Clifford Samuel is an actor currently playing Sam in the West End show 2:22 A Ghost Story
Please introduce yourself …
Hello, I’m Clifford Samuel. I’m a Londoner with a lot of West African heritage.
Describe your life right now in a word or one sentence …
Happy and grateful.
Tell us about your latest project 2:22 A Ghost Story …
It’s a thrilling play written by Danny Robins and directed by Matthew Dunster. The story centres on a couple called Jenny and Sam, who’ve just moved into a new home with their newborn baby. The play unravels over the course of one evening as Jenny and Sam host a dinner party with one of Sam’s long-term friends, Lauren and her new boyfriend Ben. The night unfolds into a tense but thoughtful and quite humorous evening as all four friends unpick whether ghosts are real or not. So it’s about the sceptics versus the believers.
What’s your role 2:22 A Ghost Story and how did the role come about?
I play the role of Sam, husband to Jenny. The role came about when the director Matthew Dunster offered me the part out of the blue. We’d worked together before on a play called The Lightning Child at the Globe, and I really wanted to work with him again. After reading the play, it was a no-brainer to say yes because it was so brilliantly written by Danny.
Being the first black actor to play this role – how did you reconcile that with yourself and did it influence your decision to take on the role at all?
I remember saying to Matthew on the phone that interestingly this would be the first black Sam, and we discussed how that would add another layer and perspective to bits of the text. It influenced my decision because I think now is an interesting time to explore questions of race and class. Having my role as a middle-class homeowner opposite the character of Ben, who is a working-class man, brings out the idea of not just gentrification but gentrification of race. This isn’t heavily commented on in the play and yet is very apparent purely because of what I look like.
And with that in mind did the narrative warrant any tweaking to consider a black man in this position experiencing the fallout of how the story unfolds?
There wasn’t any tweaking needed and yet this iteration of the play brought out the idea of race and class as opposed to just class because of what I look like. There are certain lines in the play, mainly coming from Ben, that creates a different meaning that the audience piece together in a matter of seconds.
Your stage career is extensive and impressive – though you have done film and TV, is the stage your happy place?
I love the stage and it’s one of my favourite mediums but I also love the screen. It’s been four and half years since I’ve performed on stage so it’s nice to be back. The idea of live theatre is terrifying and exciting at the same time. No show is the same as the audience always informs how it’s played. I always see the audience as the last character in this play because you really have to listen to them and you shift according to how they’re receiving it.
Highs, lows, solutions …
So many high points – it’s a brilliant piece of text to work on, and my fellow actors are fantastic. It’s great that we’ve got on so well and have built a really good rapport with each other. And the whole team has been wonderful – from stage management to creatives.
An obstacle has been learning the amount of scientific jargon for the character of Sam and being able to say it with the ease of having always had that vocabulary. But I resolved the obstacle by just drilling and drilling the lines into my brain until it went in, which is what we do as actors.
What’s next for you?
I’ve got a new film out called Little Bone Lodge which is a psychological thriller/horror ironically. It was great to be a part of that and work opposite Joely Richardson.
And when and where can we see 2:22 A Ghost Story?
You can see 2:22 A Ghost Story at the Apollo Theatre until the 17th of September!
GETTING TO KNOW YOU …
What’s your current plan B?
I have no safety net or real plan B. Once upon a time, the plan was to become a doctor and I actually got into studying medicine at uni. But I also auditioned for drama school and decided that if I got in I would go down that path … and the rest is history.
What’s made you Sad, Mad, Glad this week?
Sinead O’Connor’s death has made me sad this week. Mad, I’m going to go for a lighthearted one and say people with no spatial awareness walking through the busy streets of Soho. And my birthday week has made me glad this week.
What are you watching right now?
I’m finishing Succession and starting The Bear.
What are you reading right now?
I’m reading a book called Between the World and Me by an American writer called Ta-Nehisi Coates.
What are you listening to right now?
I am listening to a lot of Michael Kiwanuka.
The last thing you saw on stage?
Tambo & Bones at Stratford East.
What’s on your bucket list?
Skydiving and Scuba diving and I’d love to visit more of Japan and Southeast Asia.
Where’s your happy place?
A cinema room, Hampstead Heath and the Scottish Highlands.
Celebrate someone else …
There’s a lovely French actor called Omar Sy who is in the huge series Lupin. I also want to celebrate Daniel Kaluuya, Sheila Atim and Noma Dumezweni.
Celebrate yourself …
I’m pleased with my year so far. I’ve managed to do television, be in a film and play a lead in the West End. And I’ve been busy writing too.
Whose footsteps are you following in?
Omar Sy and the late Chadwick Boseman.
My new film Little Bone Lodge and I’ve written my second children’s book that is in the edits as we speak.
Where can we find you?
You can find me on the back streets of Soho and on the many streaming channels that we all have.