And Action: An Interview with Cardiff Actor, Sam Harding

Becoming an actor is an aspiration for many young people in any city, let alone in a city with such a cultural and vibrant stage and film scene. But what is actually like to be on the other side of the stage and screen? What motivates and inspires this passion? We sat down with Cardiff-based actor, Sam Harding to find out.

Walking into the room, it was very clear that Sam is more than used to performing in front of an audience. Big smile and a charming twinkle in his eye, he immediately made me feel welcome as we sat down and began chatting.

Sam Harding, 26, actor. Photo by Daf Weeks
Sam Harding, 26, actor. Photo by Daf Weeks

“My mum works in theatre and my dad was a painter and artist himself,” Sam tells me, smiling fondly at the mention of his parents. “So, quite a creative family. I was always brought up around it, but I never realised that I wanted to do acting, like, as a job until I was picking my GCSEs.”

Drama not being an option at his school, Sam was spurred on to act even more. This then led to the epiphany that acting was what he wanted his future to be.

Without any GCSEs correlating to acting, Sam went to Sherman youth theatre and by the time A Levels came around, he was left to choose between performing arts and theatre studies.

“I didn’t want to do [performing arts] because it had singing and dancing, but my friend tried to persuade me because it didn’t have an exam. Since I used to do whatever she told me to, I took it,” he said, laughing a little at the anecdote.

His friend didn’t get the grades to do the course, leaving Sam in the class on his own. After considering dropping the class several times, he began to get along with the other people in there and really enjoyed himself. This lead him to carry on into drama school.

“I did musical theatre in drama school, even though I don’t really want to do musical theatre. But hey! At least it took me somewhere good!”

When talking about his preferences between theatre and film, Sam comes up with a rather surprising answer.

“I’ve known theatre longer, so right now I prefer film,” he says, nodding along despite my surprised expression. “Yeah, because it’s newer and fresher and it’s all very subtle on film. You really have to know what you’re doing with your facial expressions…and continuity! You move your hand at one point or take a breath on a word during one take and that’s what you have to do for the rest of the shots.”

When prompted about what films and TV shows he’s been in, Sam mentions being an extra in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part one and part two.

“I would never officially credit myself for it as I was just an extra, but being a part of that whole franchise was just an amazing experience,” he said, smiling brightly. “I was there for Alan Rickman’s last day on set and he gave a speech to everyone. I didn’t cry, but I didn’t realise how poignant it would be at the time!”

Sam’s first paid film appearance was a low budget horror film shot in Swansea. “The cool thing about that was getting a DVD release in the UK and America. So it was in supermarkets like Asda, which was insane.” He has also just finished shooting another film which will be coming out soon.

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From an actor’s perspective, Sam believes TV and film to be a lot easier with less work going into it from them. He explains how pre, post and production crew put in hours and hours of work in regards to set design, camera angles and lighting.

“Then the actors just rock up, say what they’ve been told to say and maybe do something a bit original and funky and claim all the glory. So, it’s a nice chill job for an actor.” Ducking his head an almost conspiratorial manner, Sam leans forward and chuckles. “Plus, everyone treats you like a king! You can see what most famous actors, like, are idiots because the power’s gone to their heads.

“Like, I was doing a film once and got told off for making my own sandwich. It’s crazy! One of the assistants said that I didn’t need to bother – that one of the runners could do it, but I wasn’t doing anything. So, that’s really weird.”

Sam goes on to compare this to theatre where everyone “digs in together” and there is a real sense of camaraderie, but that doesn’t deter him from currently preferring film and TV work.

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Getting the work, be it film and TV or theatre, is no easy feat. Auditions are plentiful with many actors and they don’t always go according to plan.

Sam chuckles and groans a little at the notion of sharing a bad audition story, but happily obliges. He went down to Pineapple Dance Studios in London, auditioning for a role in a production of The Little Mermaid across China.

“So there was 40 of us all in the room auditioning together,” he said, laughing already. “We were taught a dance, which was quite easy, but then the producer came in and talked to us for 45 minutes. During that time, I forgot the entire dance and when it came to my group’s turn, I just shimmied with a big smile on my face and struck the last pose.”

But that was not where the tale ends. After this there was a singing round in which Sam planned on singing Kiss The Girl. Half way through his song, they stopped him and told him to start again but try and keep in time.

“I thought I was in time! But then I did my second attempt and just completely forgot the words. I just had a look of fear on my face. That was when they all started singing the song at me to try and help. To which point I’d given up, so I just went ‘eh, it’s like being a pop star, this!’ and put the microphone out for them to sing it. Safe to say I didn’t get the job, but they offered me a spot on one of their pantos!”

Concluding the interview, Sam tells me about his current work for Theatr Clwyd and plans to continue perusing more film and TV work. “This is my third time working for Theatr Clwyd and it’s always fun and exciting,” he says. “I’m excited to be back with them!”