Samuel West

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Samuel West
Samuel West at the London Film Festival screening of Hyde Park on Hudson, October 2012.jpg
Samuel West at the London Film Festival screening of Hyde Park on Hudson, October 2012
Born Samuel Alexander Joseph West
(1966-06-19) 19 June 1966 (age 49)
London, England[1]
Nationality British
Occupation Actor and director
Years active 1975–present
Partner(s) Laura Wade
Parent(s) Timothy West
Prunella Scales

Samuel Alexander Joseph West,[2] also known as Sam West[1] (born 19 June 1966),[3] is an English actor and director. He is best known for his role in the film Howards End and his work on stage (including the award-winning play Enron).

Early life and education[edit]

West was born in London, the elder son of actors Prunella Scales and Timothy West and the grandson of the late actor Lockwood West.[4] He was educated at Alleyn's School[5] and Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where he studied English Literature[6] and was president of the Experimental Theatre Club.[7]


West works as an actor in a variety of dramatic media including theatre, film, television and radio.[8] He has made a career as a director on stage and radio.[1] He has narrated many television documentaries, including the acclaimed series The Nazis: A Warning from History. He often appears as reciter with orchestras (see below) and performed at the Last Night of the Proms in 2002.[9]


West made his London stage debut in February 1989 at the Orange Tree Theatre, playing Michael in Cocteau's Les Parents Terribles,[10] of which critic John Thaxter wrote: "He invests the role with a warmth and validity that silences sniggers that could so easily greet a lesser performance of this difficult role, and he lets us share the tumbling emotions of a juvenile torn between romantic first love and filial duty."[11] Since then, West has appeared frequently on stage; he played Valentine in the first ever production of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia at the National Theatre in 1993[12] and later spent two seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company playing the title roles in Richard II and Hamlet, both directed by Steven Pimlott.[13][14]

In 2002, West made his stage directorial debut with The Lady's Not for Burning at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester.[15] He succeeded Michael Grandage as artistic director of Sheffield Theatres from 2005-2007.[15][16] During his time as artistic director West revived the controversial The Romans in Britain[17] and also directed As You Like It as part of the RSC's Complete Works Festival.[18][19] West left Sheffield when the theatre closed for refurbishment in 2007 and made his West End directorial debut with the first major revival of Dealer's Choice following its transferral to the Trafalgar Studios.[20] He also continued his acting career: in 2007 he appeared alongside Toby Stephens and Dervla Kirwan in Betrayal at the Donmar Warehouse,[21] in November 2008 he played Harry in the Donmar revival of T. S. Eliot's Family Reunion[22] and in 2009 he starred as Jeffrey Skilling in Enron by Lucy Prebble.[23] His 2008 production of Waste at the Almeida Theatre was chosen by The Times as one of its "Productions of the Decade".[24] From November 2012 to January 2013 he appeared as Astrov in a production of Uncle Vanya at the Vaudeville Theatre.[25] He played Ivanov and Trigorin in the Chichester Festival Theatre's Young Chekhov Season from September 2015, alongside Nina Sosanya, Anna Chancellor, and James McArdle.[26] [27]


In 1991, West played the lower-middle-class clerk Leonard Bast in the Merchant Ivory film adaptation of E. M. Forster's novel Howards End (released 1992) opposite Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter and Anthony Hopkins. For this role, he was nominated for best supporting actor at the 1993 BAFTA Film Awards.[28] Two years later he again appeared with Thompson in the film Carrington. His film career has continued with roles in a number of well known films, such as Franco Zeffirelli's Jane Eyre, Notting Hill, Iris and Van Helsing. In 2004, he appeared in the year's highest rated mini-series on German television, Die Nibelungen, which was released in the United States in 2006 as Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King. In 2012 he played King George VI in Hyde Park on Hudson.


