An Interview with Sam Underwood

Sam Underwood (TV’s Fear The Walking Dead, Homeland, Dexter, The Following) is mostly manic, and definitely depressed!

Losing Days follows his hilarious and harrowing journey of losing his f*cking mind - and finding it again - set to the tunes that got him through. Featuring live music from Frank Turner’s ‘Tape Deck Heart’ album, and the debut performance of The Boxroom Larrys. 

1 in 3 people suffer with some form of mental illness in the course of their life. For such a pervasive condition in society, opening up about the internal struggle many people deal with on a day to day basis is still surrounded by skepticism, shame and silence. Losing Days is a true story seen through a shattered kaleidoscope, delving into the superhero struggle of mental illness, and smashing the taboos that surround it. This is NOT a sob story! 

Buy your tickets to Losing Days here.

1. Hi Sam, can you tell us about Losing Days, your upcoming production at Edinburgh Fringe Festival?
I hope so! Losing Days is a storytelling piece with live music. It chronicles my recent - and not so recent - journey dealing with mental health issues. British punk-rock artist Frank Turner’s album ‘Tape Deck Heart’ plays a central role in this story, and will be performed by The Boxroom Larry’s in their EdFringe debut!
2. You've performed at Ed Fringe for a few years now. What is it about the Fringe that appeals to you?
The atmosphere, first of all. Its electric. Buzzing with anticipation, excitement and adrenaline. Its an addictive environment to be in as an artist. I feel that everyone is given the opportunity to shout out proudly about their Art. And everyone's Art, everyone's stories are given space to be seen and heard.  
3. Your production focuses on mental health. Mental health is such an important subject to me and millions of others. How do you plan to tackle the stigma that generally surrounds it?
First step - tell my story (so far). Talking about it is step one - and everyone needs to know that it is okay to talk about it. It doesn’t need to be a shameful attribute or defect in someones character. And I think that creating a space of safety is also contingent on educating people who do not deal with mental health issues. The more they are exposed to stories, the less abnormal it will seem to them. 1 in 3 people experience some form of mental health issue in their lifetime - so it is improbable that you don’t know someone who is dealing with it. Feeling safe to ask - really ask - “How are you feeling?” Is as important as feeling safe to say “I’m not doing great today.” 
4. What advice would you give someone that's struggling with their mental health? 
Make sure someone close to you is aware. Find that one person who you feel safe to share what you are struggling with. If you don’t yet trust someone that you know personally, whether its friends or family, please talk to a professional. I say this knowing how difficult, painful, scary and shameful it might be to talk. I still don’t do it all the time when I should - but keeping it to yourself puts a lot of emotional weight on you, and could ultimately be dangerous. Please talk to someone.
5. As well as performing in Losing Days, you have also written and produced the show. In your experience, do you prefer acting or being more involved in behind the scenes, on the production side of things?
I will say that writing my own show for the first time is the scariest - and possibly the stupidest! - thing I’ve ever done. But part of my condition is delusions of grandeur, so…
Each aspect of theatre particularly, for me at least, feels very different in terms of creative satisfaction. Producing helps me feel a sense of order and control, where as the writing and performing is my creative outlet - its my vocation. Its what gets me out of bed in the morning. I would say if I could absolutely only do one, I would perform. But their is something satisfying about not having to wait for other people to give you an opportunity to do what you love!

6. In your time as an on stage and also on screen actor, what do you find to be the major differences? Is there one you'd choose over the other?
Theatre is more immediate - there's a direct connection between you and your audience, and you are all taking this journey together. Its also never going to be the same - the idea of a community gathering to hear a story - its a unique event.
On camera work I would describe as more intimate. The camera is your audience - its closer and it does not need as much “projection”.
As an actor onstage I feel like I take a long journey every performance. There's a stamina needed in that. With on-camera work the stamina isn’t about being prepared for a long journey, but having to recreate organically, relive in the moment “moments” from the journey over and over again. That takes a stamina and patience of its own.

7. Why should people come and see your show? Can you recommend any others at the Fringe?
I promise its not a sob story! If you love Frank Turners music, or just live music in general, thats another good reason to come. You can bring your drinks in. Its only an hour or so long. Ummm… oh, and it also deals with a really REALLY important part of society that needs to be talked about more often. So not only are you getting some entertainment for your money, but you may learn something too? Thats good, right?
8. Lastly, Is there a role you've yet to take on as an actor, that you'd really like to tackle? If so, what would it be?
A Superhero. And Henry V. Both of those.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and I look forward to seeing you in Edinburgh in a few weeks.

Follow Sam on Twitter here: Losing Days | Sam Underwood

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