through the whole script and if you wanted nudity there, we have a conversation and then you hire a body double, or I will agree to what I'm comfortable with or what I'm not comfortable with. You don't do it on set in front of a crew of 120 people or whatever, and not even a close set at that. So mostly my difficultness came from that, but also being a little bit more qualified than some of the people that I'm working with because I've done so much. And so if they're asking you to do something, you're like listen, I don't think this is going to work and can I please explain why. But now I don't have that problem Annie, I haven't had that-
Annie [00:08:08] And I can imagine people don't like being told how to work from a younger woman, you know?
Samantha [00:08:16] Well potentially not younger, sometimes it's just more experience and you have younger men telling you what to do because they're directing you or whatever, and you're like, well, I've been on about 200 film sets at this point. So you always have to measure yourself about how you talk to people to make them want- you want everybody to be good. You never want to put anybody down or talk down to somebody or shout at someone. It's about how can I communicate with this person so they can see I'm trying to empower us both to get to the best solution, to get the best shot, to get the best scene, to get the- you know what I mean? So that hindered me a bit. And then I went off to America and did a TV show called The Walking Dead, which, oh my gosh, like the part is possibly the best role I've ever had, I love that character so much.
Annie [00:09:03] So you play Alpha, right?
Samantha [00:09:04] I do yeah and she's a villain, but she's a complex woman who is again a survivor of, you know, childhood abuse and she had an abusive husband, so killed him and looks after her child and she's this single mum. I don't know, I did really well on that. And then it was almost like people went, oh, she's still around, she's still acting? *Annie laughs* because in Lockdown, Harlots did really well on the BBC. I think it's on Starz now. I think Starz have it. Which is quite good because when you look at like, The Serpent Queen which I'm in, you've got Harlots underneath and then Hannah, which my daughters in. So I'm like, yaay! I get so excited.
Annie [00:09:40] Amazing, yeah.
Samantha [00:09:42] Choosing roles has been different at different times based on where my life is at and choices that we make. And sometimes I've chosen to take time out because I want to be with my children or to look after my health, and I'm just so happy and it sounds like, fake, but I am really genuinely happy to still be working at 45 having had three kids.
Annie [00:10:07] When you are in a situation where everything is as professional as it should be on set, you're inhabiting a role, when the director shouts action, what happens to you? Do you go somewhere?
Samantha [00:10:20] Well, I'm already there. I have to be there when I arrive on set.
Annie [00:10:25] Really? So you stay there-
Samantha [00:10:26] Pretty much. It's like being an athlete on a start mark before a race. You're just in that zone. And I prefer it when people just very quietly nod their head or go 'action', rather than it being a big old thing, because it just makes you jump. You know, the directors that I've loved working with and thrived in their environments have been people like Michael Winterbottom, where you're so in the zone that it's almost like you're making a documentary. And recently on I Am Kirsty that I did with Dominic Savage, there's none of that faffing about. It's like it's all about the character and performance. So it's like you arrive on set and you're already in that headspace. So to me, that headspace happens kind of when I get to work in the morning. Get out the car, I'm in the zone, going to makeup if there's makeup required and I'm in the zone.
Annie [00:11:13] You're thinking how your character would think from that moment. You're trying to?
Samantha [00:11:17] I'm just in it. I don't even think, what would they think or anything. I'm just in the zone of being able to give and perform, and it just just happens. But I always get a buzz, like a huge buzz, when I arrive on set I get butterflies, big butterflies that *gasps* it's a film set. And then that's like my first couple of days, I'm really nervous like oh my gosh, all the cameras and everything. And then I'm like, come on, you're alright.
Annie [00:11:39] Have you ever imagined life without acting? As in without the choice to act I mean.
Samantha [00:11:45] Yeah, it was a few years ago I did a film, again in Ireland, called Miss Julie, and I really, really missed my children. I mean, I always miss my children but for whatever reason, I was just- it was like a sickness, like I couldn't function. And I remember thinking, I can't do it anymore. I just can't. But then the bills have to be paid and you have to go, well, what else would I do? And actually, I'm really good at this. I love what I'm doing when there's a balance. Is it the French, they work to live. They don't live to work. And so, for a while there I struggled with a bit of that. And then I realised that I'm so blessed that I get to do a job that I- it's my dream. So I'm literally living the dream and it's about balancing the reality of living the dream, you know, because even though you go, oh, pinch myself, I'm still acting, it's great. You still have to go at certain point, I can't take this call, even though it's really important from, let's say, 3:45, 4:00 till this time, because that's my children's time.
