U.K. Teen-Centered Series,
Skins, Comes to BBC America
“Teenagers grab life by the balls” say reps from BBC America, promoting the net’s mnew comedy drama, Skins
. Starring Nicholas Hoult (About a Boy, The Weather Man), and with a writers’ team with an average age of 22, the award-winning show is a coming of age story for 2008. Skins, which won the Golden Rose d'Or for Drama and was nominated for a BAFTA award for Drama, premieres Sunday, August 17, 9:00 p.m. ET/PT with back to back episodes. It moves to its regular 10:00 p.m. ET/PT time slot the following week.
Tony (Nicholas Hoult) is the leader of the pack. He undermines his dad on a daily basis and effortlessly covers up for his little sister, Effy (Kaya Scodelario), the only one Tony really cares about, even if she does drive him mad. As the best looking and most popular boy in town, Tony’s always taking the gang off on a new mission and loves a laugh at someone else’s expense. He’s dating Michelle (April Pearson), otherwise known as ‘Nips’. Drop dead gorgeous, Nips’ wit keeps everyone on their toes, and Sid (Mike Bailey), Tony’s best friend, lusts after her. Poor Sid is a virgin with no confidence and Tony plays him like a fool. But Sid isn’t as stupid as he seems – he’ll get the girl of his dreams one day, just not the girl he thinks.
Cassie (Hannah Murray) is the self-harming, anorexic with zero self esteem At the opposite end of the scale there’s Chris (Joe Dempsie), who is always game for a laugh and will do just about anything. Chris’ passion is his psychology class, because nothing motivates him quite like his teacher, Angie.
Abigail (Georgina Moffat) is the posh one. Pretty and pumped full of prescription medication, she lives in a world of imported carpets, private school and constant therapy - Tony has great fun with her. Anwar’s (Dev Patel) family want him to study the Koran, but his interests are less spiritual. Completing the group are Jal (Larissa Wilson) and Maxxie (Mitch Hewer). Jal is Nips’ best friend and the most talented young classical clarinet player in the country. Maxxie is magic on his feet, a whiz with his hands and can have any boy he wants.
Season 1 & 2 of Skins airs as a single season on BBC AMERICACast & Production
Tony Nicholas Hoult
Sid Mike Bailey
Michelle April Pearson
Cassie Hannah Murray
Chris Joe Dempsie
Jal Larissa Wilson
Maxxie Mitch Hewer
Anwar Dev Patel
Effy Kaya Scodelario
Abigail Georgina Moffat
Created by Bryan Elsley and Jamie Brittain
Writers Bryan Elsley
Jack ThorneGuest Stars:
Jim Harry Enfield
Anthea Morwenna Banks
Anna Arabella Weir
Malcolm Danny Dyer
Marcus Neil Morrissey
Margeritte Naomi Allisstone
Ronnie Frazer Mark Monero
Fat Bastard Geoffrey Hughes
Fighting Bath Man Charlie Creed Miles
Mary Sarah Lancashire
Mark Peter Capaldi
Liz Josie Lawrence
Anwar’s Mum Nina Wadia U.K. Press:
“Skins is clever, bouncy and has all the right moves to become a show of the year…Tony is like a state educated Ferris Bueller-Pete Doherty hybrid…” The Times
“...This show may just capture some of the chutzpah and peril of being young in Britain today – which makes it something akin to public service…” The IndependentCast Interviews:
MIKE BAILEY (SID)
There have been a lot of attempts to make dramas about and for teens. What makes Skins different?
I think it doesn't hold back. Everyone knows the issues about kids, what happens, what they really get up to. Skins just gets straight to the point. It's been written really well like that. Another important thing is that it's being played by people who are teenagers. A lot of dramas done now, you're looking at 30-year-olds playing 18-year-olds, so they can't relate as well to what they're playing. And the writers aren't afraid of being realistic, of a little bit of controversy.
How much input did you have on the character of Sid? Were you allowed to give suggestions about him?
