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Sam Benjamin made history when he completed his history degree at Reading: he was the first student to combine his studies with our film and theatre modules, and he graduated with a BA in History with Theatre! He is now an award-winning actor. 

Sam Benjamin

Image credit: Chris Cox

Going with your gut 

When it came to choosing which degree to pursue, Sam chose history because he enjoyed and excelled at it. But it wasn't a degree he was really passionate about; his childhood ambition was to become an actor. Even during his studies, Sam had this desire.

“By the time I was looking at Reading, I knew that deep down I had a hidden agenda to pursue the acting part whilst I was reading History. I also had a gut feeling that the Film, Theatre & Television (FTT) Department at Reading was a special one.”

Sam chose to study extra modules in FTT, and after being cast in a plethora of plays and shorts by those pursuing a degree in the Department, he knew he should follow his dream career and enrol in drama school after graduation.

“Acting is very different route from history. But it was during the three years of absorbing all I could from the FTT Department, studying under that faculty, where my route changed and became clear, obvious, and within the same industry that I was studying. It was because of the FTT Department that I emerged with clarity and confidence.”

A valuable learning experience 

Sam's time at Reading was profoundly influenced by the department's learning opportunities and experience, and he thanks FTT for providing him with crucial skills and knowledge that boosted his employability prospects. 

“I could not quantify how many times that having ‘BA History with Theatre’ from Reading actually won over an employer on paper. But I would not be the actor I am today without my experience at FTT. And therefore, would not have landed the jobs I have.”

He credits the department with providing him with extensive exposure to various mediums as well as the opportunity to practically incorporate the knowledge in his studies.

“I was exposed to the fundamentals of film and theatre, to the pioneers and original masters of the craft. I was guided by tremendous lecturers and staff. And from an acting point of view, it was because of the high standard of productions that the undergrads on the full BA course were creating that I was able to garner such wide and varied experience on the stage and in front of the screen. They cast me in their productions. And some of them remain in my memory, even more artistic and vibrant than some professional shows I’ve performed in!”

Sam feels especially inspired as a result of his degree, having gained an appreciation and knowledge of the history of British theatre, early cinema, and the history of movie performance. Such sense and scope continue to influence his work today.

There were several unforgettable moments for Sam during his time at Reading, especially when his class got to watch a classic film. 

“I’ll never forget when I sat in the Bob Kayley Studio Theatre, blacked out, as the classic film noir Double Indemnity was projected for the class. No one was distracted. Everyone was in awe. It was a gorgeous jumping off point to then learn more about classic film.”


On the big screen

Sam's career has taken him from starring alongside Poldark's Eleanor Tomlinson in the BBC adaptation of The War of the Worlds to being cast in Zack Snyder's superhero epic Justice League. He also co-starred with Vinnie Jones and WWE wrestler Stu Bennett in the Lionsgate action film I Am Vengeance: Retaliation, which is now streaming on Netflix.

A personal highlight also includes playing a role in Peaky Blinders whilst his mum sat behind the camera and watched.  

Sam's journey from starting at Reading with a history degree to graduating with a combined history and theatre degree and pursuing his childhood dream of becoming an actor shows the influence of film and theatre, as well as the importance of following your passion.

Sam shares his words of wisdom to current students:

“Take huge risks. Put on your own shows and make your own films in addition to the ones required on your course.”

Find out more about our undergraduate courses 

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