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Sam Heughan recalls being 'sh*t at drama school' and branded 'bad actor'

By Siobhan Macdonald

Sam Heughan opened up about his time at drama school a Glasgow's Royal Conservatoire when he was branded a 'bad actor'.

The 41-year-old star is now best known for his role as Highland warrior Jamie Fraser in the on-screen adaptation of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander novels, alongside Caitriona Balfe.

Heughan, originally from Dumfries-shire, had big success during his time at the Royal Conservatoire, after performing Outlying Islands and was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for Most Promising Performer - despite lecturers doubting his acting abilities.

Sam Heughan teases his new book. (Instagram/SamHeughan)

In a recent interview with Square Mile, the Scotsman revealed he first thought he might succeed at acting when he was in university.

He said: "I don’t think you ever think you’re going to succeed. Even now.

"There’s always that question in the back of your head: oh my God, what if I never work again? I certainly never feel like I’m at the top of the game: you always feel like you could be better at something.

"I suppose the first time I really thought I can do this was at drama school. I was s**t at drama school. I was told I was a bad actor.

"And then in my second year I played Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. I remember one day in rehearsal, before we were onstage, I realised: 'ah, f** I can do this.'"

Heughan opened up about these tough moments at drama school in Scotland before, telling the Happy Sad Confused podcast: "“My first year at drama school, my acting coach took me to one side after my first term and said, ‘You can’t act,’ and I thought, ‘I’ll just continue then.’

"It was a classical drama school. The whole part of this process is breaking you down. But I think that was always also kind of true. It was about confidence.

"At drama school, that’s what it’s for. It’s to fail as well. It was actually my first play I did out of drama school. The theatre director there taught me a lot.”"

The Outlander actor has come far since those days after graduating in 2003, as nobody would dare call him a bad actor after capturing hearts across the globe as Jamie Fraser.

He is even giving back to his old university, as a means to help students out.

Speaking to journalist Josh Horowitz, Sam said: "My former drama school, I decided to create a scholarship for two students to pay their fees throughout their years at drama school.

"But also I created the Write Start Competition just to encourage all the students there to maybe think a little outside the box.

"I just noticed in my career it’s not just acting. There are all these other opportunities or creating your own work.

"Especially during COVID but also when you are an unemployed actor and you’re sitting waiting for the phone to ring, which was a long time for me, you have to start making your own work and also collaborating with other people.

"The competition winners on the inaugural year this year is a really interesting story by some filmmakers who want to do a play, but it’s all set in a nuclear submarine."

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