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Samantha Barks spills all on new TV show Mamma Mia! I Have A Dream

Samantha Barks has spilled all on new ITV musical theatre talent show Mamma Mia! I Have A Dream.

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Launching this Sunday night, the series is on the search for two leading West End stars to play the roles of Sophie and sky in Mamma Mia! next year.

Samantha is joined on the panel by comedian Alan Carr, singer-songwriter, Jessie Ware and star of stage and screen Amber Riley.

Speaking about the upcoming show, Samantha said: “I feel like this series is that, it’s the beautiful setting of being in Greece and celebrating the amazing music of ABBA. It’s such feel good TV. It feels like such a huge honour to get to be a part of finding the new Sophie and Sky.

The show's judges pose with host Zoe Ball in a group photo
Alan Carr, Jessie Ware, Zoe Ball, Amber Riley and Samantha Barks. Credit: Thames/ITV

“The contestants are all such incredibly talented performers, so it feels like I have a big responsibility, but it was just a joy to get to see them develop and grow and all those good things, it was amazing.”

It’s a full circle moment for Samantha who originally kickstarted her career on BBC One show I’d Do Anything.

“It was incredible for me,” she recalled. “It brought back so many memories of being 17 and throwing myself into this process. And it brought back a lot of nostalgia. I took the responsibility really seriously because it’s their lives and they’ve worked really hard to get to here. I don’t take it for granted that I’ve got to be a part of choosing who gets the role.”

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The Frozen star continued: “I think that the way I would say it would be that I knew what a big responsibility it was, and I took it seriously. I didn’t know if I was necessarily nervous. I was more excited.

“Something I really loved about what we did was getting to be a little bit more hands-on than the traditional judge might be. I got to do workshops and really get in there and help them and work with them. I want to be there for them and work with them because I’ve been in that position before. You want them to know that you want the best out of everybody. That was my biggest thing.
I wanted everybody who auditioned for that show to be able to be proud of what they’ve done because they’re all so incredibly talented.

“It’s not about one being better than another, it’s about who’s more suited to the role and you want them to be able to leave with their heads held high. And they all can say that they did that for sure.”

And Samantha is excited for musical theatre to be showcased on primetime TV.

She enthused: “It’s a big platform to get to be on TV and it’s so exciting because I’m obviously very passionate about musical theatre and having come from a show like this, it is such an exciting thing for musical theatre to be showcased on a primetime TV show, where we’re celebrating all things musical theatre because it’s a glorious, amazing, incredible industry.

“I’m just so excited that it’s on the TV in this way and giving these incredibly talented performers this platform which means so many people are getting to see them.”

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As for taking on the role of judge and sending people home, Samantha admitted: “It’s very difficult and obviously I have empathy for it because I’ve been there. But something I did say to them, and I remember someone saying this to me when I did the show, ‘Don’t think about it as the end. Don’t think my career’s over, my life is over, I’m never going to work again. Think of it as the very
beginning of your career. And as long as you’re showcasing yourself to the best of your ability, you’ll go on and work in other jobs and this is your platform to showcase what you can do.’

The judges sat behind a desk, watching a performance off camera
Samantha Barks, Alan Carr, Amber Riley and Jessie Ware. Credit: Thames/ITV

“And that’s what I would try and say to them, when you have your final moment, take it. Take that microphone and show the world what you’re going to give to this industry and what you’re going to go out there and achieve because it’s exciting. I talk a lot about reframing those thoughts in terms of I know it’s sad in the moment, but just think about the exciting future ahead because I care about these contestants and I want them all to have great careers and I think they will.”

She added: “I know the feeling. I’ve been there, I’ve been in those shoes. So, I don’t make any decisions flippantly. I cared a lot.

“And me and Jessie sometimes would meet for breakfast and we’d be like, “Well I’ve been thinking about it all night. What do you think about this?” So I’m not somebody who can just rock up on the day and be like, ‘Oh that person’s gone. Oh well.’ I think about it deeply. I feel things deeply when we’re sending someone home because I’ve been there and I know it’s real people’s lives. So it was definitely emotional”

Mamma Mia! I Have a Dream launches on Sunday at 6PM on ITV1 and ITVX.

About the author: Josh Darvill

Josh is Stageberry's editor with over five years of experience writing about theatre in the West End and across the UK. Prior to following his passion for musicals, he worked for more than a decade as a TV journalist.