Jan 2024

Sam I am

Vikings: Valhalla star Sam Corlett returns home to Australia and talks life, art and the weirdness of fame with Courtney Thompson

PHOTOGRAPHY by DANIEL GOODE

STYLING by ANNALIESE DOIG

Sam Corlett was staying in a hotel on Sunset Boulevard, lit by the twinkling glow of Hollywood, when the towering billboard across the road transformed. “It changed overnight to a photo of me,” he remembers. It was February 2022 and the first season of Vikings: Valhalla was about to premiere on streaming giant Netflix, with Corlett playing the lead character of the Norse explorer Leif Erikson. As he woke to see himself projected in megapixels, “I felt nothing,” he recalls. “It was the weirdest sensation. I didn’t feel like I could celebrate it. I was quite miserable, actually. I was like, ‘Oh, well there it is.’ Which was a good lesson because I wasn’t validated by it in a way that I thought might have made me feel whole.”

TOP: BOTTEGA VENETA blazer, $4600, JAC + JACK shorts, $140, FOUR WINDS GALLERY necklace, $1980, and rings, $1895 each TOP LEFT: VENROY top, $170, BURBERRY pants, $4190, FOUR WINDS GALLERY necklace, $595, and rings, $1295 (left), and $780 (right) TOP RIGHT: BOTTEGA VENETA blazer, $4600, FOUR WINDS GALLERY necklace, $1980; BOTTOM LEFT: PRADA top, POA, and shorts, POA, VAN CLEEF & ARPELS bracelet, $5040, VENROY towel, $150; BOTTOM RIGHT: DIOR shirt, $2600, shorts, $2250, beret, $2450, socks, POA, shoes, POA.

This isn’t really the type of thing you’d expect to hear from an actor after their big break. Then again, Corlett isn’t what you think – and he’s aware of what you think.

A middle child, the 27-year-old grew up on an acreage on NSW’s Central Coast, in a home built by his father. “There was so much space and time to dream and play with my imaginary friends and my siblings,” he says. “Basketball was big, rugby was big. But I never thought acting was gonna be a thing … Maybe it was where we grew up? There was no blueprint. But I’m grateful it came late.” Getting some life experience first, he explains elaborately, was imperative: “When you create in any way, you’re creating from your experiences in life. If you’re always playing in ideas of what life is, as opposed to what life is, you’re left with this idea that’s not grounded in anything.”

Encouraged by his mum to audition for drama schools, Corlett got into the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts and his ascent has since been swift. Almost immediately after graduating, he got his first big roles in both television and film, starring in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and The Dry. Vikings: Valhalla followed not long after. The projects have a few things in common: they’re big in scale and in the case of Vikings and Sabrina, both cast Corlett as The Hot Guy. Like many actors, he’s objectively attractive: piercing blue eyes, chiselled jaw, lots of visible abs. After his turn on Sabrina, in which he played Caliban (who rarely has a shirt on), Corlett’s Instagram following (now nearly 800,000) sky-rocketed; he knows people didn’t start following him for his poetry. “I think in every way for Sabrina and Vikings, I was like, ‘OK, this is how things are gonna be perceived. How can I use this as a Trojan horse to express matters of the heart?’” he says earnestly.

“I didn’t wanna be appreciated for how I look.”

“I wasn’t validated by my fame in a way that I thought might have made me feel whole.”

TOP LEFT: BOTTEGA VENETA shirt, $1210, pants, $9190, and bag, $11,000; TOP RIGHT: VENROY top, $170; GUCCI top, POA, pants, $3900, and shoes, $1420, BOTTOM RIGHT: FOUR WINDS GALLERY necklace, $1485; VENROY top, $170, SONG FOR THE MUTE shorts, $695

GROOMING Michael Brennan

Listening to hot people talk about being misunderstood can induce the same kind of eye roll as actors talking about their method. More than once during our conversation, he pauses, looking off as though searching for the right words, or caveats statements about work with: “This is going to sound pretentious.” But here’s the thing about Corlett: even if what he says is earnest, he sells it. Not because he’s that good looking, but because his sincerity is disarmingly pure of heart. You can’t help but root for him.

His endeavours off-screen only endear him to you more. Since 2020, he’s been working with jewellery brand Merchants of the Sun to create collections for which the profits are donated to causes close to home: cancer (Corlett’s mum is a survivor), mental health (something he and those close to him have struggled with) and homelessness (his late uncle went through periods living on the streets). Ultimately, it’s his inherent curiosity that guides all his work.

“I was listening to a Martin Scorsese interview recently,” he says. “He said, ‘Every life is cinematic, if you put a camera to it. You have to be able to see it.’” And without a doubt, Corlett is someone who sees it.

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