He is a familiar face on television appearing in many long-running series: Midsomer Murders, Waking the Dead and Poirot as well as one-off dramas. He played Anthony Blunt in Cambridge Spies, a BBC production about the four British spies, starring alongside Toby Stephens (Philby), Tom Hollander (Burgess) and Rupert Penry-Jones (Maclean). In 2006 he took the lead role in a BBC production of Random Quest adapted from the short story by John Wyndham and the next year played Edward Heath in Margaret Thatcher - The Long Walk to Finchley, also for the BBC. In 2010 he played Peter Scabius in the televised adaptation of William Boyd's novel Any Human Heart, while in 2011 he starred as Zak Gist in the ITV series Eternal Law. In addition, he appeared in the BBC Series "As Time Goes By" (1994) episode titled "We'll Always Have Paris" playing the character named Terry.

He plays Frank Edwards in the ITV drama Mr Selfridge, and Sir Walter Pole in the 2015 BBC adaptation of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.


West is regularly heard on radio as a reader or reciter and has performed in many radio dramas, including Otherkin by Laura Wade, Present Laughter by Noël Coward,[29] Len Deighton's Bomber, Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman, Michael Frayn's Here and The Homecoming as Lenny to Harold Pinter's Max.[30] In 2011 he made his radio directing debut with a production of Money[31] by Edward Bulwer-Lytton on BBC Radio 3.

Personal life[edit]

Samuel West at the No Glory protest, London, 4th August 2014
Samuel West wearing a Peace Pledge Union poppy at the No Glory protest, London, 4th August 2014

West has appeared alongside his actor parents on several occasions; with his mother Prunella Scales in Howards End and Stiff Upper Lips, and with his father Timothy West on stage in A Number, Henry IV Part I and Part II. In two films (Iris in 2001 and the 1996 television film Over Here), Sam and his father have played the same character at different ages. In Edward the Seventh, he and his brother Joseph played young sons of the title character, who was played by their father.[32] In 2002 all three family members performed in Stravinsky's The Soldiers Tale at the St Magnus Festival on Orkney[33] and in 2006 they gave a rehearsed reading of the Harold Pinter play Family Voices as part of the Sheffield Theatres Pinter season.[34]

West became the patron of Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus in February 2008, having been the narrator for a concert of theirs in February 2002.[35] He is also a patron of London children's charity Scene & Heard,[36] Eastside Educational Trust and Mousetrap Theatre projects.

While at university, West was a member of the Socialist Workers Party and later briefly the Socialist Alliance.[2] West has been a left-wing activist for many years; he was a critic of Tony Blair's New Labour government.[37] On 26 March 2011 he spoke at the TUC March for the Alternative.[38]

Samuel West has written essays on Richard II for the Cambridge University Press series Players of Shakespeare,[39] on Hamlet for Michael Dobson's CUP study Performing Shakespeare's Tragedies Today[40] and on Shakespeare and Love[41] and Voice and Radio[42] for BBC Radio 3.

He has also published articles on Harold Pinter,[43][44] on Caryl Churchill [45] and on the Shipping Forecast.[46] He frequently writes and speaks in public about arts funding.[47]

In 2013 he was one of the judges for the Forward Prizes for Poetry. In December 2014, he appeared on two programmes for Christmas University Challenge,[48] as part of a team of alumni from Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.

West is an Associate Artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company,[49] Chair of the National Campaign for the Arts and was a member of the council of the British Actors' Union Equity from 1996-2000 and 2008-2014. [50] He is a keen birdwatcher.[51]

In 2007 West moved in with playwright Laura Wade,[1] but in 2011 the couple temporarily split up.[52][4] In 2013 West was cast in a minor role in The Riot Club, the film version of Wade’s hit play, Posh and in 2014 the couple had a daughter.[53]


