Sam Underwood may be the best known for his roles as dark serial killers, but behind his bright gaze and six-foot stature is a serious actor filled with humor and warmth. Underwood was raised in the town of Woking about a half hour’s drive from south London. His father was a singer/songwriter and Sam was a boy with plenty of excess energy. His mother put him in dance school at the age of four in hopes of burning off some of that liveliness. Eventually, he started doing musicals and pursuing drama in college. In 2006 he moved to the United States and in 2008 graduated AMDA. He has been working as an actor ever since.
In addition to his life as an actor, Sam Underwood wears another hat: he is the artistic director of The Fundamental Theatre Project. “I yearned to produce works that I always wanted to do I've been lucky enough to do CANDIDA and EQUUS, but up until that point, my musical theatre resume was the main thing. It was hard for me to get seen and be taken seriously for a straight play. So I decided to make the opportunity happen for myself.”
Emma Nolan sits down with Sam Underwood of The Following, Homeland and Dexter fame and discusses his penchant for playing dark characters.
Emma: Hey Sam! Great talking to you again, UTP and I are delighted to catch up with you. So tell us about playing twins Mark and Luke on The Following.
Sam: Playing the twins is a rewarding and challenging experience and I feel very lucky to get to work with such great material. It’s incredibly humbling really. I’ve never had so much fun on a set before, it’s an absolute blast.
How do you get into the different mindsets? Is it easy to switch from one character to the other?
There’s definitely a transitioning between the two, I have a different playlist for each character to help get me into the different mindsets for instance. It’s quite a unique experience.
You’ve played a few “troubled” roles on the darker end of the spectrum at this stage… Do you enjoy playing these kinds of characters?
I enjoy playing complex, well-written characters. I strive to try and make them human and not stereotype them. It’s interesting to get to explore different levels of humanity, and it’s never bland!
Are there any actors or indeed characters, that you take inspiration from for your roles?
I’m inspired by literary figures Norman Bates of Hitchcock’s Psycho and Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. I’m also somewhat influenced by Tom Hardy and Ryan Gosling, both such transformative and smart actors working right now.
How would you compare your experiences of working on the different shows you have starred in?
I believe that the lead actor and the director really set the tone for the work environment on set, so they’ve all been different based on that. Working with Michael C. Hall on Dexter was great because he’s incredibly focused and intense and has a great sense of dark humor about him. My character Leo on Homeland had a really fun storyline too. So each show is different in their own way but I’ve been very lucky to have had such challenging material and actors to work with.
Did you know you wanted to act from a young age?
Yes actually! I was an energetic lad, entertaining from a young age.
Any other TV shows that you’re into right now?
Penny Dreadful, The Leftovers, Rome…