Sam McAlister: Where is the BBC Producer Now?

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In Netflix’s ‘Scoop,’ the audience is taken behind the scenes and in the heated atmosphere of a newsroom where channels like the BBC have to fight to remain relevant. The protagonist of the story is a woman named Sam McAlister, whose job is to secure interviews with relevant people at the right time. It is a demanding task, and as a single mother, she finds things even more difficult when her job becomes increasingly thankless. But then, she secures an interview of a lifetime, and it changes everything for the people involved. What did it do for Sam McAlister?

Sam McAlister: The BBC Producer is Now an Author and a Teacher

Residing in London, Sam McAlister has now moved on from her job at the BBC. The single mother is now a best-selling author of ‘Scoops: Behind the Scenes of the BBC’s Most Shocking Interviews,’ which serves as the inspiration for the Netflix film. The author also served as the film’s executive producer. Apart from this, she teaches the art of negotiation as a Visiting Senior Fellow at the London School of Economics (LSE). She is also a public speaker and a TED talker, giving keynote speeches at various events, ranging from law firms to embassies. She also serves as an advisor to private clients on media and negotiation.

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Now a well-known media figure, McAlister comes from a working-class family and studied at the University of Edinburgh, becoming the first person in her family to go to university. She studied law and is trained as a criminal lawyer. Described as “indefatigable” and having “silky smooth, persuasive skills,” she is known for securing some of the most infamous interviews on the BBC, where she worked as a producer for ‘Newsnight’ for more than a decade. Describing the challenging nature of her job, McAlister called herself “a complete underdog” when booking people for interviews, especially when there are clear risks involved in going on the news and opening oneself to the scrutiny that could make or break their lives.

Opening up about it, she said, “My job was persuading people to go on against their interest basically. So I spent my time trying to get them to do something they probably shouldn’t have done.” And persuasive she was! Called “booker extraordinaire” by her former colleagues, McAlister brought exclusive interviews featuring some of the world’s most prominent names for the BBC, which include but are not limited to Julian Assange, Bill Clinton, Justin Trudeau, Benjamin Netanyahu, Elon Musk, Stormy Daniels, Trevor Noah and Amy Schumer. However, the interview that changed everything was one with Prince Andrew.

Talking about the time when she was still not sure whether it would happen, McAlister revealed that she had been in conversation and negotiating with his then-private secretary, Amanda Thirsk, for about a year. It was when the meeting with Thirsk and Prince Andrew, in which he brought his daughter, Princess Beatrice, happened that she became sure it would happen. Speaking about the furor the interview caused, she revealed that immediately after the interview, she realized that the Prince and Thirsk thought he’d done a good job and that it all went well. But all the journalists in the room knew what an uproar it was going to create.

McAlister attested the backlash to the Prince’s answers and “his failure to apologize and to rue his association with Epstein.” By the time the Prince Andrew interview transpired, the BBC was going through job cuts, and in 2021, McAlister decided to take a voluntary redundancy and left her job. She revealed that she wanted to work on her book and believed she would be allowed to do so, just like many presenters and correspondents do. However, she received an ultimatum that clarified that she could either continue her job or write her own book; she chose the latter.

McAlister confessed it was a risk she took, but it was worth it. Her book was published in July 2022, but it didn’t take long for the film deal to happen, and before she knew it, she was meeting Billie Piper, who was cast to play her in the movie. The actress was keen on portraying the role as physically and emotionally authentically as possible, so she had long conversations with McAlister about everything from her wardrobe to her hair to the way she walks. By the end, the actress had taken over McAlister’s persona so well that even the cast and crew would sometimes confuse them.

McAlister revealed that even her boyfriend got confused and believed Piper to be her at one point on the set. She is happy with the way the movie has turned out, stating that the thing she loves about it is that it shows her as “an ordinary woman who ended up in an extraordinary situation.” Sam McAlister is also happy that while most people have seen the interview, the movie focuses on the “95 percent before that” which happened in the background and remained hidden from the public until now.

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