Annie [00:12:42] Yeah, you have to learn it don't you.
Samantha [00:12:42] And that takes a lot of discipline because as an actor, you're always like, will I get another job? Even if you're someone really, really famous and friends of mine are and very successful, I still go, do you worry? And they're like, yeah, yeah *giggles*.
[00:12:54] *Short musical interlude*
Annie [00:13:05] You're talking about dreaming there and this being your dream job. When did you first start dreaming about it?
Samantha [00:13:12] I think from the beginning. I didn't realise I wanted to be an actor, but I used to imagine it was all just a film, you know.
Annie [00:13:20] As in life?
Samantha [00:13:22] Yeah, when I was very small and just trying to- I'd always be on the outside looking in. And I remember films like Annie when I was very little, having a profound effect on me because I was in care and I'd been in the care of the local authorities since birth and like didn't really have a mum and dad. And so I always used to just imagine it was like, one day I'll have this amazing life and I'll look back at all this and, you know, so I think performing or the ability to perform was an instinct of survival in every different foster family. Their name, taking their name, sometimes pretending I was a cousin, not a foster child. You know, worshipping their gods or living the way they lived. It was all- and now looking back, obviously part of the development in being other people. So I didn't go to drama school. I went to a drama club where we devised and did things like that and a bit of work here and there, but it wasn't like a three year or two year intense drama course. And then I learnt on the job. So I think, I always dreamt of a different life. A better life. But fantasy and storytelling. So I've always written, you see, always written poetry and always written diaries. And so that was always there. And then I wrote music from a very young age, so that was always there. So I kind of fell into it, but it also was part of the dream, you know?
Annie [00:14:47] Yeah, yeah, yeah. How are you with change? Are you- what's your relationship I suppose.
Samantha [00:14:53] Terrible with change, Annie. Terrible.
Annie [00:14:54] *Laughs* Okay!
Samantha [00:14:56] I'm good in like, I know how to live like a circus person. Like I can literally throw everything in a suitcase, my passport and cool. But there are certain things I don't like change, because I need routine. I need certain elements of routine to function. I need certain rules to function. And if those are thrown out the window, then I can't function, you know.
Annie [00:15:18] And do you mean like, just kind of daily routines? Like parameters for your daily homelife.
Samantha [00:15:25] Yeah so when I'm filming, I have to eat a certain way. Quite controllingly about that because of tiredness and, you know, feeling like rubbish or, you know, sleeping, getting my full 8 hours. My puzzles. I do a puzzle every night, got to do my puzzles, and they're in a book, like a puzzle book, like word searches and Sudoku's and things like that. I have to get off the phone. I don't like looking at the screens. Um, I always have, I have rules, like I have to be reading a book at all times because I'm always reading scripts and that's living someone else's life. And before you know it, you're never doing anything for you. So if you can sneak those little things in for yourself, then- So I kind of more have rules that help me. Like a, not a manifesto, like a Sammy way of living in order to to still be the best Sammy I can be for everyone else.
Annie [00:16:13] Yeah.
Samantha [00:16:16] But I think my childhood, moving around constantly, different foster families, children's homes, being homeless, not to get the violins out but it was pretty tricky, means that I'm capable of change. I don't think that's easy for my family sometimes when I say, right! We need to discuss this. I've been offered this job and it's a potential four year contract in Atlanta, you know, I talk to Harry first, it's like, do we do it?
Annie [00:16:39] So you cited as your childhood change the kind of moving around, being in and out of care, foster homes, that kind of thing. In that time that you moved around, how many places did you reside in?
Samantha [00:16:52] First of all, I was placed into care as a baby.
Annie [00:16:55] Yes.
