It’s Keeley’s (Katherine Rose Morley) birthday and she could really do with some luck today - she’s defaulted on a payday loan, and the debt collectors are already knocking on her door demanding she pays off the £425 she owes. With nothing in her bank account Keeley needs to think of a way to get the cash and fast - and winning the lottery would certainly solve all Keeley’s problems!
The Syndicate begins Tuesday 30th March at 9pm on BBC One.
Interview: BBC Press
Tell us about your character, Sam.
Sam is a struggling musician. He is Roxy’s boyfriend and a bit of a dead weight in the relationship to be honest. He’s got aspirations and dreams of becoming a famous rock star in a band but his head’s in the clouds a bit. Roxy wants to move on to the next stage in the relationship, whereas Sam’s not quite ready for that. I don’t really think Sam knows what he wants and he’s thrown into a situation where he feels trapped, and gets a bit selfish in the process.
Do you share any character traits with Sam?
No, luckily I’m quite glad to say I don’t share any characteristics with Sam other than perhaps his fashion style, but that’s the extent of it. Although I can play the guitar! I can play the very basics. There was one scene where I was playing guitar and talking at the same time on the Ilkley Moor and it was so cold, so it was really hard to play guitar. Also I’m not at the level yet where I can sing or speak and play at the same time, so I’m sort of saying the words and strumming which I’m hoping they’ve managed to make look good in the edit.
It was really interesting for me to play my first onscreen drama role and a character that was so different to myself in real life. It was good fun and a good challenge.
You mention this being your first TV acting role. How did you find it?
Yes! This is my first TV acting role and I’m really excited about it. When I was a young boy I was an extra in a period drama called Cranford and ever since then I’ve been fascinated with how it all works. I really admired the craft of it and how much effort goes into making these television shows, both on and off screen behind the scenes as well. To get an opportunity to be in something like this is amazing.
I auditioned for the role and did a self-tape. I’m so used to being in front of a camera at home with what I do through YouTube so I gave the self-tape a go, they liked it, they brought me up to Leeds to audition in front of Kay and see how I took direction and stuff, which I love. The great thing was meeting Kay and seeing how good she is at helping bring a character out in someone. To have Kay there helping me along the way and teaching me little bits and bobs here and there was fantastic. I’m very, very fortunate. It was exciting and quite nerve-racking, but I’ve enjoyed every part of it and even though I’m not a series regular I learnt so much about the process and learnt so much from the other actors and actresses.
You’re in the show from the first episode so we meet Sam quite early on. Tell us about working with those other cast members. Obviously you have a lot of scenes with Taj Atwal, who plays Roxy.
Most of my scenes are with Taj and she’s absolutely brilliant. From the very first day when we had our first scene together, we met in a van en route to location and she was so supportive and welcoming. I think she could tell I was perhaps a bit nervous, so she suggested we run lines whilst we’re in the car on the way there. It took a while - like with everything in life - to ease in to it and get comfortable, especially with meeting so many new people. It can be a bit daunting and overwhelming, but Taj made the whole process so much more enjoyable and it was a pleasure to work with her. I had scenes with some of the other cast as well.
This isn’t just your first TV acting role but you have to work with animals, which is always quite a challenge. Tell us about working with dogs.
My first onscreen acting role and they say, ‘Let’s chuck a load of dogs in as well’. They always say never work with kids and animals so I was thrown in the deep end. I’ve never had a pet dog, but I’ve always liked them. They’ve all got so much character as well. Once you finally get the shot in the bag it does pay off and it’s so nice to work with animals. I find it always lightens any mood.
Did you have any pets growing up?
No. Weird story, I really wanted a pet lizard but my parents were always like, no way. They said I had to work my way up through this series of pets. It started with woodlice, then I had giant African land snails, which were quite boring, but still great to look at, and then after that I had stick insects for a while but I never made it to lizard.
In the future, Dianne and I would love to get a dog. Also we’re both such career-driven people we still want to be able to make the most of being able to travel a lot. So in the future, yes, but not right now.
Where do we find Sam at the start of the series?
Sam has hopes and aspirations of one day making it as a successful musician and he thinks he’s on the brink of getting there. He still has aspirations of living up that younger kind of reckless lifestyle. Roxy is very much the opposite. She wants Sam and her to start being more independent and is keen to get their own flat together, whereas Sam doesn’t really want that, deep down.
Were you familiar with Kay’s other work before joining The Syndicate?
Yes, I was familiar with Kay’s other work. The series set in the stately home was brilliant. After watching series three I went back and watched series one and two. I did it in a different order, but that’s what’s great: each series is a standalone story so it doesn’t really matter what one you watch first. While the premise is the same for each series there are so many different twists and turns in the writing that keeps everyone gripped throughout the entire series.
I made my girlfriend watch series three again with me as well. She absolutely loved it and something’s got to grab her straight away otherwise she’s not interested. So it passed ‘the girlfriend test’ which is great. Dianne is super-excited to watch series four.
How did you find filming during Covid?
For me, filming during Covid was actually quite exciting. I’ve always taken the Covid rules and guidelines super-seriously so I’ve not ever taken any risks. It was exciting to get out of the house and go and do a big production. I’ve been very fortunate in that I can work making videos and content from home, but there is something about going away and working with a bigger team. It really gives you that feeling of camaraderie and being in it together. It felt the same doing theatre last year. Everyone on set felt like super-lucky to be able to continue working and we’re all so grateful we had jobs to do and could work together. It was a buzz of excitement and fun. Even getting on the train to go up to Leeds was an adventure.
It’ll be really interesting to show back to my kids, grandkids and explain the story of how we made this during these times and what it was like to go up and stay in a hotel room, where you couldn’t really leave your room or go anywhere other than set, because you didn’t want to risk catching this virus.
Did you do any prep for the role of Sam?
For me, the biggest hurdle to cross and really prep for was Sam’s accent. I’ve got a lot of fans of my previous work on YouTube who are from the north and will be completely honest if I did an awful accent. And what you don’t realise is there are so many different regions and dialects all within the north. So in my defence, before this show goes out, I’m going to let everyone know that I decided the character of Sam was not born in the north but moved to Leeds during primary school years. I kept asking Kay if my accent was ok and she’d always say it was fine, so hopefully the accent will pass muster.
But that’s what I love: I love the challenge of doing different accents. It’s one thing that I’ve always enjoyed doing since I was a kid. I’m a bit of a mimic if I hear someone’s voice long enough I can imitate their voice as well.