Yeah, pretty much. Sid is actually based on one of the writers. I didn't want to get to know the writer too well, because I wanted to be able to make the character of Sid my own. But we were certainly given a chance to have our say, to give our input into the character. So we could stand up and say 'Actually, I don't think my character would say that'. Or we'd put in a few lines, do a bit of improvisation. I think we got a lot of say in our characters because they wanted it to look as realistic as possible, so we had to be comfortable with the parts we were playing and the lines we were saying.
What is Sid like?
He's basically the sidekick to Tony, who's the coolest guy around. He does whatever Tony says, like a little kid following his mum. But he also gets bullied by Tony quite a lot. He doesn't realize it, but he is getting verbally and mentally bullied, to the extent where it’s beginning to get through to him. But he keeps following Tony around because he's in love with Tony's girlfriend, and without Tony he couldn't be anywhere near her. He's a good guy, he knows where his loyalties lie, he has a lot of friends, but he has a really bad family life. He doesn't get on well with his dad, who thinks he's a waste of space. But he's got a big heart, he's always there for his friends.
Did you put elements of yourself into him?
There are elements of myself, definitely. I put aspects of myself into him, as any actor does into a character, but I wouldn't say I based him on myself. I could relate to people I know who are like him.
Is this a comedy or a drama?
There are very definite elements of both in there. It does cover all the issues of life as a teenager, but it does it with a very comic approach, so you don't exactly feel like you're being taken through the issues. I think it's somewhere between the two. It's probably more towards drama, but there are some brilliant comic moments in it.
How accurate a reflection do you think it is of being a teenager today?
I think it is dramatized a little bit - it has to be, TV has to be watchable. If you wanted to watch real teenage life, you could just stick a bunch of teenagers in a room and film them for a reality show. This is a drama, it's got to be entertaining, and so you've got to move things along a bit quicker. But I think it portrays the realities of teenage life quite well.
Some would argue that a drama about teenagers and drugs and alcohol and sex should carry an obvious moral message. What would you say to that?
I think this is based around real life, that's the key. Real life doesn't always carry an obvious moral message every time you do something. If it's going to have an element of realism, you can't just tack a really strong message on the end of every story telling young people what they can and can't do. In some programs, there might be a moral at the end of it, but only if that's the way real situations happen.
APRIL PEARSON (MICHELLE/NIPS)
What sort of a character do you play?
Michelle is 17, she's friends with the rest of the gang, she goes out with Tony, who is the love of her life, and is almost a trophy husband, in a way. She's got the hottest guy in school and she's not going to let him go, even if she knows that he's not always the nicest of guys. She's got a pretty rough life at home, her mother's been married seven times in the last three years, and she doesn't get much attention from her, so she seeks that from boys by wearing short skirts and low-cut tops.
Is it embarrassing to play a character who flaunts her sexuality so much, or can you just play up to it and enjoy it?
It's not something that I would do, but it's quite a fun role to play. It gives me the chance to be the outgoing, confident girl that I'm not necessarily in my own life. At times you think 'Oh God, I've been standing on this street for four hours now in a tiny skirt, what am I doing?' But basically it's cool, I like it.
So there's not much of you in the character?
I think in any character you have to bring a certain element of yourself, but I like to think that we do things differently. She's not really bothered about what she does at school, she's more interested in going out, and what she looks like. I hope I'm not quite that superficial.
Is Skins an accurate portrayal of teenage life?
I think it's accurate to the extent that it shows what kind of things go on in teenagers' lives, but I think it exaggerates it for the purposes of comedy and entertainment for young people. It's not all about 'this is what teenagers do, it's very bad'; it's more 'this is what teenagers do, let's make it funny'. This is a teenage show, and at the end of the day the whole point of it is to be entertaining. If it was a documentary, then maybe it would be different, but it's suppose to be light-hearted and funny. Teenagers don't always want to watch something and be bombarded with 'you mustn't do this, you mustn't do that' - besides, that'll probably make them rebel and want to do it more.
A lot of your scenes are with Nicholas Hoult. Was he quite helpful with all of his experience in front of the camera?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, half the time I forgot that Nick was more experienced than we were, because he's so normal and friendly. But he always seemed to know what was coming next, which made me feel more relaxed. My first scene was with him, and he knew all the jargon that the director would say, and it was part of his everyday life. So that kind of relaxed me, made it all a bit less scary.