Samantha [00:16:55] With my siblings, two other siblings at that point. My mummy wasn't very well when I was born and had had a really traumatic pregnancy so- and this is just going on what she said and trying to try and piece things together through family members. And my dad wasn't very well as well bless him. And so when they were in hospital for mental health reasons, that's when we first went into foster families. So I was in and out of care since birth, so I'd be at home a bit with my dad, back into care when he was in prison or he was poorly. And it was called a matrimonial interim care order. And so I was back and forth, back and forth. And then at a certain age it was deemed that I couldn't go home really. But they didn't change my care order until 1989, when the Children's Act changed. And then I automatically became a ward of court, which meant that I was then owned by the state rather than my dad still having some say in what happened to me. Clearly, I should have just been adopted, potentially as a young kid but it didn't happen. But my last counting, there was 12 foster families plus three children's homes *mutters the names of the homes* that I lived in on a long term basis but I was often placed in children's homes as an emergency placement when I'd run away from the other ones. So you'd be there for a few days, or if I'd been arrested, been in the cells for a couple of days, then they just send you as an emergency placement somewhere while they work it all out. And then homeless hostels with my family as a young child, when my dad would be homeless. And then as a young adult, 16, being if you like, kicked out of care and put into what they called an independence unit but was actually a homeless hostel where they just leave you. They leave you there with a black bin bag that day with a small grant, which I was lucky to even have a grant looking back.
Annie [00:18:48] Did you feel yourself as a child, and maybe you weren't conscious of this, but did you feel yourself changing as a result of what was happening to you, of where you were being put and moved?
Samantha [00:18:57] No, not really. I remember just being frightened to behave because some families were incredibly abusive, actually, in some ways more abusive than my home life. So it's really weird when you're fostered, but your foster parents are doing things to you you know are wrong, because you as a kid, you know that's wrong. And social services were dreadful then and still are now in lots of ways. They're very under-funded and the training is ridiculous and people who then become social workers having not had enough training at all, you know they're straight out of college having a very, very high caseload of children. And things were very different, I suppose, in the late seventies, early eighties as they are today, but they were still pretty tough. So you might go for months without a review when you're meant to be having a review, where your social worker turns up and says, you know, they look at the assess- what's happening, how is school going, how are your foster parents, how are you? You know, not that they ask you how you are, back then. So was I aware I was changing? I was just doing my best to survive. The different schools, the different people. And also a lot of these people want you to feel grateful that you're in their home, you know. They really do. And then there are those that are super chill and they're like emergency placements where you're not- you know you're not going to stay for very long and they're just helping you out for a little bit and they're just super cool people. So I had a bit of both, you know?
Annie [00:20:16] Yeah, yeah. It feels like around the ages of 13 and 14, a lot of stuff happened in terms of big stuff. So you left school at 13, is that right?
Samantha [00:20:28] It was a funny one because I was going through this the other day. My recollection is just being in and out all the time. And then I went to West Bridgford Comprehensive, which was a great school, I have to say, and they were really patient with me. Myself and my child the other day were going through a big box of stuff because I've just finished an album with Richard Russell and we're sorting out the album cover and, we're trying to find these collages, you know, anything from my past that could be helpful for us. And he was like *gasps* 'mum look these are your school books and you were doing really well!' and, you know, like all ticks and so I remember the first year going really, really well. And then I was living in Red Tiles Children's Home and there were riots all the time. I was, you know, there was a lot of things going on that were just not helpful towards a child at school. And I wasn't getting any support at all from the home in that regard. So I fell off, if you like, fell off the wagon if you like, of the education thing. I was doing a bit of work at Central Workshop, so that was a positive thing in my life, but a lot of bad stuff was going on in the home so I just was very angry at authority and pushing back all the time. Moving into my second year, I was never there. I was expelled and then they had an education welfare officer for me and then I was allowed to go to college really young to do a BTEC in drama and dance. But again, I was thrown off that course *laughs*.
Annie [00:21:49] What kind of kid were you at this point? Like I can imagine you must have been so tough to endure all the chaos and noise around you, and also disciplined to just have to get up and get your uniform clean and on and out the door.
Samantha [00:22:03] Oh there was nobody helping with uniform or school gym kit or anything like that.
Annie [00:22:04] That's what I mean. It's all on you.
Samantha [00:22:06] There was none of that. Yeah, there was no- I found a letter the other day from a social worker saying I had missed an opticians appointment and I needed to sort my life out. It was a really tough thing and I was like, but I didn't have anyone to take me to the opticians appointment. I remember always asking for bus fare and getting these occasional kind of easy rider things from the children's home. And let's say they'd been a riot the night before in the home.
Annie [00:22:28] And when you say a riot, what do you mean? The kids were rioting or who's rioting?