Year Film Role Notes
1989 Reunion Count Konradin von Lohenburg
1992 Howards End Leonard Bast Nominated for BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor
1993 Archipel Alan Stewart In French
1994 Open Fire Steven Waldorf
1995 A Feast at Midnight Chef
The Vacillations of Poppy Carew Victor TV movie
Carrington Gerald Brenan
Persuasion Mr. Elliot
Zoya Nicolai TV movie, as Sam West
Heavy Weather 'Monty' Bodkin TV movie
1996 Jane Eyre St. John Rivers
1997 The Ripper Prince Albert Victor Edward TV movie
1998 Stiff Upper Lips Edward
Rupert's Land Rupert McKay Nominated for Genie Award for Best Actor
The Dance of Shiva Lt. Davis Short film
1999 Notting Hill Anna's Co-Star As Sam West
Runt Pork Short film
2000 Bread and Roses as himself (cameo)
Complicity Neil
Bring Me Your Love Doctor Jensen Short film
Pandaemonium Robert Southey
2001 Iris Young Maurice As Sam West
2002 Shrink George Short film
2003 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure Pongo Voice only
2004 Van Helsing Dr. Victor Frankenstein
Curse of the Ring King Gunther TV movie
2006 Random Quest Colin Trafford TV movie
2008 The Long Walk to Finchley Ted Heath TV movie
2009 Schweitzer Phil Figgis
2012 Hyde Park on Hudson King George VI
2014 The Riot Club Tutor
2015 Suffragette Benedict


Year Title Role Notes
1975 Edward the Seventh Albert Victor 'Eddy' - Aged 5 Episode 6: "The Invisible Queen"
1981 Nanny James Lamerton Series 1, Episode 6: "Goats and Tigers"
1985 Screen Two Johnnie Mallett Series 2, Episode 4: "Frankie and Johnnie"
1989 The Voyage of the Dawn Treader King Caspian
1991 Stanley and the Women Stephen Duke
1993 Screen Two Mark Series 9, Episode 8: "Voices in the Garden"
The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries Donald Potter Series 1, Episode 5: "Death in a White Tie"
Performance Jack Maitland Series 3, Episode 2: "The Maitlands"
Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time Cyrian As Sam West
1994 As Time Goes By Terry Series 3, Episode 1: "We'll Always Have Paris", as Sam West
Screen One Lt. Charles Thoroughgood Series 6, Episode 2: "A Breed of Heroes"
1996 Strangers Simon Series 1, Episode 10: "Costumes"
Over Here Archie Bunting
1999 Hornblower Major Edrington Series 1, Episode 4: "The Frogs and the Lobsters"
The Planets Narrator
2000 Longitude Nevil Maskelyne
2001-2002 Timewatch Narrator
2002 Waking the Dead Thomas Rice Series 1, Episodes 1-2: "Life Sentence"
2002-2006 The Private Life of a Masterpiece Narrator
2003 Cambridge Spies Anthony Blunt
Imagine Wightwick Series 2, Episode 3: "Entertaining Mr. Soane"
2004 Foyle's War Lt. Col. James Wintringham Series 3, Episode 1: "The French Drop"
2005 Nova (TV series) Humphry Davy Series 33, Episode 3: "E=mc²: Einstein's Big Idea"
2006 The Inspector Lynley Mysteries Tony Wainwright Series 5, Episode 3: "Chinese Walls"
2007 Midsomer Murders Jeremy Thacker Series 10, Episode 2: "The Animal Within"
2009 New Tricks David Fleeting Series 6, Episode 3: "Fresh Starts"
Desperate Romantics Lord Rosterley Series 1, Episode 4
2010 Garrow's Law Thomas Erskine Series 2, Episode 4
Any Human Heart Peter Scabius Series 1, Episodes 1-4
Agatha Christie's Poirot Dr Constantine Series 12, Episode 3: Murder on the Orient Express
2011 Law & Order: UK Lucas Boyd Series 5, Episode 5: "Intent"
2012 Eternal Law Zak Gist
2012-15 Mr Selfridge Frank Edwards Character based on journalist and publisher Frank Harris
2014 Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond Admiral Sir John Godfrey Character was Ian Fleming's model for "M"
The Crimson Field Elliot Vincent Series 1, Episode 4
2015 W1A Richard Cartwright Series 2, Episode 1
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell Sir Walter Pole

He also narrated five BBC documentary series for producer Laurence Rees:

