You might recognize Sam Palladio as Gunnar from the hit show Nashville. Even though he pulls off that Southern accent, in real life he hails from England and was barely a fan of mainstream country music before the show. Now girls run up to him in bars and the Grand Ole Opry is his second home. We got to sit down with Palladio and talk to him about his new life in Nashville, which hair products he uses for that perfect coif of his, and the mystery of his height is solved.
Supposedly the first time you were in New York was in February…
Sam Palladio: Yeah, it was only a few months ago actually.
Do you like the city?
SP: I do, I do. I don’t know my way around at all, but i’m starting to. But I like it a lot. I’ve always wanted to live here, and being here I could see that happening. Definitely over L.A.
What about Nashville?
SP: I could be there for a while. I mean, I may actually be there for a while. It’s the kind of place I could definitely settle down in.
How long do you have to be there for filming? Do you have an apartment there?
SP: I do, I rented an apartment for filming. All the cast members have relocated down there; some have bought houses; like Connie [Britton] and Chip [Esten] have bought houses. It’s a great spot.
So being in a city that’s so removed from people’s families and friend, do you guys hang out a lot? Who throws the parties?
SP: We all throw the parties! The bars throw the parties. And yes we hang out. I spent a lot of time with Chip at the beginning because we lived like half a mile from each other. So we’d go running together and it would be funny because we’d be running and then people would be like, “Hey it’s Gunnar and Deacon!” A lot of us hang out and play music together, and play the Grand Ole Opry together.
Have you been to Tootsie’s?
SP: I have actually. I was blind drunk at Tootsie’s on my 26th birthday. I was singing karaoke.
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
SP: Well I was singing “Walking in Memphis.” So that one.
Are the fans crazy down there in Nashville?
SP: Yeah, there are a lot of tourists. But since we film down there a lot of people think they know us. Which is great and nice, but sometimes it’s like, “Heyyy, I’m not your buddy.” I had some girl the other day — she was at a bachelorette party and I was having a quiet drink with a friend — and her friends were asking for photos and stuff. And then there was this little crazy one, about 5 feet tall, and she didn’t realize what was happening, and then turned around and saw who I was and then was like, “Oh my god!” And then slapped me three times really hard on the chest and was like, “It’s you!” and it winded me! I was kind of like, whoa, whoa. I was kind of like, that’s not cool.
Were you a big fan of country music before?
SP: I was a massive fan of Americana, and bluegrass and the more kinds of folky stuff. My taste is very ’70s like Garfunkel and James Taylor, so not too far from country, but not really the mainstream country that’s on the radio.
So not Taylor Swift?
SP: I actually did go to the Taylor Swift concert last week in Nashville to see the spectacle of it. I wanted to know what was making her the biggest thing in the world.
And… what was your takeaway?
SP: It was kind of like, such a theatrical performance. I’d like to see the songs stripped back and sung in the Bluebird Café [in Nashville] or something. As far as the performance though, it was fantastic.
How did you come about with your Southern accent? Because you are from England.
SP: Well, I trained as a classical actor in London for three years. We did Tennessee Williams and dialect and accent classes; they were one of my favorite things to do each week. And we’d strip it down to the phonetics and listen to the sound. It was a really interesting way to look at it all. So I did a fair bit of study on the American and Southern accent there. So when this job came along, I had my notebook and then I tried to go into that. But also we have a dialect coach who’s there to help us when the scripts come in, to help us read it through and see if there’s anything that needs tweaking.
Are there any words that get you caught up?
SP: “Father.” I have trouble saying it. It’s the “er” at the end.
What’s your favorite word to say?
SP: “Shit.” Like, “Aww shit.” Because it can mean like, “Shit that’s good” or, “She did what? Shit!” or, “You won a million dollars? Shit!”
Your co-star Clare [Bowen] is Australian, do you guys get caught up in your accents?
SP: We both stay in our accents all day. Like when I’m on set I stay in it, all the time even between filming. Maybe not at lunchtime. But then at the end of the day, when they’re like, “Thanks, everybody!” I’ll relax and go back to myself.
Now you are in Runner Runner with Justin Timberlake. Did you guys ever have a fun jam session on set?
SP: I wish we did. I’d be lying if I said we did. I did tweet him the other day, and say, “Hey do you fancy a collaboration?”
Did he tweet you back?
SP: Oh yeah, surely. He said, “Yeah man, let’s do it next week.” No that didn’t happen. But he’s such a great guy, such an incredible talent, kind of owns in every single possible entertainment industry. Like comedy with SNL, and he’s the biggest thing in pop, and then his acting career.
Would you want to host SNL someday?
SP: Yeah actually my background is in comedy. I love goofing off and being awkward. I have always enjoyed improv.
So did your co-star Charles — he was on Whose Line Is It Anyway.
SP: Yeah! He’s such a diverse talent, to go from such a goofball to playing this pained guy. It’s incredible.
Your hair is amazing and always has such life to it. What is your go-to product?
SP: In Europe I’m the VO5 guy. I did a run of campaigns for them. So I have a lifetime supply of that, and I brought a lot of that with me for the first season of the show. But then it ran out; now I use Night Rider by Kevin Murphy.
How tall are you exactly, because your height is hidden from the internet.
SP: I’m 6’2. But 6’3 with a little heel on, like the cowboy boots.
There’s a lot of crying on the show, and you are a trained actor, but what is your go-to cry experience? And do you ever worry about your cry face?
SP:No, you don’t think about what face you make unless you’re a, you know, bad actor. If you are being truthful to it, it just happens and you are in the moment. But for me, family stuff I can pull up if need be. You use what you’ve learned in life to influence sometimes, maybe it’s a trigger. But sometimes the writing is good enough and you are in the moment and you live it as the character.
What’s the thing you miss most from home when you are in Nashville?
SP: Probably the beach and the cliffs from where I’m from. I’m from Penzance [England] and it’s one of the furthest southwest points of the U.K. I grew up surfing and playing in tide pools. So I miss the sea air.
Who is a better kisser: Chris [Carmack] or Clare?
SP: No, I’m kidding. I can’t choose. But me and Chris had a lot of fun goofing off for that. Mine and Scarlett’s relationship is very serious, so when he came on set, it was fantastic. We got to have a lot of fun with that and be stupid with a dude.