Samantha [00:22:31] The kids are rioting because they need food or the fridge is locked or you know. But the behaviour of residential staff in the eighties was despicable. They were not trained. You didn't need to have a police record. Anybody could go into that job. And sometimes a staff member might be 19 years old looking after 16 kids ageing from 9 years old to 17 years old. It was crackers. And so let's say that had happened the night before, everybody would be put on sanctions the next day. So you'd be sanctioned, they call it sanctioning and you're not allowed bus fare. And you're like, well I need bus fare to get to school or I need this and they'd be like yeah, yeah, well, fuck you, you little madam, you're not having it. They were awful.
Annie [00:23:08] My God.
Samantha [00:23:08] Not all of them, but mostly. So leaving school was a bit tricky. And I think what I was like was, I mean, I look back and I was really into reading Coleridge and I had this book that a lovely girl gave me, Charlotte, and it was Palgrave's Golden Treasury, and it was all this beautiful poetry. And I loved the pre-raphaelites and I had a, you know, and I had these postcards on my wall and I loved listening to Rave fm, which was the radio station then, and Heat Wave, which is a great Nottingham radio station. And also getting into like Debussy and Chopin and trying to learn about music and I was out there, but I was also in here, I was very, very spiritual and very kind, I think, looking back. But just really hated the police and hated the social workers that had abused me and were abusing my friends, the residential social workers. So I had a real- so then I was really like some teachers at school were so nice to me and I remember thinking, I want to go home with you. Or being really good in their class, but if I came into a class and a teacher spoke down to me or spoke to me like shit, I wouldn't think- I just wasn't bright enough to think, I'm just going to do my work and fuck you. I'd be like, fuck you, I'm not doing my work. I didn't have that ability to go, this is for me. This education is all I've got. I was 13, 14, I was so fucking angry with them. I was like, fuck you. I was sitting there like that, you know, till I got sent out the class. I was like, great I've been sent out, I'm going to go and, you know, do something else. And looking back, I was like, that's the one thing I regret that I didn't, you know, take that West Bridgford School education because it is a great school. You know, and I would have had that. But it's all worked out quite well *laughs* because I've got four honorary degrees now. So I'm a doctor. I never use it but I'm a doctor and I'm like, it all worked out. I'm alright.
[00:24:54] *Short musical interlude*.
Annie [00:25:05] I've watched an interview with you where you were talking about these residential social workers and you were talking about- there was sexual abuse that happened. There was also physical abuse that happened. You got punched in the face as a 14 year old.
Samantha [00:25:15] Always- used to get restrained as well, they called it pin down and that was made illegal. But that's what they used to do all the time. So lets say you come in and you're like erm, you've missed dinner by 5 minutes. And dinner is still being served, but you're late and you come in. They're like, oh you weren't here on time, you're not having dinner. And you'd be like, that's ridiculous, can I please just have some food? And they'd be like, no. And you'd always have those staff members that are like, jobsworth, you know? And it was a world open to abuse. You've got to think about- and the power plays that were going on. And so let's say you were like, fuck you and you like picked a chip up and you chucked it because you were pissed off and you're a child *laughs*. Not that I ever did that, but you can imagine that scenario. It would be, right, straight in there, hands behind the back, on the floor, like you were getting arrested. So pin down was used at any opportunity to belittle and hurt, humiliate, take the power away from a child that has an opinion. You could get pinned down if you told someone to fuck off if they were being rude to you.
Annie [00:26:18] Oh my God.
Samantha [00:26:18] So there was a huge amount of physical abuse. I hope now with the fact that kids have phones, that hopefully they're somehow in some way filming the abuse in some of these private run children's homes that we know is happening today. Because we've seen it in all sorts of care environments for caring for vulnerable people, people with mental health issues. Those jobs are open to people that just love to hurt people, you know, some very, very sick individuals as well as some incredible individuals. The whistleblowers are signing- you know, they make you sign an NDA everywhere you go now. So we're in situations where staff members who watch kids being abused or things happening that are not okay, they're not allowed to say anything because they have to sign an NDA.
Annie [00:27:01] Oh my God. Watching The Unloved, which was your your first directorial project, was so powerful in terms of how you depicted this young girl's journey through care. People are like genuinely abusive and oppressive and bullying. And something you've always talked about is this idea of, people can be both, you know, to you as a child there could be someone who you look up to and think are amazing, but then equally can flip and take advantage of you like that. It's so powerfully depicted in that movie because it's seen from the perspective of this main character who's a young girl. And I wondered, like afterwards, I know it was watched by millions, a huge viewership. It won a BAFTA. It was so successful as a film. Do you think it changed people's perspectives? Did people talk to you about it? Like, how did people react to the film, I suppose, and the content of the film?
