Kaya Scodelario, appearing in British thriller Twenty8K, took time out on set during the shooting of the film to talk to View’s Matthew Turner about her career, the legacy of Skins, her love of passionate filmmaking and her unusual career path that has made her one of the most popular young British actors working today.
So, who do you play in the film?
I play Sally, who is the girlfriend of Pete, who dies at the beginning. She’s sort of the only character that wants to get out of the gang, who wants to build something for her life. She wants to open a salon in central London, so her mission in life is about making money to get out of the area, and get to central London and have a fresh start but unfortunately she chooses some rather dodgy ways of making money!
The director said you’d been on board, and really keen from the start. What was it that attracted you to the script?
I read it about a year ago, when it was originally set up north; I knew Paul Abbot was involved and I think he’s incredible, I think he’s an absolute genius. I got to meet him a couple of times. My boyfriend worked on Shameless, so I went down to the studio and Paul was there, and we got talking about the script and stuff. I told him I really wanted to do it. It was really different; it was clever. I think people tend to do London gang stuff very simple, very: ‘Okay, someone shoots, someone dies, someone gets their tits out – that’s it.’ This is a lot more interesting. There’s an actual story behind it; you have to think. I had to read the script twice just to understand what was going on. And that’s what attracted me to it more than anything; it was intelligent, it was fast and I just thought it would be really exciting, a nice little job to do.
Who else was attached when you got involved?
I think Parminda was, I think that’s it. Because I only found out that Michael Socha was going to be in it, and Nichola, who’d I worked with both of them before, at the last minute, so that was good. I sort of walked in to get my costume fitting, saw the pictures on the wall, and thought, ‘Yes I have friends!’ Because it always tends to feel like the first day at school when you arrive on a job: ‘Who am I going to talk to, who can I sit next to?’ So it was really cool that I had them to hang out with.
So you’d worked with Michael and Nichola before?
I worked with Michael on Shank which was a film we did together about a year ago and I worked with Nichola on Wuthering Heights.
What were the differences between filming this and filming TV stuff like Skins?
Skins, to me, was a family. I grew up on that show. I was fourteen when I started, everything that happened in that series I was living in real life. I was getting my heart broken for the first time, I was experimenting, I was having troubles at home with my family. So that, to me, was such an important bit of my life because it really shaped me into who I am now. And the crew were almost the same for four years, so I grew very close to them. It was my first job, I’ve never been to drama school or anything like that. It was really, really hard for me to leave and really, really sad, it affected me quite a lot.
I was terrified that I’d get into film and think, ‘This is shit, this isn’t what I expected at all.’ It’s not. It’s like a family, just for a shorter amount of time. And it’s really nice, it’s slightly different, you don’t get to spend as much time with each other, getting to know each other, not that there’s many parties in the hotel, but that’s probably a good thing, because you can concentrate more on working! I feel like I’m working now. On Skins it was just an experience, it was just like, ‘Wow, what’s going on with my life right now?’ I loved every second of it, but it wasn’t work, it was too much fun to be work. Whereas this, I can really focus on, and I know I only have a certain amount of time to establish a character, and make a character my own, and I really want to, so it’s a lot more intense. I quite like that. It’s a bit more of a challenge.
In the first series of Skins you only had a couple of lines.
I know! I didn’t speak! I was just there! I was like, ‘Wow, what’s this?’ I was quite grateful for that, because I learnt a lot. I’m just keeping my mouth shut for two years. Got to watch Nicholas and Dev and everyone, and see how they worked, and I learnt so much more from them than I would ever have learnt at drama school, from actually being on a set, and seeing it, and realising that it was what I loved to do, and what I really wanted to do. Being lucky enough to work with people like Nicholas Hoult and stuff like that, and they really helped me along with my progress. So it’s quite good, that I didn’t speak for a whole year!
Did you audition for that?
Yeah, I was on my way home from school. Brazil were playing in the World Cup, and my Mum’s Brazilian, so I had my Brazil shirt on, I was like, ‘Yeah!’ going all mad, and we were walking past, and I stopped to have a cigarette because I was fourteen and thought I was really cool. And the producer Ryan came out for a cigarette and he saw me, and he came over to me and said ‘Are you going to audition?’ I looked round, and everyone was like eighteen, nineteen, and I thought, ‘No, no, no, no, no.’ I’d always wanted to act, but thought it would never happen for me, I didn’t have the right connections, enough money, I thought it was out of my reach. And he said, ‘No, come in, come in.’ And I thought, ‘Is he a paedophile?’ But I went in anyway! And I did the audition, and I just got extremely lucky, and that’s it really.
Had you heard about Skins before? Was there a buzz around it before it started in Bristol?
No, we filmed the first series and even the crew, they were honest to God telling us: ‘We’ve worked on productions – big period dramas, and they don’t go to a second series.’ No-one was expecting it to do well, at all. It was unbelievable how low the morale was on it. I think that’s why it was such a shock to everyone when it did succeed, because people talk about it as if it’s shaped a generation. That’s scary, to have that pressure on you. You hear the phrase ‘The Skins Generation’. It’s terrifying to know that you’ve been a part of that!
But I think in the second series we all knew, ‘This is important, we have to really do our best here.’ I think Skins is one of those shows, there’s an actual technical term for it, I can’t remember it at the moment, where people get genuinely attached to it, people genuinely believe the characters. They really get intense about it. I think that was hard breaking free from that because a lot of people are still so in love with the characters, attached to them and they can’t let go of them. That was quite intimidating knowing that you’d done that to someone; I met a girl that had a tattoo of my face on her, and I thought, ‘Why have you done that?!’ I felt so bad for her! I was like, ‘Shit, I made you do that!’ But it’s really cool to be part of something that has really helped a lot of people as well.