Get to know: Sam Bunkall
Sam Bunkall joins Shortland Street as the intriguing new surgeon Boyd Rolleston. He lets us in on his nomadic upbringing, some of his favourite things, and how he's enjoying working on Shorty so far....
Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in Wellington Women’s Hospital in 1953. One of those things is true. My Dad had a job where we moved around quite a bit so I was very lucky to grow up in many different places. I started primary school in Malaysia, started high school in Holland, finished it at a boarding school in Wanganui while living in New Plymouth and now I’m an Aucklander. But I have spent a lot of my time in Welly – I went to both university and drama school down there and the majority of the family are based there too.
How long have you been acting and how did you get your first big break?
My first ever play was in Holland when I was 12. I played a thief and had a crush on the lead. Been acting ever since but definitely more seriously in the last 10 years. At first it was because it was fun, exciting and seemed like a glamorous job but my motives have definitely changed. Drama school taught me a lot about the importance of art and its ability to open up discussion and ask questions. I’ve been involved in theatre for a long time but if we’re using words like “television” and “big break”, I guess you say this would be it!
Name three similarities between you and your onscreen character.
1) We’re both tall and have brown hair. Actually we do look quite similar in a lot of ways I have to admit. 2) We both like poker. Actually I’m into most games – old school that is – board games and cards, not video games (unless its Alex Kidd in Miracle World or Michael Jackson Moonwalker on Sega Master System II). 3) Our parents live on a farm. Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch but Mum and Dad do have some sheep and a couple of Alpacas. And a dog and a cat. Ok fine, we both like animals..? Yeah. And maybe I like animals even more than Boyd because I’m a vegetarian.
What has been your best experience/scene on the show to date?
All of it. I’m fairly new so definitely still in the honeymoon period. But I’m really lucky to have a great character with exciting storylines so I just love being able to turn up to work every day with such a lovely crew and cast. It’s a privilege in our industry that I’m certainly not taking for granted…
Which other character would you like to be and why?
Rachel McKenna. A powerhouse of a woman with a kind and generous heart. Perfect. And she’s the boss. Or Vinnie maybe. For the same reasons. Different kind of boss though.
What are your hobbies/interests outside of SS?
Aside from the aforementioned games, I like to dress in zebra onesies and go dancing at music festivals with friends and/or rollerblade. Music is a biggie for me, I play drums, guitar and dabble in electronics but I also go a bit crazy if I can’t listen to it – Bfm is usually my saving grace. I also write – I have two short films in pre-production and I’m halfway through a feature film script, which is taking its sweet time, but I’m really happy with it so far.
What do you do in your down time during the day when you’re not shooting?
Learn lines. Boring answer but I like to keep on top of them where I can. If I have a day off or I finish early then I have a second job doing rape prevention education in schools so I also try to do as much of that as I can. We go around Auckland high schools teaching classes on respectful relationships and getting consent in sexual situations, stuff like that. Really great job with an amazing group of people.
What is your favourite destination in NZ and overseas?
In NZ – any of the amazing beaches up north in the summer and the mountains in winter. Overseas – hmmm, tricky. Europe was amazing from what I remember, I loved Holland but it’s been a while to say the least. Melbourne is just awesome and I did a cheap back-packing trip to Sri Lanka over new year which was amazing – especially Mirissa beach. But I’m a big theme park lover so probably Disneyland – preferably in it’s original 50’s glory if we’re being picky…
How many brothers and sisters do you have, are they older or younger?
Only child! The stereotypes are not always true by the way…
What is your date of birth and what star sign are you?
30th September 1982. So quite a bit younger than Boyd! I’m a Libra.
Do you have any pets?
Yes, a little kitten called Mollie. She’s only 6 months old. Ridiculously cute and a little naughty sometimes. And also pretty hard to impress. She’s still warming to me I think. We’ll get there…
Who is the actor or actress that you look up to or admire the most?
I love Chris Lilley from “We Can Be Heroes”, “Summer Heights High” and “Angry Boys”. He’s just a genius – actor, writer, producer. The man is a talent machine. Also any of the adults from Harry Potter. And closer to home I really love Joel Tobeck, Sophie Roberts and Cohen Holloway.
What is the thing you enjoy most about going to work everyday?
As lame and cliché as it sounds, I love my job so the thing I like the most is just being ABLE to work everyday. I guess after so many years of sporadic work followed by periods of no work, it’s so good to be doing it all day, every day. I’m very grateful. It helps that the people – cast and crew – are a joy and so hard working. But if I have to choose a favourite part, it’s probably reading the new block of scripts each week and getting to find out what happens next…
What has been your favorite scene to film in your time at Shortland Street?
Had a great time filming an upcoming poker scene at the I.V. bar. A scotch, a fine cigar and a bit of simmering tension. Delightful. In reality it was eight in the morning, it was lemon ice-tea and it was a fake cigar that fell apart in my mouth. And the tension was coming from the clock. But it was still amazing.
Do you watch Shortland Street at home? If yes, is it strange seeing yourself on television or are you used to it?
No – I don’t have a TV. Maybe I’ll have to start watching Ondemand…
What is your favourite food?
Chips and chocolate. Not necessarily together.
What is your favourite television programme and/or film of all time?
Favourite TV programme of all time is the original British version of “The Office”. It’s just perfect. I also love “Twin Peaks”, the Danish version of “The Killing”, “Community”, “Family Guy”, “The Wire” and most things by HBO. Favourite movie I think would be “Mulholland Drive” but that’s a really hard question! I love Christopher Guest films too.
Which other actors/actresses do you like working with the most and why?
So far everyone has been fantastic to work with. I’ve probably had the most scenes with Rachel Forman and Michael Galvin who are just great – really comfortable, confident and supportive.
Have you made any good friends amongst the cast and crew?
Definitely! Amazing people. Although, I have known quite a few of them for a while – I went to the same drama school as Rachel Forman, Brooke Williams, Amelia Reid, Bree Peters, Natalie Medlock and Lee Donoghue (and technically Michael Galvin and Matt Chamberlain as well, just not at the same time!) So that really helped when I first arrived.
Can you remember your first day on Shortland Street – what was it like?
Wasn’t that long ago at all! It was pretty scary, but also not. The people are so nice and supportive you quickly get over that and feel at home. My first scene was outside and I only had one line so it was a gentle start.
Catch Sam as Boyd Rolleston, weeknights at 7pm