Samantha [00:27:53] Well, what was incredible was Channel four decided to make a whole season out of Being In Care. It was really- I was so proud of them and appreciative. And so not only did you have The Unloved, it's called the care season, so they played like documentaries and they did a whole kind of season around it. And we had the highest viewing figures ever for a single drama on Channel four, and it won quite a few BAFTAs. It won the, you know, the whatever BAFTA that the producers, the directors get and then all the actors got BAFTAs and then Robert Carlyle won a best actor and it was like, it was just great. So the Labour government at the time called me in and-
Annie [00:28:25] Wow.
Samantha [00:28:26] Yeah.
Annie [00:28:26] That's pretty major.
Samantha [00:28:28] I worked closely with Ed Balls and he was amazing. He was like, okay, watched it, what do we need to do? What have I got to do? What can I do? And I went like, first of all we need more social workers. They need training. Lets look at areas where we can improve this because one of the problems is there are not enough social workers. So social workers have crazy workloads.
Annie [00:28:47] Really stretched, yeah.
Samantha [00:28:49] Yeah like insa- and he immediately changed that overnight. And he put money into pol- he changed policy. I was called like a ---. And then the minute they lost power, the coalition government of LibDems and Conservatives just cut that off completely. They didn't want a conversation with me. And to me, it's not about whether it's Labour or Tories or Lib Dems, I was like, can I just speak to people about this? And they didn't want to talk to me. So it did change a huge amount at the time. Then moving forward, the government that came in just didn't want to know about young people in care and still don't, sadly.
Annie [00:29:23] It's remarkable, though, the kind of, the power of film. You know, like my first instinct there when you mentioned Ed Balls is why did it take him watching a film to realise what needed to change, you know, if that's his job to oversee that. But also thank God for the film, if you know what I mean *laughs*.
Samantha [00:29:37] Yeah, I think it's about- it'll be- we'll see where we're at moving forward, because my second feature- it's part of a trilogy, The Unloved. So the second feature is called Starlings and it's about leaving care.
Annie [00:29:51] Yeah.
Samantha [00:29:51] And at the moment the situation is, it is legal for them to just kick you out at 16 to put you in- and also to be in unregulated places from 16 where ofsted aren't involved. So you've been care all your life and then at 16 they just, they can put you in a tent, they can put you in a caravan, they put you in a in a boarding house with people that have just been, you know, coming out of prison that are sex offenders. They're just not looking out for you at all. They just go *poof* not our responsibility. And I believe that to be wrong. I think it should be 18. I think the government has a legal duty of care to children in their care till their 18. But the government seems to think differently on that one. Sadly, FILM4 don't want to read my script for my second feature, and the BBC have not gotten back to me and I sent it to them probably over eight months ago now. And so I'm getting a lot of brick walls here and it's like, people don't want these films, they say it's not funny, it's not ho- what is it? You know, we're not going to make any money on it or don't even want to read it because it's too grim. And I think that it's about time. Men get to tell stories all the time! About struggling men, it's like, why can't I tell a female story? Why does it have to take Ken Loach or, as much as I love these people, Dominic Savage with the I Am series. Why can't we tell our own stories?
Annie [00:31:10] Also, it's tried and tested. Like, you've proven that there's an audience for it.
Samantha [00:31:15] Yeah, but after The Unloved people are saying, we don't want to watch these horrible stories. I'm trying to say that, you know, this isn't some kind of hard hitting docu drama. I'm a filmmaker and cinema is important in it's own right.
Annie [00:31:27] But also people do love that! Look at fucking Happy Valley, it's the bleakest thing ever *Samantha laughs*. People love that stuff. But you know, it's real life, I'm not saying it's entertainment but you know what I mean.
Samantha [00:31:40] The government patronises us. The arts are considered nothing. They really, really are. And I think it's not just the story that's important and why that story's important. Cinema is important. Film making is important. Theatre is important. Music is important. The arts are so important to us as a society, I believe, as a development of humanity and also for people to be involved in the healing aspect of it and not discounting the billions of pounds it brings to the economy. It's so short sighted of them. You know, sometimes I go, I wish I was French *both laugh*. The French love cinema, you know what I mean, they put money into cinema. It's like the BFI is struggling. It's just like, ahh everyone's begging for money but it's like, some things are so important.