What was it like having to film the more intimate kissing scenes with him? Was it embarrassing?
The first few times it was quite tough, because obviously you're thrown together in this situation, I'd never met him before, and one of the first things we were asked to do was stick our tongues down each others' throats. But after a while we got to know each other and became friends, and it was much easier. It's odd, but when he's Tony and I'm Michelle, it's just supposed to happen.
Series co-creator, executive producer and writer
In October of last year I was pondering an upcoming meeting with Company Television to discuss new formats for television drama. Sitting with my son Jamie Brittain, an English student, I ran my slightly lackluster set of drama ideas past him:
“That’s all boring bollocks Dad.” he remarked, rather unkindly I thought.
“So what would you suggest? Smartarse.” I countered.
He sat blinking and thinking for a moment.
“You should do something for kids; but not the usual crap. Get rid of the moralizing, the constant pumping rock music that old people seem to think kids like, the fantasy sequences, the flashbacks, the wobbly camera work, the middle aged portrayals of emotions, the stupid issue-based stories, the crap voiceovers, the glammed-up 20-something actors who play them. Get rid of all that shite and do something FUNNY instead.”
The next day, Company Pictures, amazingly, seemed to like the idea and offered it to E4, who almost bit our hand off. The fastest commission I ever got. Cheers Jamie.
So work starts and the Skins Writers Group is born, with an average age of 22. There are teenagers, school kids, comedians, artists, musicians, and screenwriters, one of them me, one of them the amazingly talented Jack Thorne (26) who has written two of our episodes as well as writing for Shameless.
The group would meet every Wednesday in the dingy basement underneath Company Television to hash out our ideas and watch a lot of television together. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Laurel and Hardy, Gregory’s Girl, Best in Show; we take it in turns to bring in our favorites. We talk things over. Work out how to do it. Back each other up. Eat. I never knew television screenwriting could be this much fun.
In one corner is Simon Amstell, the presenter of Never Mind the Buzzcocks and co-writer of episode seven, sitting hunched over a script idea with Daniel, a 17 year-old black kid from the Hampstead Theatre Youth Group. In another corner is Josie Long, fresh from her ‘Best Newcomer’ triumph at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival this year. She’s working with Althea, a fiendishly clever kid of Indian heritage. Althea’s so bright you forget after 30 seconds that she’s not 18 yet. She’ll write an episode by herself next year. I just know it. The room is packed and sweaty. We’ve been working over Jamie’s first television script, episode five. He’s almost died and come back to life to make it work, but he’s grinning. The writers group like it. By tomorrow afternoon The Dawson Brothers, our young ‘joke monkeys’ will have worked over the gags. Jamie will have sent the draft to our perfectionist script editor, Chloe Moss. No half measures for her. If it’s not good, it’s not in - no matter how young and talented you are. Kids will have wandered in and out of my office, making jokes, complaining, and eating. They’re always eating.
A year later and nine, one-hour episodes of Skins are in the can. An amazing cast of 17 year-old Bristol kids - some of whom had never acted in their lives before - have turned in subtle, complex and above all, funny performances, far above my wildest expectations. They have been led from the front by Nicholas Hoult, formerly the geeky kid in About A Boy. He gives one of the most shaded and nuanced performances by any actor, young or old, that I have ever met. While a gaggle of celebrities - Harry Enfield, Neil Morrissey, Sarah Lancashire, Peter Capaldi, Danny Dyer, Arabella Weir, Charlie Creed Miles, Josie Lawrence, Geoff Hughs - to name a few, have played the hapless Bristol parents trying in vain to stay in control of their teenage kids. We’ve laughed all summer. I mean, really pissed ourselves.
I’ve tried to think about what makes Skins different. I think it’s that Skins reflects the nuances of teenagers’ lives, which are as complex and as emotionally rich as any adults. We’re so busy telling teenagers how to behave that we miss the whole picture. We’re obsessed with drugs, with drinking, with sex. Young people accept these things as givens. Lecturing them is hopeless. Understanding them is impossible. You can only watch and wonder at how well the vast majority of them survive. That’s what Skins is about. And it’s funny. Will it work? I don’t know. But one thing is for sure. It will be like nothing else you have seen before.
