Netflix’s Scoop: Who Is Sam McAlister?

By Olivia Emily

2 months ago

Remember that Newsnight interview? It's returning to the small screen...


If there’s one thing Netflix loves more than throwing fictional teenagers into weird, supernatural scenarios, it’s shows about royalty, from Young Royals to The Empress to The Crown. The latter is, of course, the streaming service’s proverbial jewel, which is once again turning its attention to the British royal family. Enter Scoop, a buzzy film based on that Newsnight interview with Prince Andrew and the memoir of producer Sam McAlister. Here’s everything you need to know before tuning in, including how to stream the show.

Netflix’s Scoop: Everything You Need To Know

Gillian Anderson and Rufus Sewell in 'Scoop'

© 2023 Netflix, Inc.

When Newsnight’s interview with Prince Andrew aired on BBC One at the end of 2019, the effect was immediate. It was supposed to draw a line under Prince Andrew’s association with Jeffrey Epstein, who died in prison in summer 2019 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. Instead, it only drew more attention to the weird and, in the Prince’s words, ‘beneficial’ relationship. Damning clips appeared across social media platforms and Andrew’s statements were picked apart and scrutinised – and that’s after the Prince and his team agreed the interview had gone well.

‘Wonderfully’, in fact – this is the term used by Sam McAlister in her memoir, Scoops: Behind The Scenes of the BBC’s Most Shocking Interviews, published in 2022 and which piqued the interest of the streaming giant. Now Scoops is travelling to Netflix (and losing the ‘s’) to become Scoop, a film delving into the behind-the-scenes of that damning interview.

Billie Piper in 'Scoop'

© 2023 Netflix, Inc.

Who Is Sam McAlister?

Sam McAlister was a producer on Newsnight when Prince Andrew’s episode aired. In fact, it is McAlister who secured the interview, and who sat behind the camera as interviewer Emily Maitlis fired questions at the Prince. ‘Each time I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did,’ McAlister writes in Scoops. ‘I could barely believe his people hadn’t stopped the interview. I would have, despite the consequences. ‘“How did you think it went?” I asked the equerry. She beamed. “Wasn’t he wonderful!” she said.

‘I’d expected Amanda Thirsk [Prince Andrew’s private secretary at the time] to be distraught, the prince to look shaken or concerned, but she was smiling, and he seemed ebullient,’ McAlister writes. ‘And then it hit me: he actually thought it had gone well. He was in such a good mood that he offered us all a tour of the palace.’

What Is She Doing Now?

Today, Sam McAlister is a Visiting Senior Fellow at the London School of Economics’ Law school – putting her previous career as a criminal barrister to good use. McAlister worked at the BBC until 2021, when she took voluntary redundancy and set to work on Scoops (which was published in the summer of 2022).

As is hinted at in the film, McAlister struggled to integrate in the BBC Newsnight team, and it has been reported that she and Maitlis are, in fact, not on speaking terms these days due to Maitlis not acknowledging the role Sam played in securing the landmark interview. The tension between the women is said to be ‘palpable’, and it has been suggested that this is why McAlister eventually left.

McAlister also seems to have ruffled a few feathers with the publication of Scoops. As a BBC insider told The Daily Mail, ‘There is internal disappointment because it is not the done thing to expose how you go about these journalistic practices and also because a lot of people who did a considerable amount of work on this show are being written out of the process in pursuit of one person’s career. Former colleagues find that disappointing.’

As well as being snubbed with regards to credit, McAlister has spoken on the economic reality of her work, with a lot of the controversy between Maitlis and McAlister stemming from the fact that, while Maitlis was on a salary of around £325,000 for Newsnight, McAlister was paid a more modest £30,000. ‘Of course, I asked for a pay rise after the interview, but I didn’t get one…’ McAlister recently wrote in the Mail Online. ‘Although a pay rise and promotion were still not forthcoming, everywhere I went, people told me: “You should write a book about what happened!” Eventually, I decided to do just that.’

With regards to her relationship with Maitlis, McAlister added: ‘I’m sorry to disappoint – I wish Emily nothing but happiness and success.’

Gillian Anderson as Emily Maitlisin 'Scoop'

© 2023 Netflix, Inc.

What Is Scoop About?

Scoop gives viewers ‘the inside track on the women [Emily Maitlis and Sam McAlister] that broke through the Buckingham Palace establishment to secure the scoop of the decade that led to the catastrophic fall from grace of the queen’s “favourite son”,’ according to Netflix. From ‘navigating Palace vetoes’ to ‘breaking through to Prince Andrew’s inner circle’ to ‘high-stakes negotiations’, the film will also dramatise the shocking interview itself.

The film is being directed by Emmy and BAFTA winner Philip Martin. ‘I want to put the audience inside the breathtaking sequence of events that led to the interview with Prince Andrew – to tell a story about a search for answers, in a world of speculation and varying recollections,’ Martin told Netflix. 

‘[Scoop is] a film about power, privilege and differing perspectives and how – whether in glittering palaces or high-tech newsrooms – we judge what’s true,’ Martin said.

The Cast Of Scoop

The star studded line-up was recently announced by Netflix, including Billie Piper and Gillian Anderson who, no stranger to Netflix royal dramas, played Margaret Thatcher in The Crown. The cast (so far) includes:

  • Rufus Sewell as Prince Andrew
  • Gillian Anderson as Emily Maitlis
  • Billie Piper as Sam McAlister
  • Keeley Hawes as Amanda Thirsk, Prince Andrew’s former private secretary
  • Romola Garai as Esme Wren
  • Richard Goulding as Stewart MacLean
  • Amanda Redman as Netta McAlister
  • Connor Swindells as Jae Donnelly
  • Lia Williams as Fran Unsworth
  • Colin Wells as Jeffrey Epstein
  • Aoife Hinds as Rebecca
  • Paul Popplewell as an editor
  • Charity Wakefield as Princess Beatrice

‘Thrilled that my book #Scoops is becoming a Netflix film, with an extraordinary cast,’ author McAlister wrote on Twitter. ‘Being played by @billiepiper is beyond my wildest dreams.’

Is There A Trailer?

Yes, you can watch it below.

You can also see a selection of images here.

Gillian Anderson and Rufus Sewell in 'Scoop'

How To Stream

Scoop is now available to stream on Netflix – you can watch the show via netflix.com

Featured image: Gillian Anderson at the Netflix Original Series world premiere of The Crown. November 1st 2016. London UK.