Annie [00:32:28] Yeah.
Samantha [00:32:29] And I don't mean to be kind of anti-male when I'm like, 'men are allowed to tell their stories'.
Annie [00:32:34] No, of course it's not anti-male. It's not anti-male.
Samantha [00:32:35] Yeah, but when you look at the percentage of films and the statistics about the stories that they're allowed to tell and why and they're funded and- you know, it's like ahhh, come on.
[00:32:44] *Short musical interlude*
Annie [00:32:54] Let me ask you about your adult change. You cited having a child and I wanted to ask about that and how that changed you, becoming a mother, what that did to you, for you.
Samantha [00:33:04] I was so scared yet so excited.
Annie [00:33:08] How old were you?
Samantha [00:33:09] I was 22, I think. I'm rubbish at numbers. Oh, it was like somebody that would love me, and somebody that I could love that wasn't hopefully going to be taken away. And somebody to dedicate my life to other than me. To do something that everyday meant I got up in the morning and felt like really happy to be alive because before then I had issues with the me. What I'd done, who I was. Trying to be a good person, trying to learn about spirituality, trying to- my conflict with Catholicism and Buddhism and all these- learning about Zen Buddhism and just kind of *ahhh*.
Annie [00:33:54] And you were a successful actress at this stage. I mean, you were doing really well at this point.
Samantha [00:33:59] Yeah, yeah. I was doing very well. Just that other life and like, you know what that's like, I'm assuming like that sense of like, wow. And a bit like, ohh I don't wanna fuck this up. And I was a single mum as well. You know, great dad doing his dad stuff but me living alone and I remember getting a nanny when she was nearly a year old. First of all my best friend came up from Nottingham because she was a nursery nurse.
Annie [00:34:26] *Gasps* dream scenario.
Samantha [00:34:27] I know, I know! I was like, I've got this job in Israel, will you help me? And she was like yeah, so she came to help me and then it was like, I've got to get a nanny and crying about that. 'And I don't want anyone else to have them' but having to go, no I need to go back to work because the overdraft is done. And I remember the nanny got paid more than me the whole time I had a nanny, because the money was coming in and independent cinema doesn't pay that much. So once I paid the mortgage and paid the nanny, I had like a little bit left over. It's just crackers. But childcare is expensive. Certainly was then when you need a nanny to travel with you and- But then it would be great then cause I did films, so I'd be working for a bit, then I'd have loads of time off and then I'd be working again and loads of time off. Whereas television now, they need you to sign six years of your life away and then they need five months for each season of something and you're just like *scoffs*. Not to complain because I love it, but at the same time it's just a very different world films to telly.
Annie [00:35:20] Mm hmm. And you also cited one of the biggest changes in your adult life as having a stroke when you were 30.
Samantha [00:35:29] Yeah.
Annie [00:35:29] Can you tell us what happened there?
Samantha [00:35:31] Well, that's crazy. I was living in a house in East London, we bought this house. And the woman we bought the house off had renovated bits of it herself so she'd made the ceiling with lime and lath plaster. So the lath's are the wood that's there and then it's lime plaster, it's traditional ways of putting the plaster in. So it's got lots of hair in it, like, I think pig hair, horse hair, whatever, mix it up. And sadly, I am pretty sure this is a case, if I'm going to get sued, I don't want to get sued, but it was basically too much plaster to lath ratio. And I was standing at the bottom of the stairs, we were taking all the kids out for pancakes in Spitalfields Market and I was standing at the bottom of the stairs like, 'come on guys, we got to go!'. I was off to Russia the next morning to make a movie with Woody Harrelson that I didn't end up doing obviously but erm-.
Annie [00:36:20] Right, yeah.
Samantha [00:36:22] Looking at the kids and they were coming down the stairs and then the entire ceiling in the hallway just fell on my head and caused a vertebral artery dissection. I was yeah, I was very, very lucky that, you know, on the MRI scan, when they put the dye in, they kind of could see where I'd had 2 strokes and being able to treat me very quickly. It's all about how quickly you discover the stroke and get the treatment happening, that I was lucky. I went into rehab quite early on. So, yeah.
Annie [00:36:52] What were you having to rehabilitate?
