Meet the BBC ‘scoop’, booker who convinced Prince Andrew for an interview and saw him ruin an opportunity for redemption

Netflix Original, Scoop, is offering an inside look at BBC’s Sam McAlister’s relentless pursuit to secure an interview with Prince Andrew after his relations with Jeffrey Epstein came out. Billie Piper portrays McAlister in the movie, capturing the high-stakes tension of the negotiation process and invoked the years old episode that brought shame to the royal family.

Sam McAlister at the Scoop film premiere

How did McAlister convince Prince Andrew for the interview?

Recently in an interview with NPR, Sam McAlister explained her approach to persuading the prince to participate in a serious news interview where he would not have control over the questions. She emphasized two main angles: the human aspect, offering Prince Andrew a chance to return to his former esteemed position, and the royal opportunity to restore his tarnished reputation.

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Recalling the pivotal moment of negotiation, McAlister recounts a face-to-face meeting with Prince Andrew and a surprise guest, his daughter Princess Beatrice, at Buckingham Palace. Amidst the overwhelming setting, McAlister took a bold approach, candidly addressing the public’s perception of the prince as “Randy Andy.” Fortunately, the prince responded positively, leading to the final confirmation of the interview.

McAlister recalled, “I told him the truth, which was always my style, that he was known as “Randy Andy. And that moment is really where he’s [either] going to laugh, and he knows that we have integrity and trust and we’re honest with him, or he’s going to slam the door in our face. Now, luckily it was the former. But you never, ever know if someone’s going to say yes until you get that final call.”

However, aftermath of the interview was deeply uncomfortable. The prince’s answers during the televised interview were perceived as tone-deaf, and McAlister had to maintain a poker face throughout. She described the experience as a personal masterclass in showing no emotion, even as the interview unfolded into a series of news-making statements.

“But it really was a masterclass in how to give terrible answers and, from my tiny perspective, a small, personal masterclass in showing no emotion whatsoever on your face for an hour — one of the longest hours in television history, I would say.”

To a question on was there a moment where McAlister thought this was ‘going completely off the rails’, she replied,

“It was like building. And after the first answer, which was his mildest answer, every line was a news line. Just watching them kind of pile on top of one another over and over. It was really journalistically, obviously, the highlight of my career and quite an extraordinary experience.”

Watch the BBC NewsNight interview with Prince Andrew

The fallout from the interview was swift and significant. Just days after the interview aired, Prince Andrew announced his decision to step back from royal duties. Reflecting on the gravity of the interview, McAlister acknowledges its monumental impact, recognizing it as a defining moment in her career and a historic journalistic scoop.

“I knew how consequential it was in theory. But the idea that it would topple a member of the royal family, effectively — you know, sacked by his own mother and we’d still be talking about it, let alone that I would have the opportunity of this incredible movie — it would have sounded like I was drunk if I’d said that to you. So I knew it was a scoop, but I just did not know it was the scoop of scoops,” McAlister stated.

Looking ahead, McAlister reveals that if she were still in her former role, her dream interview would be with Russian President Vladimir Putin. She emphasizes the importance of fearless and impartial journalism, a principle she believes is crucial in today’s media landscape.

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