In addition, he narrated the Yorkshire Television documentary "The SS in Britain" for director Julian Hendy in 1999.[54]






Audiobooks, reciting and work with musicians[edit]

West has recorded over fifty audiobooks, among which are the Shakespeare plays All's Well That Ends Well, Coriolanus, Henry V, The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Richard II and Macbeth (directed by Steven Berkoff), the Wind on Fire trilogy by William Nicholson (The Wind Singer, Slaves of the Mastery and Firesong), the Arthur trilogy by Kevin Crossley-Holland (The Seeing Stone, At the Crossing Places and King of the Middle March), five books by Sebastian Faulks (Charlotte Gray, Birdsong, The Girl at the Lion d'Or, Human Traces and A Possible Life), four by Michael Ridpath (Trading Reality, Final Venture, Free to Trade, and The Marketmaker), two by George Orwell (Nineteen Eighty-Four and Homage to Catalonia), two by Mary Wesley (An Imaginative Experience and Part of the Furniture), two by Robert Goddard (Closed Circle and In Pale Battalions) and several compilations of poetry (Realms of Gold: Letters and Poems of John Keats, Bright Star, The Collected Works of Shelley, Seven Ages, Great Narrative Poems of the Romantic Age and A Shropshire Lad). Also Faust, Bomber, Doctor Who: The Vengeance of Morbius, Empire of the Sun, Brighton Rock, Fair Stood the Wind for France, Fluke, Great Speeches in History, How Proust Can Change Your Life, Lady Windermere's Fan, Peter Pan, The Alchemist, The Day of the Triffids, The Hairy Hands, The Lives of Christopher Chant, The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous, The Queen's Man, The Solitaire Mystery, The Swimming Pool Library, The Two Destinies, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Way I Found Her, The Way to Dusty Death, The Woodlanders, Under the Net, Wuthering Heights and Philip Pullman's Grimm Tales for Young and Old.

In June 2012, West recorded an English narration of The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My by Tove Jansson for an interactive audiobook developed by Spinfy and published by Sort of Books.

In May 2015, West's reading of Brighton Rock was chosen as one of 'The 20 best audiobooks of all time' by Carole Mansur of the Daily Telegraph.[56]

As a reciter West has worked with all the major British orchestras, as well as the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C.. Works include Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex and The Soldier's Tale, Prokofiev's Eugene Onegin, Beethoven's Egmont, Schoenburg's Ode To Napoleon, Strauss' Enoch Arden, Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals, Bernstein's Kaddish, Walton's Façade and Henry V, Night Mail and The Way to the Sea by Britten and Auden, the world premieres of Concrete by Judith Weir at the Barbican and Howard Goodall’s Jason and the Argonauts at the Royal Albert Hall and the UK premiere of Jonathan Harvey's final piece Weltethos at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham.[57] In 2007 West made his New York recital debut in the first performance of Little Red Violin by Anne Dudley and Steven Isserlis. In November 2010, West performed a new English translation of Grieg's complete incidental music to Ibsen’s play Peer Gynt with the Southampton Philharmonic Choir at Southampton Guildhall.[58] He has performed at the Proms six times,[59] including the suite version of Henry V at the 2002 Last Night of the Proms.

He has also appeared with the Nash Ensemble, the Raphael Ensemble, The Hebrides Ensemble, Ensemble 360 and the Lindsay, Dante and Endellion Quartets at the Wigmore Hall, London. Recordings include Prokofief's Eugene Onegin with Sinfonia 21 and Edward Downes,[60] Salad Days and Walton's Henry V with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Leonard Slatkin.[61]

As a choral singer, West has participated in three Choir of London tours to Palestine: in May 2006, when he also gave poetry readings as part of the concert programme; in April 2007 when he directed The Magic Flute.[62] and in September 2013 (see below).