Samantha [00:36:54] Learn how to walk again and talk properly? Because a thing called disfluency happened, which I still have a little bit of where your thoughts and your words are not connected. Like I can't find the words as quickly as I'd like to.
Annie [00:37:08] And apart from the physical changes obviously, which still affect you, how did that change you, your outlook?
Samantha [00:37:15] Oh my gosh. I think- this is going to sound like woe is me and I'm not because it is a bit funny. I had a car accident when I was younger. I was hit by a car and I was knocked out cold. It was a really bad accident. And I saw everyone putting coats on me, I remember seeing all the faces of everyone in the ambulance, but I didn't wake up till I was in the hospital. I know that for a fact. Because when I came round and they were talking to me and I was saying what I'd seen at the side of the road, the people that put coats on me or whatever, and my friends that were crying- I was on walking to school. They were like, but you've been asleep the whole time. You couldn't, you've been unconscious. So that was life changing for me as a kid because I then realised that there is something other than what we are now. If I was knocked unconscious, eyes closed, wasn't with it.
Annie [00:38:07] And did you know that that stuff actually happened? So that stuff did happen?
Samantha [00:38:11] Yes, because I asked the people.
Annie [00:38:13] Okay, so they saw it happen?
Samantha [00:38:14] Did you do that? Did you put the coat on me? Yeah. And then the ambulance was like, but you've been unconscious.
Annie [00:38:18] It's as if you, you came out of your body somehow?
Samantha [00:38:21] Yes, yes. Saw it all. So I nearly died, then.
Annie [00:38:24] God.
Samantha [00:38:25] And then I suppose with this, this was like, obviously again wasn't my fault, was just standing at the bottom of stairs. And when I was hit by a car, I was on a zebra crossing I'll have you know.
Annie [00:38:34] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Samantha [00:38:35] I was doing the right thing as a kid. I was on a zebra crossing and the driver turned round. It was a new zebra crossing, didn't know it was there. It was that- your mortality. I mean, I have little memento mori earrings on. I've always been like, could be gone in a minute. And I've always- I think also when I was very little, I had some pretty nasty accidents in the home that meant that I was always a bit trippy, always a bit out there. And people say, oh so you're astral projecting from a very young age? I was like, I thought it was survival *Annie laughs*. So I've always been aware of another realm, of another- something other that exists other than what we're now touching and feeling and having these conversations. Just my appreciation of life, if it wasn't there already, it bloody was after that. And being in the hospital when I was doing rehab, which took three months, being so blessed that I could actually still speak.
Annie [00:39:30] And work.
Samantha [00:39:32] Yeah. And then I came out. And really kindly, I did a film then with Phil Seymour Hoffman, the ---New York film for Charlie Kaufman, and they waited for me. They were like, we believe you're going to get better. And I had already been cast and so I had a goal to be like, I'm going to be on this film set. And anyone else might have just gone, no we're not going to use you, but they were kind.
Annie [00:39:52] Yeah, but also, I think I mean, you would never say this or probably think it, but it's probably testament to your talent as well. They wanted you on that film Sam. *Laughing* I think they wanted you on that film for a reason.
[00:40:08] *Short musicl interlude*.
Annie [00:40:08] What's the change you'd still like to make or see moving forwards to your life, if at all?
Samantha [00:40:15] I'd like to get to a point once my children have, touch wood, left uni or them independent, that I do 50/50 charities. So 50% of my life is for charity work and the other is for me and family.
Annie [00:40:32] So you would leave acting or when you say me and my family, that's acting for you and your family?
Samantha [00:40:39] I'd probably do less acting.
Annie [00:40:40] Got you.
Samantha [00:40:41] And it would be about taking my- I have a job with the World Health Organisation at the moment and I work with other charities like the NSPCC that that would be almost like a proper job rather than a bit here and a bit there. But that would be like, I would dedicate a lot of my time to those causes. Because, I'd like to do that more.
Annie [00:41:04] And can I ask you about the music? I'm dying to know about the music. I saw you in a Guardian article talking about it and I was like, ahhh, what! How's it been, you've written an album.
Samantha [00:41:16] Richard and I have made an album and written an album together. And we are a band and we are called Sam Morton.
Annie [00:41:21] Okay, I, oh my God.
Samantha [00:41:23] We went through different, like what we're going to be called and came up with Sam Morton, and the album's called Daffodils and Dirt and, I think like a Single's coming out in September. And then the album, I think later.
