I had the pleasure of sitting down with Samuel Small and Julia Jackman to talk about the upcoming Sky Original film, Bonus Track for Queerly Radio and Queerly’s Stage and Screen Podcast. Samuel and Julia provided an inside look into the making of the film and their careers to date.

Set in 2006, Bonus Track follows the story of George, a small-town sixteen-year-old who dreams of being a star and is a gifted musician. However, he faces social and academic challenges until Max, the son of a famous musical duo, arrives at his school and takes an interest in his music.

During the interview, Samuel Small, who plays Max, shared his perspective on the character, describing Max as a teenager going through a difficult time due to his parents’ public and messy divorce. Small highlighted the challenges Max faces when navigating a new school and the unwanted attention he receives. He emphasised the sweet interaction between Max and George, shedding light on the underlying themes of the film. Small stated, “We find Max at a very peculiar time in his life. His parents are going through a public and messy divorce. And he’s just been moved from London to a small town into a completely different school in the last year, where he’s doing his exams.”

Joe Anders and Samuel Small in Bonus Track (Sky Cinema)
Joe Anders and Samuel Small in Bonus Track (Sky Cinema)

The discussion also delved into the significance of music in the film. Julia Jackman, the director, expressed how music was an integral part of the script, creating a sense of nostalgia and transporting the audience back to the early 2000s. She emphasised the importance of selecting songs that would resonate with the audience and evoke memories of that time. Jackman stated, “a lot of those songs have carried on into now, it was a balance to try and find songs from them that would really transport you back to that time and make you think, OK, yes, I remember being that age, I remember where I was.”

Samuel Small’s journey into the entertainment industry was another focal point of the interview. Small shared his experiences of facing rejection during auditions at a young age and the impact it had on him. He also expressed gratitude for the support he received from mentors and family members, highlighting the formative experiences that shaped his career. Small said, “Coming into the industry is very difficult, and I was very fortunate that I got into it so young. But I remember going to the open auditions for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Lion King and Billy Elliot… I was auditioning to play Billy Elliot on the West End, and I got down to the last six for that. And you do like a six-week summer course where they train you and they drill you and see if you’ve got what it takes to become Billy. And I had the most amazing experience on it. But it didn’t go my way. I was the oldest boy there, and I changed quite a lot physically over those six weeks. And I didn’t  get it. And I was gutted and heartbroken.But then I made the move to a full-time performing arts school, and then I got Matilda. So it took a lot of heartbreak, and it’s still very present in my life today. You don’t get every job that you go after, but it was definitely a very formative  experience from a young age of 12.” Samuel was also very thankful for the support he’d received along the way from friends, family and teachers when we spoke about positive mentors in Bonus Track. He said “there’s definitely teachers that hold a massive place in my heart, like David and Annette Holland from Best Theatre Arts, they really supported me and were there for me for the eight years that I was at their Saturday drama school… My amazing  family never doubted me once and allowed me to take that leap to travel to London every day for school to get my training to go to these auditions to miss out on summer holidays so that I can be on the West End. And like, I’m so fortunate that I’ve had that support from my  parents and my siblings, because a lot of people don’t have that now.” Samuel also thanked his dance teacher Susie for keeping his chin up when things got tough.

Our chat also touched upon the inspiration behind Bonus Track. Julia Jackman revealed that the script resonated with her, offering a warm and uplifting story that she found charming. She emphasised the significance of portraying unconventional first love experiences, particularly for queer young people in the 2000s, in a positive light. Jackman stated, “I was a teenager at that time and having my first experiences and my first queer experiences and seeing something that made it feel like it wasn’t a tragedy for your first love to be unconventional.”

The interview shed light on the role of the soundtrack in shaping the film. Samuel Small discussed how the script was chaptered and broken up with song titles, allowing him to connect with specific parts of the story. Julia also highlighted the collaboration with Olly Alexander and the creation of a song that captured the spirit of the film. Jackman said “So I met with Olly and we got along great. And Olly presented this song and we wanted a song that, along with kind of the spirit of the film, didn’t take itself too seriously and a song that could be kind of built throughout the film.”

Olly Alexander recorded a new original song for Bonus Track (Sky Cinema)
Olly Alexander recorded a new original song for Bonus Track (Sky Cinema)

In addition to the film, the interview provided insights into the personal lives of the actors. Samuel Small shared his passion for performing arts and the impact it had on his school experience. My time with Samuel Small and Julia Jackman offered a glimpse into the making of Bonus Track and their personal experiences that shaped the film. It was amazing to be able to speak with them! Watch BONUS TRACK – ON SKY CINEMA AND NOW TV FROM JUNE 1ST.

Listen to the full interview on Queerly’s Stage and Screen Podcast below: