- Photography by Ms Linda Brownlee
- Styling by Ms Tracey Nicholson
- Words by Mr Chris Elvidge, Senior Copywriter, MR PORTER
Mr Sam Palladio has just returned from performing at the annual Ford's Theatre Gala in Washington DC - a trip that he recounts with a hint of disbelief. "We got to tour the White House the morning of the show. We met Michelle and Barack... uh, yeah." He pauses, visibly taken aback. "I just met the President." So it's only just sinking in? "I guess it is. Thinking about it, it's mind-blowing that in just eight months a TV show has given me the opportunity to do these things."
I'm an actor first and foremost, but
music has always been a real passion,
and I've never been able to give one
more weight than the other. I guess I'm
an actor who sings and plays
The TV show in question is ABC's hit series, Nashville, a drama set against the backdrop of the city's world-famous music scene and starring Mses Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere as rival country music superstars. One of the show's more curious aspects is the on-screen pairing of Ms Clare Bowen and Mr Palladio, who play aspiring songwriting duo, Scarlett and Gunnar. Their characters are both from out of town: Scarlett from Natchez, Mississippi, and Gunnar from Austin, Texas. In reality, though, they're both from a lot further away. The only two members of the cast to hail from outside the US, Ms Bowen is from the south coast of Australia while Mr Palladio is from Cornwall, England. So just how did a man from Penzance - England's westernmost town, and the spiritual home of the comedy pirate accent - wind up in "Music City", home of the long-running Grand Ole Opry country music concert, doing an impeccable impression of a Texan singer-songwriter?
"I'd been to drama school for three years, and accent work was something I'd always loved," he explains. "One of my final projects at drama school was a Tennessee Williams play set in the south, so I spent a couple of months working on it then. So when this job came up, I could look back at my old notes from a couple of years back and remember how it should sound." And did he have the chance to visit the city itself beforehand? "I actually booked the show in London off my audition tapes - I'd never been to America before," he laughs, that bemused expression flashing across his face again, as if the implausibility of it all has only just occurred to him. "They took a big chance on me."
Mr Palladio as the aspiring Texan singer-songwriter Gunnar Scott in the hit US television series Nashville
We're not so sure about that. He may lack his character Gunnar's Texan drawl and "Aw, shucks" demeanour, but there's something very apt about Mr Palladio's casting as the talented singer-songwriter (and it's not just a passing resemblance to a young Mr Bruce Springsteen). Brought up in a creative environment - his father was an artist and his mother ran a gallery - he picked up a guitar at an early age and spent his formative years being schooled in 1970s folk, citing Mr James Taylor as one of his heroes. He studied for an actor-musicianship degree at Rose Bruford College, a drama school in southeast London, alma mater to such names as Mr Gary Oldman. "It combined those two worlds really well," says Mr Palladio of his course. "You bring live music into all the performances you do, so you might be rehearsing Shakespeare while scoring music to accompany it. I consider myself an actor first and foremost - that's what I trained to do - but music has always been a real passion, and I've never quite been able to give one more weight than the other. I guess I'm an actor who sings and plays."
Actor, musician, actor-musician - whatever Mr Palladio's doing, it seems to be working. Nashville has been lauded by the critics, and a second series has been commissioned, while he'll soon be appearing alongside Mr Justin Timberlake in the upcoming thriller Runner, Runner, in which he plays an online gambling hotshot from London. "It was nice to be back in an English accent," he says of his time on set. But it's just a hiatus - he'll be returning to that familiar southern drawl for his most exciting project yet, the first collaboration between Disney and Lucasfilm since their 2012 merger. "It's called Primrose, and it's from the same studio and team that won the Oscar for Brave," he says. "Of course, I was a massive Star Wars fan as a kid, so when I heard about the announcement of the new movies I set myself a seven-year goal, and told myself that I had to be in them. And hey! - now I've got a job with the same company."
And, not for the first time during the course of this interview, Mr Palladio looks on with incredulity, in happy disbelief. Who can blame him? For a guy from Cornwall, he certainly seems to be living the American Dream.