Annie [00:41:37] God, I wish I was still on the radio *laughs*.
Samantha [00:41:39] We mastered it. We mastered it the other day.
Annie [00:41:41] And what kind of music is it and how is it being ma-
Samantha [00:41:45] We're a synth pop duo, that's how I'd say we are.
Annie [00:41:49] *Screams* Oh my God!! *Samantha laughs* so you're going to be doing gigs?
Samantha [00:41:51] Yes, when I get back off Serpent Queen we're going into rehearsal immediately so that we can start playing live.
Annie [00:41:58] *Gasps* what was it like making it and going in there?
Samantha [00:42:01] Talking about changes, life changing.
Annie [00:42:03] How?
Samantha [00:42:03] Like the best. Oh my gosh. Like, first of all, all the writing I've always done and kind of playing piano and the music, just kind of being an author of your own work. Like as an actor, you're always being directed and then you're watching it, you go, what?! They edited it like that? Oh my God, That's not how I performed that. The sound when they put cheesy music on it, or you're like, oh, I hate the score. This is like, us. It's Richard and I, and it's everything we love and everything we wanted to say. And he is, I believe, a genius and just, just singing. And I'm there singing and just how that made me feel. So healing.
Annie [00:42:41] It's just something deeply primal about the act of singing, isn't it, in terms of it being a healing thing? Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Samantha [00:42:49] Yeah, that felt amazing. And it kind of- my family are Polish and Irish, so there was this kind of, it's very like, I don't know, this thing about storytelling and I've always loved a sing song. My granny was always like, come on, up you get, let's have a song kind of thing. And there's always been that in my life. And I don't- dare I say this, I don't really like musicals.
Annie [00:43:10] I'm with you.
Samantha [00:43:11] I never wanted to do musical theatre, so that was never an option. I had a manager when I was younger and I fancied myself as like a Dina Carol back in 1992.
Annie [00:43:18] Love it.
Samantha [00:43:20] I remember once going and singing, doing a bit of session singing for Nightmares on Wax. It must have been 1991 or 2, and I was just this little club kid, you know, who'd got a manager and I was like, yeah I'm gonna be this- It was so ridiculous. But they were very kind to me and they gave me the tape and I didn't make it to the album. It's fine *Annie laughs*. But then friends of mine that were doing like rave tunes at the time, I'd be like in their studios going *sings a note*. You know, trying to just somewhere get involved. So it's been a lifelong dream. It's happened.
Annie [00:43:51] And it's been realised now at the age of 45. Isn't that amazing?
Samantha [00:43:54] Yeah, mad.
Annie [00:43:55] Isn't that incredible?
Samantha [00:43:57] My gosh, It's been a meeting of minds. It's been the best thing. Other than my children and a couple of jobs, probably the working with Lynne Ramsay on Morven Callar and Under The Skin with Karen Adler, it's been up there. I mean, it's different. I can't compare it, but it's the best thing I've done. I'm so like, fuck it.
Annie [00:44:16] Well, you know what? It doesn't matter what anyone thinks then. You know, you've achieved, what an achievement to have had such an incredible time. Oh my God, thank you so much, Sam.
Samantha [00:44:26] Thank you, Annie. Thank you. Lovely to talk to you.
Annie [00:44:34] Thank you so much to Samantha Morton. I just love talking to her and I'm very excited about that album. First single she said was coming out in September I think? So yeah, gassed to hear that. What will it sound like? A synth pop duo. You can also watch Samantha in The Whale, starring alongside Brendan Fraser. That's in cinemas now. It's an amazing film. Brendon himself is nominated for an Oscar. Samantha's part is smaller but it is by no means less impactful. She's electrifying as Brendan Fraser's ex-wife in the movie. She's so good. She Said is available to buy or rent on digital download or DVD now. And The Serpent Queen is on Amazon Prime, so it's all out there. Go view it at your leisure. Thank you so much for listening to Changes. I would love to know what you thought of this one. I love hearing from you. Do let me know, reach out on Instagram. Annie Macmanus on there. And don't forget to rate us, review us, subscribe. You'll get your episodes every Monday morning straight into your inbox. It helps us so much. Do share as well if you get a chance. Thanks so much for listening. We're going to be back next week. Changes is produced by Louise Mason through DIN productions, seeya!