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Critically acclaimed English actor, Samantha Morton (b. 1977), was in residential and foster care as a child. 

Samantha grew up in Nottingham, England. Her father was a coal miner and her mother was a factory worker. Her parents had nine children living in a three-bedroom council house. Samantha’s mother struggled with mental health issues because of a traumatic childhood and her father had violent episodes.  

Samantha was first taken into care as a baby and from then she was in and out of children’s homes and foster care. She re-entered care for the final time at the age of eight. Samantha explains how physical abuse repeatedly brought her to the attention of authorities. 

I was finally taken away from home when I went to school with bruises all over me and a bust lip (Hello Magazine). 

Samantha cannot remember how many placements she had. Being in care made her feel like an unwanted parcel.” At least three of the children’s homes where she was placed have been the subject of abuse allegations. At least three other homes where she was housed during her childhood are the subject of abuse allegations investigated by the police. 

In a 2014 interview, Samantha disclosed that she had been sexually abused while in children’s homes. She said she had reported one incident when she was abused by two male workers as a thirteen-year-old.  

…no formal investigation was undertaken…The men were allowed to stay in their jobs, while she was abruptly moved to another home (The Guardian). 

Samantha states that many of her peers were also sexually abused in the home. After disclosing the abuse to the police, Samantha was abruptly moved to a new placement where she experienced physical abuse. She escaped by running away, sleeping rough, and shoplifting food.  

Samantha felt like an outsider at her comprehensive school which neighboured a wealthy area. She left school for good at age thirteen and she spent her early teen years going to raves, taking ecstasy and hallucinogenics. Samantha often ran away from placements, and was sometimes returned. While homeless for nearly a year, she slept at friends’ houses and in bus shelters.  

Samantha resented wealthy students whose families paid for them to attend private schools. She says, “I’d think, you twats, your parents are spending a fortune on your education.” Samantha loved learning and resented the care system for not offering her stability in education.  

So I do have resentment because I had the potential, I was a bright kid. But kids in care have different foster parents all the time and you’re moved to so many different schools. And every time, you get a different surname (The Guardian). 

Samantha found solace in the Central Television Workshop in Nottingham which trains young actors. Her ability to improvise conflict with intensity made Samantha stand out.  

For the first time in my life I was taken seriously. I was told I had talent. I was encouraged and it saved me (Hello Magazine). 

Soon, Samantha was being offered acting roles on TV and in theatre in London. She was highly determined and disciplined. But her success did not come without sacrifices. Samantha was living in a homeless hostel when one of her best friends was killed in a car accident. The funeral was on the first day of rehearsals at the Royal Court Theater.  

The director said: ‘If you don’t turn up, you’re not in the play. I remember thinking how tough that was, and talking to my friend’s mum and her saying: ‘She’d want this opportunity for you.’ I was living in a homeless hostel at that point (The Guardian). 

Samantha’s first professional job was as a television presenter for a wildlife show for kids. Some of her other earlier television roles include “starter jobs in Soldier Solider and Cracker.” Samantha earned a living acting in small films and TV during the 1990s. Then, in 1999, she landed her breakthrough role in the Woody Allen film, Sweet and Lowdown. This role earned her Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations as Best Supporting Actress. 

Since then Samantha Morton has established herself as a highly productive and successful actor. She is best known for bringing a disarming, everyday quality to extreme characters” (The Guardian).

For example, in I Am Kirsty, Samantha played a single mother forced into prostitution to survive, and as a ‘precog’ named Agatha in Steven Spielberg’s The Minority Report.  She has also starred in Emma, Jane Eyre, and Under the Skin.

But on set, Samantha developed a reputation for being ‘difficult’.  

I was vocal about conditions on set. I’m political. I’m outspoken about the way child actors are treated. About the hours people have to work. I don’t accept grotty behaviour. I don’t accept the misuse of power. I’m a strong woman and they don’t like it (The Guardian). 

Samantha’s biggest personal achievement is her family. After a history of troubled relationships, she is now in a stable and healthy partnership with fiancé, Harry Holm. The couple have two children, Edie, and Theodore. Samantha also has an older daughter, Esma, who is also an actress. 

I think the best thing in my life is my ability to be in a stable relationship. For anybody who has been in care or moved around a lot, it’s very tough to form strong, lasting relationships. And that’s what I’m proudest of (The Guardian). 

Samantha uses her public platform to raise awareness about foster care. In 2009, she directed a film about a young girl who enters care and is desperately seeking love. The Unloved won a Bafta Award, and Best Actor award for Robert Carlye. Three million people viewed the film on television.  

Samantha is passionate about the rights of children and young people in care.  

I go into homes today and see kids like I was, like this girl was, and I just want to take them home and look after them (The Guardian). 

Samantha has campaigned against the closure of state-funded children’s homes, the privatisation of children’s services, and funding cuts to care services. She would like to see higher standards for residential care workers, and mandatory reporting of suspected abuse within institutions responsible for the welfare of children. Samantha believes that the issue is disinterest and a lack of commitment from government.  

This isn’t rocket science – this can be fixed with the right attitude, and knowing how to spend public money, but it seems those things are shoved under the carpet by successive governments (The Guardian). 


Addley, Esther & Hattenstone, Simon. “Samantha Morton reveals sexual abuse as child in residential care.” The Guardian, 13 September 2014. 

Hattenstone, Simon. “Samantha Morton: ‘I was abused for a long time and I retaliated’.” The Guardian, 25 April 2009. 

Leigh, Danny. “Samantha Morton: ‘Maybe I was the first person to publicly answer Weinstein.” The Guardian, 2 October, 2018. 

Saner, Emine. “‘Intelligent women are dangerous, no?’ Samantha Morton on sexism, success and survival.” The Guardian, 8 Sept 2022. 

Dokubo, Titi. “‘Harry Potter’ Star Samantha Morton: Is She Married and Does She Have Kids?” AmoMama, 14 June 2022.

Samantha Morton – Biography.” Hello Magazine. 

Image available here.