Without Britain’s Got Talent I’d probably be queuing at the job centre says George Sampson
- Credit: Archant
Dancer and actor George Sampson was just 14 when he won the second series of Britain’s Got Talent. Ten years on, he talks to entertainment writer Wayne Savage about his career.
Q: You recently finished a run as Reecey in the Madness inspired musical Our House...
It was a good character. I think people see me as a bit of a golden boy who don’t cause too much trouble. When I do certain TV shows I seem to get typecast as a bad boy, but I’m quite happy with that. It’s quite fun to go on stage or TV and be bad and get paid for it.
Q: You’re playing Jack Trott in this year’s Ipswich Regent pantomime, Jack and The Beanstalk...
This is my sixth panto and the third time I’ll have done Jack. I absolutely love panto, if I could do it every year I would. Jack’s my favourite part to play. The best thing about (this show) is it’s a little boy panto; the main part isn’t a princess or Cinderella and little boys love that. The Prince Charming stuff’s fun as well but I’d prefer to be Jack or Robin Hood, where I can be the lead hero and integrate what I do into that - breakdancing, flips, freestyling I love doing that,
Q: You rose to fame after winning the second series of Britain’s Got Talent, dancing in the final to Mint Royale’s memorable version of Singin’ in the Rain. Does it seem like another lifetime ago....
It’s coming on 10 years but I think just the difference to my lifestyle emakes it feel even more like a lifetime ago. Back then it was all about being a street dancer, being cool, being underground. I used my skill to form a living and I’ve got to have a much smarter head on my shoulders nowadays. Now I’m an adult with responsibilities. I live with my girlfriend in London, we’ve got bills to pay, a life to make together. It’s much different than being a child with free reign. Back then all that was taken care for me, but I want to plan and invest in the future and what I want to do. The fame game, I’m absolutely loving it but you know what it’s like for anyone in my position it could all end tomorrow.
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Q: Your girlfriend, Lauren Grice, is in Jack and The Beanstalk too...
That always makes it exciting... she’s musical theatre training. We met two years ago on panto and we’ve done shows every year. She auditioned last year for Enchanted Entertainment and they asked this year if she wanted to audition for the good fairy. We’ve got a little flat together while we’re in Ipswich which is nice. It’s hard (being away from loved ones at Christmas) and a lot of people don’t do panto for that reason; sometimes you’re so far away. I remember when we did Carlisle at Christmas, Lauren’s family are in Bournemouth so it was really hard. Being in the show together made it so much easier.
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Q: Previous Britain’s Got Talent and X Factor winners tell me the hard work really starts once the show’s over...
Absolutely, in a year’s time the same show’s on again and there’s going to be a new winner that automatically takes the spotlight off anyone who’s won or done well in these competitions. I’m quite lucky, with X Factor they’re all singers. At least with Britain’s Got Talent a different talent can win it so you’re not in the same region of competition. I’m not saying we’ve got it easy, but I imagine it could be worse for X Factor winners. A solo dance act hasn’t won it since I did but I love competition and I’m always promoting the show because it did amazing things for me. Even 10 years on I’m still doing amazing things thanks to the show and I owe it. If the show can go on and do that for other people I love that.
Q: Did you realise how much it would change your life...
I had no idea, but to be fair my age played a part in that. (It’s not like I was) 16 or 18 when you start understanding life a bit better... Because I’ve grown up with it, it’s been a big part of my life rather than something’s that changed it. Obviously it did, it helped my family out financially massively and it changed lots of things. I was a child. I knew it changed my life, I just didn’t know to what extent. Now I’m older I understand what it does for me now, so I’m even more grateful for it now than I was then.
Q: You’ve performed around the world, starred in the West End, made regular appearances on TV including Waterloo Road, Mount Pleasant, The Dumping Ground, Casualty and Emmerdale plus two StreetDance films...
I’ve been very lucky, I’ve been able to do what I love and get paid to do it at the highest level for 10 years. A lot of people don’t get that but I’ve always remained humble, been nice to the right people. I’ve got to keep practicing, to be better and then people will still want to see me do it. I stay hungry and that’s the reason 10 years on I’m still doing it. If I don’t work hard that fortunate position could be ripped away from me.
The show gives you an open door, it doesn’t give you success. Some people aren’t used to having that platform, they get nosebleeds when they’re that high. You can either take your own advice or you can do as you’re told and take advice from other people; there are so many options. That’s the problem for most people, they get scared when they get options and they’ve got to do it all themselves. It’s really hard to maintain that level of fame and success when you’re right in it yourself and you’ve not had the experience.
Q: How did you cope with the success...
For the first year or two I was with the show I was with Simon (Cowell) and his label and they looked after me. They set up a platform and then I got lucky with the UK dance films that came out at that time. Had I not won the show, if dance wasn’t as big as it was at that time because of movements I made and Diversity made would there have been a dance film, I don’t know.
You’ve got to tread carefully. I could have turned those films down because I’m not an actor, I’m a dance performer and then my dance could have fizzled out. It’s an age old thing with performance, do you accept things for money or do you accept things because you think it would look good on your behalf? I’ve always been on the path that if I think it’s beneficial towards my career then it’s the right move, if not I won’t do it.
It’s about sustaining, its about the people who got me here in the first place, the fans who picked up the phone and voted for me, what do they want to see me doing. I’m not going to come stumbling out of clubs at three in the morning, I’ve never done that. Performing live at a club has never been my thing. I know a lot of people make money off it but it’s not for me.
Q: Winning something like that must be hard for a 14-year-old to comprehend...
Honestly, it’s the craziest moment. I guess it’s a bit different now, because the show’s been going for so many years, you know what’s expected from a winner. I won the second series ever so it was all still very new. We’d only had an opera singer (Paul Potts) win it the year before. For me as a dancer, as a kid, I had no idea where this could take me. I had no idea of what I’m going to wake up tomorrow and find myself doing, all I know is I’ve won this TV show. All I knew were that things were going to improve.
Q: Did you ever get nervous...
I used to go out and dance a lot on the streets, I used to busk and stuff and I encountered some wild characters back then when so I guess I got a thick skin and became a real down to earth, street ready sort who can deal with anybody in any situation. I went in fearless but of course because of how big it was I was nervous. Some acts might hide it well but I think anybody would be in that situation. You’ve got to not let those nerves get to you. For me, they play to my benefit because I embrace them, I take them on. I know if I’m nervous I’m doing the right thing, I’m taking a risk and I love that and going for it.
Q: If you hadn’t won or ever auditioned, what would you be doing now...
I have no idea, I’d probably be in the queue at the job centre. I never had any back-up plans, I was quite an intelligent kid, but I wasn’t going to go on to find the motivation to be a doctor or a vet... I never had any goals other than to try to make it famous and make money through performing arts. It’s impossible to know, had I been 18 I would have a sort of back-up. I would’ve thought “well, I’m an adult now, I need to get a job, look into setting myself up if it doesn’t work out”. I hadn’t even got to the age of 16 where I could start planning a career or anything, so it was do or die.