She’s one of the most talked about women on TV. But what lies behind her Sunrise facade, asks Shannon Molloy
There’s just something about Samantha Armytage.
Viewers love the Sunrise cohost, Channel Seven just resigned her six-figure contract, and those closest to the star say she’s one of the most delightful people in television.
But stories about the 38year-old’s apparent diva behaviour on set and feuds with other high-profile presenters paint a different picture.
“There’s obviously a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes,” Armytage says.
“I seem to be a big target. Most of (what’s said) isn’t true, might I point out.”
Talk of bad blood with Melissa Doyle, who she replaced at Sunrise two years ago, and of white-anting Chris Bath, who recently quit Seven, is inaccurate, she says.
Like any workplace, there are people she’s close to and some that she isn’t.
“But in this world, it’s magnified. Then of course it becomes gossip and turns into a story about a feud, and suddenly it’s run off on its own.”
The talk about her is to be expected, Armytage says.
The TV industry is a competitive beast, but she believes there’s an extra layer of ruthlessness among females.
“Women aren’t always nice to each other in the newsroom ... Older women particularly aren’t always nice to younger women.
“I refuse to fall into that trap of women being awful to other women. There’s no reason.”
If it all sounds like a more cutthroat version of high school, it’s because it can be at times, Armytage admits.
“Sometimes when I’m at work, I think it’s like the Year Eight boarding house.”
When she needs advice, she turns to a small circle of friends and mentors, at the centre of which is Sunrise executive producer Michael Pell.
The two have known each other since working together at Sky News more than a decade ago — she as a reporter and he as a junior producer.
“In life, a lot of people who are successful, others try to tear them down,” Pell says.
“It’s hard to see it happen. She’s dealt with that stuff really well though. She holds her head high and deals with it with such grace and poise.”
Despite a thick skin, Armytage says there are times the relentless attention becomes too much. It’s then she heads home to the country to “recharge”.
“Every couple of months or so, I go home for a weekend to just play with the dog, help Dad in the paddock, whatever. It’s a nice leveller.”
Then it’s back to reality and “the best job in the world” alongside her Sunrise TV family.
But when this whirlwind adventure, as she calls it, comes to an end — and inevitably one day it will, as it does for all presenters — Armytage sees herself in the country.
“I’d love to have a veggie garden, some peace and quiet … maybe some children and everything (that comes with) that.”
Single for now, she says the children part will have to wait.
“I’m sure it will happen. I’m not panicking.”
Because of the intense interest in Armytage’s love life, she’s taken to “stealth dating”.
“You’d be amazed what I get away with … I’ve worked out a few tactics (of sneaking around),” she laughs.
Pell says he thinks of Armytage whenever he hears Shake It Off — Taylor Swift’s pop anthem for anyone who’s ever encountered a hater.
Funnily enough, Armytage found herself dancing wildly to it at her parents’ house during her last escape to the country.
“I was singing into a pepper grinder, my hair everywhere … being my daggy self,” she says.
“That’s me. I’m having fun, I’m having a go at life. I put myself out there and sometimes I get flogged for it, but whatever. I’ll get over it.” “I had a terrible hangover. We had drinks at Bondi with Andrew (O’Keefe) and the
gang after my last (episode) the day before. Because I’m so undisciplined and immature, I just kicked on into the night. No one would’ve known, but I very clearly remember the feeling.” “I’m slowly coming to terms with it. Years ago, I was papped kissing my then boyfriend and it was the highest trending story on a news website that day. And it was the day Kim Jong-il died. It bemuses me.” “When I took the job, I worried about the dynamic I’d have with Kochie (above). There was so much pressure. In quiet moments, I wondered how Kochie and I would go (together on-air). I totally overthought it. It just developed. We genuinely get on. I find him quite good value. He’s very much welcomed me in and he’s incredibly loyal.”
“Older women aren’t always nice to younger women” SAM ON WORK LIFE
“I’m living the dream. But I don’t want to set a world record for staying in the job either. I don’t look at this as the last job I’ll ever have. Getting up at 3.30 in the morning is hard ... hard on your body. I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. I’m quite happy.”