Sam Troughton: Actor, Star of Robin Hood
PUBLISHED: 00:20 08 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:12 20 February 2013
When your grandfather was Dr Who, and your father is instantly recognisable from A Very Peculiar Practice, Casualty and more, then the natural thing is to go into acting. Or is it? We meet Stratford's home-grown star, Sam Troughton
When your grandfather was Dr Who, and your father is instantly recognisable from A Very Peculiar Practice, Casualty and more, then the natural thing is to go into acting. Or is it? We meet Stratford's home-grown star, Sam Troughton.
Words: Rachel Crow
Photograph: Courtesy of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the BBC
Sam Troughton cycles up tomeet me for our interview at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford, slightly dishevelled yet smiling warmly. He's raced over from the other side of town where he's in the midst of rehearsals for the premiere of The Grain Store by Ukranian Playwright Natl'ia Vorozbhit, opening on September 10 as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company's new Revolutions series. "It's been a hard morning," admits the softly spoken 32-year-old actor. "We've got the South Bank Show in filming today which makes it harder. You need to be able to make a fool of yourself a bit in rehearsals really."
A member of the RSC's long ensemble until 2011, alongside rehearsals for The Grain Store, Sam is also appearing as the Third Gentleman in The Winter's Tale, in repertoire until October 3, and his biggest and most challenging Shakespearean role to date, as Brutus in Julius Caesar.
"It can be quite knackering! But sometimes the things feed into each other in an interesting way. The Grain Store is very different from Julius Caesar because it's a new play and translated from Ukranian so very alien really. It's about the Ukranian famine so the two plays cross over in the way they are quite large themes. It will also be in the same theatre (The Courtyard) so will have the same epic quality Caesar has."
Receiving rave reviews for his intense and 'quietly commanding performance as Brutus, it's quite a role change from that for which Sam became a household name - to acertain generation at least - as Muchin the hugely popular BBC 1 series of Robin Hood.
"Robin Hood was a great break in my career in terms of the exposure; to be in something that was on a Saturday night was fantastic," he admits.
While we all want to be masters of our own destiny, at times the foundations are so well laid for us that it's hard not to follow a predetermined route. This, it could be argued, was the case for Sam.
Son of actors David Troughton and Alison Groves, nephew of Michael Troughton, who played Piers Fletcher Dervis in TV's New Statesman, grandson of Dr Who actor Patrick Troughton and cousin of Harry Melling, who plays Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter movies, when you are brought up surrounded by such a thespian heritage, how can you resist?
Moving to Stratford with his family when he was eight, Sam didn't, however, always have visions on becoming an actor. "In a way you kind of imagine you do what your dad does, I suppose all people may have that in their head, but it wasn't until I was 16 or 17 that I thought I quite like doing this. It was while I was studying Shakespeare for English A-level at Trinity School in Leamington that I became more interested in it and was also at the time my dad was at the company (RSC) doing Richard III, so the two things came together. But my parents let me find it myself."
Although he takes counsel from his parents: "It's nothing too serious," he laughs. "Mum and dad were very helpful with Caesar going on so it was nice to talk to them about it. They were pleased, definitely, when I went into acting because I was doing what I wanted to do, although my dad said I should be a director so I could give him a job!"
Graduating in drama from the University of Hull ten years' ago, Sam has clocked up a healthy range of theatre, TV and film credits to date. His previous work for the RSC includes Henry VI Parts I and II and Richard II in Michael Boyd's 2000- 2001 staging of The Histories, while films include working with Mike Leigh on Vera Drake and being attacked by a face-hugger in Alien vs Predator. Having spent three years in Hungary filming Robin Hood, Sam was happy to hang up his bow and return to Stratford to take up the position as member of the RSC ensemble.
"It's exciting because these sorts of jobs don't really exist anymore. It was perfect timing for me and they are brilliant parts to play which are unturn- a-down-able, really. I started off in theatre and the first five years was largely stage and the last five mainly screen, so the time was right to come back and do Shakespeare for a while. In a way you have to unlearn things from screen and, in a crude sense, do it smaller and learn how to fill a theatre. It's been tougher at times than I imagined and a bit of a gear shift, so that's been a challenge in coming back to it."
Sam moved back to Stratford, with his actress partner Rajere, three years ago to bring up their four-year-old son, Finlay. Rajere recently appeared in the new season of Torchwood and the couple met while working at the National Theatre.
Known as Much to many of Finlay's friends, Sam relishes the opportunity working in Stratford gives him to spend more time with family and friends and engage in day to day normalities like taking Finlay to the park in the afternoon before a performance. "It's lovely to have more of a real environment to work in after spending so long working abroad.
"It's also nice being back in England so I can get to watch thecricket," Sam adds, his brother Jim Troughton the well known England and Warwickshire cricketer, while youngest brother William 'Wigsy' also plays for Stratford First XI. "I've never done a summer season before in Stratford and there's definitely a buzz about the place in the summer. People have come from all over the world to watch the plays which is exciting and really enjoyable.
"After a show we'll often go to The Duck and it's quite nice the actors and audience end up in the same place. There are lots of people who are very passionate about Shakespeare and have quite strong opinions, so it's nice to hear their views. Most of the feedback is good," he smiles.
When the last remnants of summer are long gone, Sam will start rehearsals for his next big role as Romeo in RSC's Romeo and Juliet being staged next year; a role he admits he was surprised to get. "You wonder what parts you'll get to play but most of the times they are ones I'd never expect. I would never have put myself in the part of Brutus as I didn't know Julius Caesar that well and thought I was too old to play Romeo at 32. But you never know." Contracted to the RSC until 2011, Sam will wait to see where work takes him after that point although voices concern at the dwindling funds available for quality TV drama. "It's quite precarious times at the moment with the general financial situation. TV drama is expensive to produce and can't compete, audience wise,with the talent shows which are incredibly cheap to make, but that's why we have the BBC to spend money on stuff that isn't going to get 19 million viewers. It'll be interesting to see what is being made in three years' time.
"I'd love to do some more film work as well and it would be great to work with Mike Leigh again who is a very interesting guy and has a unique way of working. Finlay would probably like to see me in a monster film -something like Transformers or as a giant mutant ant would be right up his street!"
And is Finlay showing any signs of continuing the thespian familybloodline? "God knows, although we've already got three generations so a fourth would officially be a dynasty, I suppose..."