Tony is a smart 17 year-old. So smart, he believes he can even get his best mate Sid laid, and make a profit – and Abigail’s party seems like the perfect place to do both. Inevitably a dope deal goes wrong, and so does Sid’s quest to lose his virginity. But when the stolen car goes into the river and takes the unpaid-for drugs with it, Tony and his mates are really in trouble.
Episode 1 premieres Sunday August 17, 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.
Cassie can trick everyone. The skinny, crazy girl manages to fool everyone that she’s beating her eating disorder especially her parents Marcus (Neil Morrissey) and Margeritte (Naomi Allisstone). Good old geeky Sid inadvertently steps out of Tony’s shadow to win a place in Cassie’s heart, by being the only person to notice the truth - except Allan, the taxi driver who takes her to the clinic. He is the only adult she trusts, and the only person who’s ever seen her eat anything. Meanwhile, Michelle has a food issue of her own when her mom returns from holiday to find the house has been the scene of one almighty food and drink fight. But, with new husband Malcolm in tow, will she even notice?
Episode 2 premieres Sunday, August 17, 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.
Jal is not your average ghetto girl. But what’s the point of having the ‘Young Musician of the Year’ competition within hand’s reach, if those around you don’t even notice? Jal’s problem is her dad - he may be Bristol’s answer to P Diddy but when it comes to his daughter he’s lost the plot. Sid has got a big problem of his own - a problem who goes by the name of Mad Twatter. Mad T won’t rest until he’s got his hands on his drugs, his money, or Sid. As usual, Tony has left his best mate to take it on the chin – literally.
Episode 3 premieres Sunday, August 24, 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.
Happy-go-lucky party animal, Chris, wakes up one morning with a hangover, before discovering $2000 in cash and a note from his mum saying that she’s gone away. So, like any not-so-average 17 year-old, Chris embarks on a bender. But what do you do after you’ve thrown the mother of all parties and blown all the money? Well, you sell everything that isn’t nailed down, and start again - and just hope that everything else will start to make sense. Sometimes though, life can make a little more sense than you want it to and Chris has to face up to the fact that his mum might never be coming home.
Episode 4 premieres Sunday, August 31, 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.
Sid is in trouble - deep trouble. He’s failing at everything. His history coursework hasn’t made the grade and he’s only got a week to write something decent or he’ll fail the year. And, of course, he can’t get Michelle, his best friend’s girlfriend, out of his head. Will Sid ever buckle down and focus on his future - will his dad ever give him a break - and will he ever wake up to Tony’s manipulative ways?
Episode 5 premieres Sunday, September 7, 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.
What happens when two friends suddenly get to the limits of their friendship? Maxxie and Anwar are about to find out. And on top of that, one of them is dealing with advances from his straight male friend while the other is trying to fend off the father of the Russian girl he’s fallen for. And it’s all happening on the most disastrous school trip ever. Surely an entire history class can’t get deported from Russia?
Episode 6 premieres Sunday, September 14, 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.
Time’s up for Tony. His girlfriend Michelle has had enough. She’s also had enough of her mom’s latest husband/toy boy/business failure/serial idiot, Malcolm. But then a shining knight appears on the horizon with the promise of a happy ending. Seventeen, heartbroken and on the rebound, Michelle jumps right in. But Tony is determined to make sure the new prince in Michelle’s life turns into the biggest toad of them all.
Episode 7 premieres Sunday, September 21, 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.
Hasn’t anyone noticed that Tony’s little sister Effy never utters a word? Hasn’t anybody noticed that this 14 year-old school girl sneaks out at night? No-one apart from Tony that is. But then Tony doesn’t give a damn about anybody or anything, except his little sister.
Episode 8 premieres Sunday, September 28, 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.
It’s Anwar's birthday party, yet no-one is in the mood to celebrate. Sid thinks he's got his act together, but when he tries to tell Cassie how he feels he ends up in a padded cell. Tony is also in the mood to make up, but it seems his luck has run out too. There are scores to be settled. And settled they are, with some unexpected yet dangerously wonderful consequences.
Episode 9 premieres Sunday, October 5, 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.