Scoop: Gillian Anderson, Billie Piper and Rufus Sewell on dramatising infamous Prince Andrew TV interview for new Netflix film

We chat to the stars of new Netflix movie Scoop, the story of Prince Andrew’s disastrous, headline-grabbing Newsnight interview

Rufus Sewell as Prince Andrew in Scoop
Scoop Rufus Sewell as Prince Andrew (PETER MOUNTAIN/NETFLIX. All Rights Reserved)

Emily Maitlis’s Newsnight interview with Prince Andrew in November 2019 had a seismic impact.

The near-hour-long conversation – held in the wake of the death of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein – was the catalyst for the downfall of the Duke of York, who faced allegations of sexual assault of a minor through his association with Epstein and his partner, Ghislaine Maxwell, who has since been convicted of child sex trafficking.

Shortly after the interview, which was widely perceived as a “car crash”, Buckingham Palace announced that Prince Andrew was to suspend his public duties “for the foreseeable future”.

In 2022, Virginia Giuffre v Prince Andrew – the US federal lawsuit filed in which Virginia Giuffre, nee Roberts, sued the Prince for sexual assault, alleging she was forced to have sex with Andrew at the age of 17 after being trafficked by Epstein – was settled out of court.

It was a monumental story which shook the world, not least for how impressive it is that the BBC secured the interview in the first place, convincing the Buckingham Palace establishment to give Maitlis the opportunity to grill the disgraced royal with no topics off-limits.

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Behind Emily Maitlis’s extraordinary line of questioning was an entire team of Newsnight producers – including Sam McAlister, the woman who did the ground work in securing the interview in the first place.

In new Netflix film Scoop, we’re getting a look at the story behind the story, with Billie Piper starring as McAlister, Gillian Anderson as Maitlis, and Rufus Sewell as Prince Andrew.

Billie Piper as Sam McAlister in Scoop
Scoop Billie Piper as Sam McAlister. PICTURE: PETER MOUNTAIN/NETFLIX (PETER MOUNTAIN/NETFLIX. All Rights Reserved)

“I think the interview did so much, I think it was the catalyst to so many things that happened beyond it that are really, really important, and holding people with that level of status to account, they have to be accountable,” says Doctor Who and I Hate Suzie star Piper (41).

“It’s very rare that you would get that level of access to someone like that.

“Seeing the women who brought that interview to our screens and their story, their quest to get it done, sort of ping-ponging between the BBC and the Royal Family, how hard that is, how many red lines there were, how male it was, often – they need this day in the sun, because what they did was truly remarkable. And, you know, a big part of history.”

Piper says that she found Sam McAlister – who she collaborated closely with in preparation for portraying her in the film – to be an inspirational figure.

“She’s fascinating, really. She’s so ballsy,” the actress says.

“I wish I actually felt like her every day. She’s so positive as well – it’s such a dog-eat-dog world, that there’s a sort of steeliness to a lot of those people in that industry. But she’s unlike that, she’s warm, I don’t know, she just has a totally different approach.

“And it obviously works, because she got the interview of – well, I don’t know, I don’t know I’ll ever see an interview like that again.”

Rufus Sewell as Prince Andrew and Gillian Anderson as Emily Maitlis in Scoop
Scoop Rufus Sewell as Prince Andrew, Gillian Anderson as Emily Maitlis. PICTURE: PETER MOUNTAIN/NETFLIX (PETER MOUNTAIN/NETFLIX. All Rights Reserved)

While Scoop traces the backstory of securing the interview, it also features a recreation of the conversation, with Gillian Anderson’s Maitlis and Rufus Sewell’s Andrew coming face-to-face.

For Sewell (56), who also stars in Netflix’s The Diplomat, preparation involved attempting to get under Prince Andrew’s skin, trying to work out why he said the things he did and the thoughts behind his approach to the interview.

“Me and Gillian didn’t work together on it, we just worked separately, which I think was the right way to do it,” he says.

“And I watched the interview obsessively. Maybe that’s too big a word, (but) I watched it a lot.

Rufus Sewell as Prince Andrew in Scoop.
Scoop Rufus Sewell as Prince Andrew in Scoop. PICTURE: PETER MOUNTAIN/NETFLIX (PETER MOUNTAIN/NETFLIX. All Rights Reserved)

“I would just basically try, at first, to sound like him, to mimic, but more than anything, just to try to understand not just what he was thinking when he was speaking, but all of the hesitations, all of the body language, to find something that might be the root of that.

“I had an instinct when I first watched it, but actually trying to break it down, so that I could be seeing it in that moment, from his perspective, without judgment.”

Anderson (55) who’s known for roles in The X-Files, The Fall, Sex Education and The Crown, studied Maitlis’s mannerisms to perfect the recreation of the interview.

Gillian Anderson as Emily Maitlis in Scoop
Scoop Gillian Anderson as Emily Maitlis. PICTURE: PETER MOUNTAIN/NETFLIX (PETER MOUNTAIN/NETFLIX. All Rights Reserved)

“I’ve been a big fan for a while, so it was a joy to step into her shoes,” she says of playing the journalist, adding that preparing for the interview scene involved repeatedly watching and listening to the footage.

“The interview itself is about 50 minutes long, our version of it is about 10 minutes long, so it was asking somebody to turn the audio element of it into a repeated mp3, and also the visual into a smaller video file, and just basically watching and listening on a loop,” she explains.

“Paying attention to mannerisms, when she looked up… it was a drag at one point when I saw the actual film, because of how many times she looks down at her notes, it looks like I might be looking at my lines!”

Outside of the interview scene, we also get a glimpse into moments where Prince Andrew is alone. The film – which is directed by The Crown director Philip Martin – includes a striking scene where the Prince watches the Newsnight interview air, sitting on his bed laden with teddy bears, and we begin to wonder what was going through his head as he watched the footage back.

Gillian Anderson as Emily Maitlis and Rufus Sewell as Prince Andrew in Scoop
Scoop Gillian Anderson as Emily Maitlis and Rufus Sewell as Prince Andrew. PICTURE: PETER MOUNTAIN/NETFLIX (PETER MOUNTAIN/NETFLIX. All Rights Reserved)

“It’s this question of sympathy versus empathy, you know, and empathy is very interesting,” says Sewell.

“Like the way a camera works as a grayscale – it looks at either a bright scene or a black scene, and it sees grey. And that’s a good way of getting all the detail.

“You try to do that: to be able to really try to see something from someone’s perspective, what they would be thinking, what the truth they’re telling themselves about that moment is, their reasons for being the way they are, so that you can represent them fully – not make them look good, not make them look bad, but just try to be truthful.

“And it’s very tempting sometimes to slant it one way or another. Because you can be criticised for going too far in either direction, especially playing someone like this.”

Scoop is available on Netflix from Friday April 5.

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