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Who is Sam McAlister? Ex-BBC producer behind Billie Piper’s Scoop role-Robert Oliver-Entertainment – Metro

She was behind the biggest royal interview for decades.

Who is Sam McAlister? Ex-BBC producer behind Billie Piper’s Scoop role-Robert Oliver-Entertainment – Metro

Scoop tells the story of how Sam McAlister (Billie Piper) secured Newsnight’s interview with Prince Andrew (Picture: Netflix)

Billie Piper’s new Netflix film Scoop is a dramatic retelling of how Emily Maitlis came to carry out her now infamous BBC Newsnight interview with the Duke of York, Prince Andrew.

The biographical film, starring Billie Piper and Gillian Anderson, is based on the book Scoops: Behind the Scenes, a series of memoirs written by Sam McAlister, and is expected to be one of Netflix’s most popular films in April.

In the Newsnight interview, which took place in November 2019, Prince Andrew was questioned by Maitlis over his relationship with the financier and notorious sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who had died in prison earlier that year.

But who is Sam McAlister, what relationship did she have with the BBC and Newsnight, and who plays her in the Netflix film?

Who is Sam McAlister?

People had trouble telling Piper and McAlister apart (Picture: WireImage)

Sam McAlister first began her career as a criminal defence barrister after studying at the University of Edinburgh – she was the first person in her family to attend university.

After leaving her first main profession, she left the courts and law behind and made her first steps into news and media, eventually getting to work for the BBC.

Away from the BBC, Sam is a single parent and has also moonlighted as a professional public speaker.

She currently secures work hosting award ceremonies and conferences and is a single parent.

Sam McAlister’s BBC career and Newsnight involvement

Sam McAlister (far left) wrote the book the film is based on (Picture: Getty)

Sam McAlister first joined the BBC in 2003, when she worked as a reporter and producer on BBC Radio 4. She worked at the radio station for five years before moving jobs within the organisation.

It was in 2008 that she joined the late-night current affairs programme Newsnight as a producer, becoming the show’s full-time interview producer in 2011.

During her work as a producer for Newsnight, she secured interviews with the likes of former United States President, Bill Clinton, and owner of X Corp, Elon Musk.

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Prince Andrew’s interview is one of the most infamous ever broadcast by the BBC (Picture: BBC)

Her landmark achievement as part of the Newsnight team, however, was securing the interview with the Duke of York, Prince Andrew, which was carried out by Emily Matilis.

Scoop tells the story of how McAlister came to secure the interview, which apparently took a year to organise – she also served as a consultant and executive producer for the film.

She left the BBC in 2021.

Who plays Sam McAlister in Netflix’s Scoop?

Billie Piper plays Newsnight producer Sam McAlister in Scoop (Picture: PA)

Sam McAlister is played by Doctor Who actress Billie Piper, while Gillian Anderson takes on the role of Emily Maitlis. Prince Andrew is portrayed by Rufus Sewell.

Piper, who recently revealed she’s still in a significant amount of debt to Virgin Records after her brief but successful career as a pop star in the 1990s, apparently bore so much of a likeness to McAlister that it became hard to tell them apart.

The former Newsnight producer told PA: ‘When I tell you on set people couldn’t tell us apart – my own boyfriend couldn’t tell us apart and many of the newspapers couldn’t tell us apart.’

Piper said she was fascinated by the story: ‘I felt like she was this unsung hero.’

Watch Scoop on Netflix.

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