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Who is Scoop's Sam McAlister? From Newsnight career and Prince Andrew interview to where she is now

Sam spent ten years working for Newsnight and is now a professional speaker

Sam McAlister at the 'Scoop' film premiere in London
Nicky Morris
TV and film writer
4 April 2024
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Netflix's highly-anticipated new drama Scoop gives the inside track on how the journalists at BBC's Newsnight secured the now-infamous interview between Emily Maitlis and Prince Andrew, which saw the journalist question the royal over his ties with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

At the centre of Newsnight's negotiations with Buckingham Palace was producer Sam McAlister, who is portrayed by Billie Piper in the Netflix film. But who exactly is Sam and what role did she play in landing the interview? Keep reading for all we know about the TV producer, including her life away from the cameras. 

WATCH: Will you be watching Scoop?

Sam McAlister's early career and Newsnight stint

Sam is a TV producer and journalist who spent ten years working for Newsnight.

But years before her stint with the BBC programme, she started her career as a criminal barrister after studying at the University of Edinburgh.

Sam McAlister on the set of Scoop© PETER MOUNTAIN/NETFLIX
Sam McAlister on the set of Scoop

After a few years of working at 25 Bedford Row, Sam moved into the media and landed a reporter job at BBC Radio 4. Four years later, in 2008, she joined the Newsnight team.

Known as the "booker extraordinaire", Sam secured a number of interviews with high-profile figures such as Bill Clinton, Elon Musk, and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.  

In an interview with The Times last year, Sam described herself as "relentless" when it came to her work. "Sure, some bookers are light touch," she explained. "They will fire off a request and if they don't hear back, they move on. But I was relentless, sometimes a pain in the arse. I think my talent is listening and negotiating. But if I wanted someone, I would go all out."

Sam's role in the Prince Andrew interview

It all started back in 2018, when Sam received an email offering the opportunity to interview Prince Andrew about his charitable work with entrepreneurs. 

Sam politely declined and a year's worth of emails and meetings followed.

Gillian Anderson and Rufus Sewell star in SCOOP© Netflix
Gillian Anderson and Rufus Sewell star as Emily Maitlis and Prince Andrew

In May 2019, Sam met with Andrew's then-chief of staff, Amanda Thirsk. "[I] did my best to persuade her that Prince Andrew should answer questions on the hot topics of the time – Brexit, Harry and Meghan… Then we hit a red line – no questions about Jeffrey Epstein, a scandal in which he was intimately embroiled. So that was two nos, and counting," Sam wrote in Tatler

In July 2019, Epstein was arrested and after a few weeks was found dead in his prison cell. Having kept her correspondence with Amanda, Sam received an invitation to return to the Palace in October 2019, and this time took Emily Maitlis with her. 

Billie Piper plays Sam in the Netflix film

12 days later, another meeting was scheduled and held on Monday 11 November, with Prince Andrew and his daughter Princess Beatrice in attendance. 

Sam told the royal that he should do a "no-holds-barred" interview, and that most people didn't know much about him other than for his nicknames: 'Randy Andy' and 'Air Miles Andy'.

"I know that calling him 'Randy Andy' was risky, crazy risky even, but I felt that we had built a rapport," she previously told The Times. "His life was on the line; you could feel that. And counterintuitively I don't think he wanted deference. There was a lot at stake and I think he was receptive to plain speaking from women."

Prince Andrew wearing a charcoal suit © Getty
Sam met with Prince Andrew at Buckingham Palace to negotiate the interview

The interview was confirmed the following day. 

Speaking to HELLO! at the premiere of Scoop, Sam revealed what she wants viewers to take away from the film. 

"First of all, the interview is 5 per cent of our tale, and the hard work that goes into getting the interview is 95 per cent," she explained. "It's a group of tenacious journalists, the team at Newsnight are incredible. It happens to be three women who particularly we focus on. 

Billie Piper and Sam McAlister on the set of Scoop© PETER MOUNTAIN/NETFLIX
Sam spent a lot of time on the set of Scoop

"I hope they take away that journalism is a fantastic thing. It gets a bad rep, but when it works properly, all the hard work that goes into it can lead to one of these iconic moments – a scoop of the decade if not the century. It really matters."

Sam's life away from journalism 

Sam no longer works in journalism. 

After taking voluntary redundancy from her Newsnight job in 2021, Sam wrote her memoir, Scoops: Behind The Scenes of the BBC's Most Shocking Interview - which Peter Moffat and Geoff Bussetil adapted for the Netflix film.

Rufus Sewell and Gillian Anderson star in SCOOP© Netflix
Scoop is available on Netflix from April 5

Now, Sam works as a professional speaker and teaches negotiation. She's also a Visiting Senior Fellow at LSE Law School.

Away from her career, Sam is a single mum to a teenage boy.

Scoop is available on Netflix from April 5.

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