In 2013, the centenary year of Benjamin Britten, West narrated the Britten/Auden film score Night Mail with the Nash Ensemble at the Wigmore Hall and later added Coal Face, God’s Chillun, The Peace of Britain, The Way to the Sea and The King’s Stamp with the Aurora Orchestra at the Queen Elizabeth and Fairfield Halls.[63] In June he played God in Britten’s Noye’s Fludde in Harrogate.[64] In July he appeared in a Proms Plus broadcast discussing Britten’s setting of poetry. In September he toured Palestine with the Choir of London as staff director of a new opera based on Britten’s Hymn to St Cecilia and sang in Britten’s St Nicolas.[65] In October, he narrated the concert world premiere of Britten in America for the Hallé orchestra, which was released on CD [66] together with West’s recordings of speeches to Britten’s incidental music for Auden and Isherwood’s play The Ascent of F6 (the disc, Britten to America, was later nominated for a 2014 Grammy Award for Best Classical Compendium).[67] He also toured a program of Britten cabaret songs and Auden poems across the UK with Ruthie Culver and the UtterJazz Quartet.[68]

In June 2013 he appeared in the video for Handyman Blues by Billy Bragg, directed by Johnny Vegas.[69]

Awards and nominations[edit]

As actor

As reader

Samuel West has received nine AudioFile Earphones Awards for his narration: The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (1996), Peter Pan by J.M.Barrie (1997), Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks (1999), The Way I Found Her by Rose Tremain (2000), The Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst (2007), Faust by Goethe (2011), A Shropshire Lad by A. E. Housman (2011), A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks (2012) and Philip Pullman's Grimm Tales for Young and Old (2013) [70]

As director


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  19. ^ "RSC Hails Success of Year-long Complete Works". What's On Stage. 5 April 2007. Retrieved 3 July 2015. 
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  22. ^ Costa, Maddy (27 November 2008). "Theatre review: The Family Reunion / Donmar, London". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 10 June 2015. 
  23. ^ Spencer, Charles (23 July 2009). "Enron, at Minerva Theatre in Chichester - review". The Telegraph (UK). Retrieved 10 June 2015. 
  24. ^ "The best theatre of the decade". The Sunday Times (UK). 13 December 2009. Retrieved 3 July 2015. 
  25. ^ Hitchings, Henry (5 November 2012). "Uncle Vanya, Vaudeville, WC2 - review". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 10 June 2015. 
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  29. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - Saturday Drama, Present Laughter". BBC. 2015. Retrieved 10 June 2015. 
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  31. ^ "BBC Radio 3 - Drama On 3, Money". BBC. 2012. Retrieved 10 June 2015. 
  32. ^ ""Edward the Seventh" The Invisible Queen (TV Episode 1975) - Full Cast & Crew". IMDB. Retrieved 10 June 2015. 
  33. ^ Walton, Kenneth (25 June 2002). "Stepping out wit St Magnus". The Scotsman. Retrieved 10 June 2015. 
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  43. ^ West, Sam (February 2009). "Harold Pinter: 1930-2008". Socialist Review. Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  44. ^ West, Samuel (17 March 2007). "Fathers and sons, Books". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  45. ^ West, Samuel (23 April 2015). "Caryl Churchill: the David Bowie of contemporary theatre". The Telegraph (UK). Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  46. ^ West, Samuel (16 February 2012). "Malin, Dogger, North Utsire? Bliss". The Telegraph (UK). Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
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  55. ^ Billington, Michael (2 March 2005). "Insignificance Lyceum, Sheffield". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
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  57. ^ Tommasini, Anthony (22 June 2012). "Jonathan Harvey's 'Weltethos' in England". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
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  64. ^ "Harrogate Grammar School present Benjamin Britten's opera, Noye's Fludde". Harrogate Informer. 10 June 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  65. ^ West, Samuel (3 October 2013). "Samuel West London choir on West Bank". Sinfini Music. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
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  67. ^ "57th Annual GRAMMY Awards Winners & Nominees". Grammy. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  68. ^ "Britten/Look Stranger". Ruthie Culver. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  69. ^ "Billy Bragg - Handyman Blues". YouTube. 3 June 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
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External links[edit]